Updated: Jun 6, 2022
Most people with thyroid disease are confused about iodine supplementation. They're not sure if they should supplement it or not.
To be honest with you, I was super confused as well. This is because the current medical guidelines are not clear about it. They're also very general and put patients in different "boxes", rather than actually testing if someone has symptoms of iodine deficiency and if they're deficient (which can be checked with the use of different diagnostic tests, described later in this article). The general guidelines are as follows:
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of iodine:
Adults and adolescents - 150 mcg/day.
Pregnant and lactating women - 250 mcg/day.
Children aged 6-12 years - 120 mcg/day.
Infants to 6 years - 90 mcg/day.
UNITED STATES RECOMMENDATIONS – The Institute of Medicine has set the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for iodine in adult men and women at 150 μg per day.
Although the abovementioned guidelines are not completely wrong, they may not be true for some people with thyroid disease.
Why? Because some people are simply deficient in iodine. It means that even if they're part of a certain age group, like for example "Adults and adolescents ", they can still be deficient in iodine. Before we discuss how to check for iodine deficiency (with different tests), and how to start iodine supplementation (if needed), let's discuss the symptoms of iodine deficiency.
Some of the symptoms of iodine deficiency include:
- swelling of your neck
- hair loss
- trouble learning
- trouble remembering
- feeling colder than usual
- dry skin
- slowed heart rate
- weight gain
Does it mean that you should go straight into supplementing iodine?
Absolutely not. Iodine supplementation can be dangerous and have many side effects, as it's not a "simple supplement". I always recommend learning more about it at first or preferably working with a functional doctor, like us, and then using it.
What are the problems with taking too much iodine?
Large doses of iodine can induce hypothyroidism
Iodine can trigger an autoimmune reaction
Iodine can induce hyperthyroidism
Iodine can trigger thyroid gland inflammation
Iodine can induce goiter (an enlarged thyroid gland)
Iodine can cause metallic taste, soreness of teeth and gums, burning in the mouth and throat, stomach upset
Administration of large amounts of iodine through medications (i.e.: Amiodarone), radiology procedures (iodinated intravenous dye), and dietary excess (Dulce, kelp) can cause or worsen hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism.
Increased iodine intake can lead to autoimmune thyroiditis, fetal hypothyroidism, and hyperthyroidism. This is especially true for:
- Patients who had or have postpartum thyroiditis
- Patients who have thyroid goiter
- Graves' disease patients treated with medications and with high antibodies levels
- Hyperthyroid patients due to an excess of iodine
These 4 groups are at especially high risk when it comes to iodine supplementation. That's why I recommend working with a physician in this case. Otherwise, you're just playing with the risk involved in this therapy. If you're interested in working with us, you can apply to one of our programs here.
What are the benefits of iodine supplementation?
As mentioned before, iodine supplementation can have a lot of side effects. That's why (only if needed), you want to start with a small dose, preferably under a doctor's supervision.
Iodine is very important for your body. Let's have a quick look at the role of iodine in thyroid function. Iodine is important for the formation of thyroid hormones: T3 (triiodothyronine) and T4 (thyroxine).
Three molecules of iodine are required for the formation of T3, while four molecules of iodine are required to produce T4.
Simplified diagram showing how thyroid hormones are produced
The thyroid gland produces approximately 90% inactive thyroid hormone, or thyroxine (T4), and 10% active thyroid hormone, or triiodothyronine (T3). Inactive thyroid hormone is converted peripherally (liver, gut, kidneys, etc.) to either activated thyroid hormone or an alternative inactive thyroid hormone.
The hormones produced by your thyroid gland help to regulate the body's metabolic rate, heart, muscles, digestive function, brain development, and bone maintenance. Its correct functioning depends on a good supply of iodine from the diet. this means that optimal Iodine supplementation (only if needed), can have tons of benefits.
Benefits of iodine supplementation
1. Iodine is important for the production of thyroid hormones.
2. Iodine helps with the detoxification of halides. Halides, like bromide, fluoride, and chloride are similar in structure to iodine. All four halides compete with one another at receptor sites. Too much of one particular halide can kick the others out.
For example, Fluoride can be blocking the binding of iodine in the thyroid. Unfortunately, we are getting exposed to a huge amount of bromide and fluoride in our food, water, and environment which ultimately disrupts the optimal function of glands such as the thyroid.
What are the sources of bromine?
- Bromine-fortified food - Brominated flour is sometimes used for bread and other baked goods. Nuts and seeds are usually high in Bromine, that' is why we don't recommend high amounts of these foods in a thyroid healing diet.
- Bromine in medications. Bromine is often found in certain medications like inhalers, nasal sprays, and certain gaseous anesthetics.
- Beverages, sanitizers, and flameproofing agents. For example, brominated vegetable oil is used in popular drinks such as Mountain Dew and Fanta.
- Polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) is currently used in many consumer products such as paint, textiles, building materials, automobiles, foam, mattresses, carpets, car seats, and others.
What are the sources of fluoride?
- The primary sources of fluoride intake include drinking water in fluoridated communities, toothpaste (if swallowed by young children), beverages and food processed with fluoridated water, dietary prescription supplements that include fluoride (e.g., tablets or drops), and other professional dental products (e.g., mouth rinses, gels, and foams).
3. Iodine has antimicrobial properties. Many people reading this know that iodine makes a great antiseptic. Iodine is bactericidal, fungicidal, tuberculocidal, virucidal, and sporicidal.
4. It’s possible that iodine supplements or medications can help treat fibrocystic breast disease.
5. Iodine plays a role in regulating estrogen metabolism. Iodine has several vital jobs related to estrogen. First, it helps the detoxification of excess estrogen. Second, iodine also helps increase Estriol (E3) levels and helps estrogen balance in favor of estriol. An iodine deficiency can lead to a build-up of “dirty estrogens” and a state of estrogen dominance. This can ultimately result in weight gain, mood swings, diagnoses of fibrosis, hyperplasia, and even breast cancer. Optimal consumption of iodine has been linked to a reduced risk of developing breast and prostate cancer.
6. Iodine can help with neurodevelopment during pregnancy. You need more iodine in pregnancy. That’s because iodine intake during pregnancy is linked to brain development in fetuses.
7. Iodine can help prevent damage from radiation. It helps to block radiation from being absorbed by the thyroid gland.
8. Iodine can help to reduce the risk of goiter. Sometimes a goiter develops as a direct response to iodine deficiency. This usually happens in undeveloped countries.
9. Iodine can help with a healthy birth weight. As with brain development, iodine during pregnancy is associated with healthy birth weight.
10. Iodine can help with cognitive development. It is an essential nutrient, particularly crucial for neurodevelopment. Iodine deficiency is the main cause of brain damage in childhood. It results in impaired cognitive and motor development which affects a child's performance at school.
How to start with iodine supplementation?
It is essential to start with a low dose of iodine and then gradually increase the dose (only if needed) to the optimal amount to avoid or minimize side effects.
Why is it essential to start with a low dose?
Increased iodine intake can lead to autoimmune thyroiditis, fetal hypothyroidism, and hyperthyroidism. That's why you want to be careful with iodine.
What's the initial recommended dose?
It's safe to start with supplementation of 75 mcg of iodine and gradually increase if needed.
What about Lugol's solution?
You don't want to start with a highly concentrated supplement such as Lugol's solution. There is a time to use it. However, before using it, for safety reasons, we recommend that you have a spot iodine urine test done, even if you and your healthcare professional think it's not needed.
Furthermore, when it comes to Lugol's solution, you don't want to jump right away into taking 3 or 4 drops. Instead, start slowly with 1 drop and slowly increase it after 3 weeks. This is to see how your body reacts to iodine and to avoid possible side effects. If you experience any side effects, stop.
4 steps - How to start with iodine supplementation?
Step 1. Testing
I recommend testing before anyone supplements with iodine. Testing includes checking your symptoms + testing with different diagnostic tests, to make sure you're actually deficient in iodine.
If your physician suspects you have an iodine deficiency, they can check your iodine levels in one of four ways:
1. Urine test
2. Blood test
3. Patch test
4. Iodine Loading test
1. Urine test: This is the simplest and fastest test, but it’s not as accurate as other iodine tests.
2. Blood test: This is a simple and accurate test. However, it takes more time to read than a urine test.
3. Iodine patch test: For those who are not iodine deficient, the patch fades no sooner than 24 hours. This test is not the most accurate.
4. Iodine loading test: This test measures how much iodine you excrete in your urine over a 24-hour period. It’s quite accurate.
Which one is the most accurate and convenient?
Iodine loading test nad Iodine Spot test.
Which one is the safest?
Iodine spot test. It doesn’t involve consuming iodine prior to collecting the urine sample.
Step 2. Start slow
It's safe to start with supplementation of 50-75 mcg of iodine and gradually increase if needed.
Which form of iodine is the best?
1) Lugole's Solution - It is a solution composed of iodine and potassium iodide, mixed in water. The 2% solution consists of 2.53 mg of total iodine per drop, while the 5% solution consists of 6.32 mg per drop.
2) Iodoral - Iodoral® is a high potency iodine/potassium iodide supplement that comes in two strengths and sizes. It's basically "Lugol’s solution in tablet form".
3) Kelp - Kelp is a large, brown seaweed that typically grows in shallow saltwater near coastal areas around the world. You can eat it raw, cooked, or as a powder, and it's included in a number of supplements. It's a natural form of iodine. but many often, unfortunately, it's full of toxic metals such as mercury and arsenic. I recommend getting only high-quality kelp if you're choosing this option.
4) Nascent iodine - consists of atomic iodine, rather than molecular.
5) Tri-Iodine - provides three beneficial forms of iodine to nourish multiple body systems; a blend of potassium iodide, sodium iodide, and molecular iodine.
6) Prolamine Iodine - Contains 3 mg of Iodine and 20 mg of Calcium
7) Iodine supplementation - as potassium iodine. Has a smaller amount of iodine.
Which form is the best?
It really depends on the patient. I recommend at first testing with an iodine spot test or Iodine loading test, to check if you have a deficiency and then choosing (preferably with a practitioner), the right form of iodine.
Step 3. Supplement with Selenium (200 mcg) while taking iodine
Selenium deficiency can cause oxidative damage and trigger an autoimmune response.
We want to avoid oxidative stress and autoimmune response as much as possible while taking iodine (to avoid side effects). That's why supplementing with Selenium at the same time as supplementing with iodine is important. Selenium is a strong anti-oxidant. If this, however, is not enough, and you still experience side effects while taking iodine, I recommend first working on your antioxidant status before further supplementing with iodine. This program can help you with this.
Step 4. Be aware of possible "detox reactions"
I previously mentioned that iodine helps with the detoxification of halides. Halides, like bromide, fluoride, and chloride are similar in structure to iodine. All four halides compete with one another at receptor sites. Too much of one particular halide can kick the others out.
Overexposure to bromine can cause hypothyroidism because ingesting bromine in increased amounts displaces iodine in your body.
On the other hand, supplementing with iodine will displace bromide and may cause a possible detox reaction.
Symptoms of such reaction may include:
Tingling in hands or feet
Eyelid twitching/Foot twitching
Leg and hip ache
How to speed up the detox process?
Take 200 mcg of selenium. You can use our Hair, Skin & Nails Formula. It has everything you need to support optimal thyroid work.
Supplement with Vitamin C. I recommend 1000 mg, 2-3 times/day.
Supplement with MSM to aid detoxification. The ability of MSM to mitigate toxin-induced liver damage and support detoxification is due in large part to the sulfur it provides with cysteine availability being the main rate-limiting step in glutathione synthesis (Glutathione is essential for the immune system's proper functioning and is vital in building and repairing tissue. It acts as an important antioxidant, which helps protect your body from damage to cells caused by free radicals).
Use a "Salt Loading Protocol". Salt is very effective to clear bromide symptoms. Make sure to use a high-quality salt only, as many salts are contaminated with bromide. Use 1/2 tsp salt with 1 liter/32 oz of water (1-2 a day). Alternatively, we recommend our Electrolyte Boost Pro Formula.
Optionally, take B vitamin complex.
Study: 'Thyroid Support' Supplements May Be Risky, Daniel J. DeNoon, MD WebMD. 2011
Lugol's solution-induced painless thyroiditis, Ji Wei Yang, Jacques How, Pubmed. 2017
10 Signs and Symptoms of Iodine Deficiency, by Ryan Raman, MS, RD on November 11, Healthline. 2017
Iodine and thyroid function, Hye Rim Chung, MD Pubmed. 2014
Iodine deficiency, thyroid.org
Updated on: June 6th, 2022 Published on: March 4th, 2022