It’s time to take a look at a vitally important nutrient that has been ignored for a number of years, until the recent nuclear crisis in Fukushima, Japan led to the release of radioactive particles that adversely affect human health. And that nutrient is Iodine. Iodine is a chemical element with symbol ‘I’ and atomic number 53. Iodine is a member of the halogen family of elements, which also includes fluorine, chlorine, and bromine. Free iodine occurs mainly as a diatomic molecule I2, which exists only momentarily after being oxidized from iodide by an oxidant like free oxygen. Iodine’s high atomic number makes it a relatively rare element.
Iodine is found on Earth mainly as the highly water-soluble iodide ion which concentrates it in oceans and brine pools. Its presence in ocean water has given it an important role in biology. It is the heaviest essential element utilized widely by life in biological functions. Iodine’s rarity in many soils, due to initial low abundance as a crust-element, and also leaching of soluble iodide by rainwater, has led to many deficiency problems in land animals and inland human populations. Iodine deficiency affects about two billion people and is the leading preventable cause of intellectual disabilities.
Iodine is needed by every cell in the body, but plays the most critical role in the thyroid and the brain. Iodine is found in high concentrations in the synapse of neurons to optimize signaling. Lowered levels of iodine degrades sleep and synaptic function as the first step in disease generation. With more time leading to further iodine loss, epithelial tissues like the breast, ovaries, and testes are affected potentially causing fibrocystic disease, cancer and infertility, with a strong potential for the development of thyroid cancers.
Iodine is critical for oxidation protection of PUFA’s utilized by the brain, such as DHA. It also appears that iodine is a lot better protector of all lipids in all cells and not just the brain. With iodine deficiency, the body loses the ability to handle ROS (oxidation) optimally, and other organ systems have to offset those losses to protect the cell from more oxidation. When this happens the cell is placed in a chronic survival mode, with its functionality severely compromised. A critical problem here is that Iodine is a constituent of the most powerful inhibitors of lipid peroxidation in humans, T2 and T1 thyroid hormones. These anti-oxidants are so powerful that they exceed the efficacy of vitamin E, glutathione, and vitamin C in humans. In fact, it appears the real reason vitamin C may have lost its role in humans, as a powerful antioxidant protector in cells, is because it is not strong enough to protect AA and DHA in human brain tissue, particularly at the synapse of neurons.
The vital importance of Iodine as a preferential anti-oxidant for PUFA’s, along with the fact that iodine is not conserved in human physiology to any great degree, points to the fact that, from an evolutionary standpoint, the human environment always had a generous supply of Iodine. This, along with the rarity of Iodine in foods grown on soils typically deficient in this nutrient, additionally point to the importance of the consumption of ocean sourced plants and animals, high in Iodine.
Another significant source of Iodine deficiency is known as halogen displacement. In this case, the other halogens, fluorine, chlorine, and bromine, act in the body to displace Iodine, since they can attach to the same receptor sites. The overuse of the halogens, fluorine/fluoride, chlorine/chloride and bromine/bromide in processed foods, medications, processed vegetable oils, bread, pastas, cereals, pesticides, drinking water, along with various other items, has severely impacted the absorption of any of the small amount Iodine that is consumed by the typical individual.
Iodine is the heaviest element of the halogens. The biological activity of any of the halogens is in inverse proportion to its atomic weight. The halogens, from lightest to heaviest, are fluorine, chlorine, bromine and iodine. As a result, fluorine can displace chlorine, bromine and iodine; chlorine can displace bromine and iodine; and bromine can displace iodine. But the heavier elements cannot displace the lighter elements. This clearly points to a major widespread cause of Iodine deficiency being the addition of chlorine and fluoride to drinking water.
Iodine’s most familiar role in animal biology is as a constituent of the thyroid hormones thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). T4 and T3 contain four and three atoms of iodine per molecule, respectively. T4 acts largely as a precursor to T3, which is (with minor exceptions) the biologically active hormone.
Iodine has a nutritional relationship with selenium. A family of selenium-dependent enzymes called deiodinases converts T4 to T3 (the active hormone) by removing an iodine atom from the outer tyrosine ring. These enzymes also convert T4 to reverse T3 (rT3) by removing an inner ring iodine atom. The body produces the benign rT3 naturally to rid itself of excess of T4.
The thyroid gland actively absorbs iodide from the blood to make and release these hormones into the blood, actions that are regulated by a second hormone TSH from the pituitary. As an example of the displacement effect of halogens, the T4 thyroxine hormone is normally composed of one tyrosine molecule and four iodine molecules, but could be displaced to contain four fluorine, chlorine or bromine molecules, rendering it useless to the body.
Low thyroid functioning (Hypothyroidism) is one of the most prevalent health issues of our time. It is estimated that up to forty percent of the population is currently impacted to some degree. Since the thyroid is critical in the regulation of metabolism, the health and functionality of every cell in the body is affected. As the thyroid function decreases, all body processes slow down, including digestion, healing and repair, immune response, hormone and enzyme production as well as a decrease in body temperature. As metabolic efficiency decreases, chronic health problems begin to develop.
Studies show that eighty percent or more of cases of low-functioning thyroid (hypo-thyroidism) are auto-immune related, whether diagnosed or not. One hundred percent of cases of hyper-functioning thyroids (Hyperthyroidism) are auto-immune in nature. Hashimoto’s disease is an auto-immune disease of the thyroid that can lead to both hyperactive thyroid and hypothyroid. There are lab tests, listed below, that can be used to determine if you may have Hashimoto’s disease. The following is a list of symptoms associated with low thyroid. If you are experiencing three or more of these symptoms, you may be suffering from low thyroid:
Overweight Itchiness Cold hands & feet
Food intolerances/sensitivities Fatigue
Brittle nails Migraines
Slow healing from injuries PMS
Bruise easily Irritability
Heat and cold tolerance Fluid retention/swelling
Hypoglycemia Anxiety and panic attacks
Frequent or persistent colds Severe depression
Frequent urinary tract infections Decreased memory
Frequent yeast infections Lack of concentration
Depressed immunity Low body temperature
Joint pain Constipation
Poor coordination Insomnia
Irregular menstrual periods
If an analysis of the symptoms listed above gives an indication that one might be low thyroid, then the next step could be to work with a knowledgeable physician to get lab testing done.
Some of the important lab tests:
Free T4 and Free T3 (FT3) test- The word “free” is important since it measures what is unbound and available.)
Reverse T3 (RT3) test- This test has to be done at the same time you do the free T3, and you then measure the ratio between the two by dividing the RT3 into the Free T3. The body produces the benign RT3 naturally to rid itself of excess of T4, but in some cases, such as high or low cortisol, it’s made in excess and that excess clogs your cell receptors from receiving regular T3. FT3 should be twenty of more times higher than RT3.
Antithyroglobulin (AB) test- Measures the level of the antibody protein antithyroglobulin in order to discern the presence of Hashimoto’s disease. Generally, if this is above the range, you’ve got the autoimmune thyroid disease Hashi’s. If the result is below the “less than” mark, or in the range provided, you may be fine, but you need to have done the other antibody test as well–the TPO shown below.
Thyroid Peroxidase antibody (TPO) test- Measures the thyroid antibody TPO, which will be above the normal level in the presence of Hashimoto’s disease. Generally, if this is above the range, you’ve got the autoimmune thyroid disease Hashi’s. If the result is below the “less than” mark, or in the range provided, you may be fine, but you need to have done the other antibody test as well–the AB shown above.
Once you have your labs done, your physician can work with you to bring your thyroid back to normal through methods appropriate to your current condition.
Other recommendations that can be utilized include the following:
Reduce consumption of other halogens
An initial step that one could immediately take to assist in the health of the thyroid, the brain, as well as the health of all of the other cells in the body, would be to reduce the amount of the body’s exposure to halogens other than iodine. Reducing exposure to fluorine, chlorine and bromine is essential to achieving optimal health.
Start by drinking only water that is free of chlorine and fluoride. Water filtered by reverse osmosis is normally free of chlorine and can also contain a reduced amount of fluoride depending on the filtering system. Home filtration systems such as the Berkey water filter can also be set up with a fluoride filter to produce chlorine and fluoride free water.
One should also be sure that any beverage consumed contains chlorine and fluoride free water. This will go a long way to improving the health of the body’s cells.
One should also avoid eating any processed foods that contain bromide which is often used in flour, the production of commercial breads, other baked goods, cereals and pasta.
Many medications also contain compounds of fluorine, which can be avoided by using alternatives that are fluorine free.
Fluoride toothpastes, dental treatments and mouthwash should also be avoided.
An additional beneficial action that can be taken is to avoid ingesting any foods containing gluten, since gluten sensitivity is related to the development of intestinal permeability, which is directly related to auto-immune disorders including Hasimotos’s disease.
The best way to increase supplementation of iodine is to increase one’s ingestion of seafood, which is high in iodine. Wild caught seafood is best since it has the highest nutrient density. Seaweeds can also be added to the diet as an additional source of iodine.
Iodine supplements such as Lugol’s liquid iodine and Iodoral tablets can also be used and are available through the internet from Amazon or from some natural food stores. It is advisable to gradually increase supplementation with these products in order to minimize the detoxification effects that they may cause as they rid the body of accumulated fluorides, chlorine, bromides and other associated toxins.
There are varying suggestions of how much iodine one should use for supplementation, with a generally accepted amount being 12.5mg per day.
While taking iodine supplementation, it is also recommended to take the following additional supplements to counter detox reactions and to assist utilization: Vitamin C (1000 mg) Magnesium (400 mg) Selenium (400 mcg).
Fukushima and Other Nuclear Radiation Exposure
As a final note on supplementation, many folks have been concerned about the radiation from Fukushima and how to protect the thyroid from radioactive iodine. The thyroid’s powerful ability to concentrate iodine is what causes trouble when you come into contact with radioactive iodine-131. That radioisotope is a powerful emitter of beta-radiation with a half-life of 8 days. Once the iodine is absorbed, the thyroid can be therefore directly exposed to localized tissue-penetrating beta rays at elevated levels for 2-3 months. Thyroid cancer is therefore the most likely malignant outcome of exposure to iodine-131 following a nuclear accident.
Ingestion of potassium iodide tablets is a proven strategy to reduce the risk associated with exposure to radioactive iodine. Potassium iodide “blocking” is considered the most effective means of protecting your thyroid from radioactive iodine-131. It is the only FDA-approved treatment to reduce the risk of thyroid damage due to radioactive fallout from radioactive I-131. Oral potassium iodide is most effective when administered from up to two days before and up to eight hours after an actual intake of radioactive iodine.
Potassium Iodide tablets should add up to a 130 mg dose. 2- 65 mg tablets or 1-130 mg tablet. When (and only when) actual release of radioactive material or radioactive plume is announced by official sources, adults should take one pill per day.
“Adult-sized” adolescents(those weighing more than 150 pounds)- should take the adult dose of 130 mg.
Children 3-18- should take half a 130 mg tablet, or 65 mg.
Children 1 month-3 years- should be given ¼ of a 130 mg tablet, or 32.5 mg, dissolved in milk, formula, or water.
Newborns from birth to 1 month- should be given 1/8 of a 130 mg tablet (16.25 mg) dissolved in formula or water.
For more information on thyroid disorders and treatment take a look at the following website:
Brain Gut 12: Dare to Disagree?
Jack Kruse, M.D. 2012
Primal Body, Primal Mind
Nora T. Gedgaudas, CNS, CNT 2011
Bruce Fife, N.D. 2005