Every cell in the human body relies on and utilizes iodine. Iodine deficiency is one of the biggest worldwide health problems today. The major causes of iodine deficiency are a result of: poor farming practices resulting in low iodine levels in the soil, the body not obtaining sufficient iodine from the minimal iodine-rich food sources available, and toxic halogen exposure depleting iodine in the body. Inadequate iodine in the body can result in many health ailments (but is not limited to) thyroid disorders and breast cancer.
In the 1900’s there was a goiter and hypothyroid epidemic in the states bordering the Great Lakes, which are classified as the “Goiter Belt”. Research concluded the answer to decreasing the rate of goiters was adding iodized salt to the diet. What many in the food industry still do not acknowledge, is that iodine present in salt is not adequate to supply the body’s needs for iodine. Iodine is also not present in adequate amounts in foods for the body. (Brownstein, 33). Researchers have found that there is no support that iodized table salt provides a readily available source of iodine for the body and that, “…iodine in iodized salt is only 10% bioavailable” (Brownstein, 47). Iodized table salt is highly processed and harmful to the body and should be avoided.
In the 1960’s iodine was added to the baking industry in flours and baked goods. Iodine was quickly removed in the 1980’s due to false safety concerns. Iodine was replaced with bromine, another halide. Halides compete to bind to receptors in the body, inhibiting the use of iodine. Halides include: iodine, bromine, fluoride, chloride and others. “Bromine is a toxic substance that has no therapeutic use in our bodies” (Brownstein, 49). Bromine promotes the production of a goiter due to the interference of iodine binding in the body. Our exposure to these toxic halogens have markedly increased our body’s iodine requirements. The thyroid gland contains the highest concentration of iodine. Iodine is also very concentrated in the breasts, ovaries, salivary glands, cerebrospinal fluid and brain (Brownstein, 28).
The thyroid gland controls the metabolic activity of the body. “Without sufficient iodine supply, the thyroid gland is unable to make thyroid hormones in adequate amounts” (Brownstein, 69). The thyroid acts as a major metabolic regulator in the body, which every cell, muscle, and organ depend on adequate levels of to function properly. When iodine is insufficient, the main thyroid hormones, T4 and T3 are not able to be produced effectively resulting in hypothyroid. Some common symptoms of hypothyroid may include, but are not limited to: brittle nails, cold hands and feet, constipation, eyelid swelling, fatigue, hair loss, brain fog, muscle cramps, irritability, infertility, weight gain and menstrual irregularities (Brownstein 74-79).
What about in cases of Hyperthyroid? Dr. Brownstein explains that it is very rare to see a case of iodine induce hyperthyroidism. Patients with autoimmune thyroid disorders such as Graves’ disease or Hashimoto’s can have symptoms that fluctuate between hyperthyroid and hypothyroid. They can have symptoms reflective of both situations. “I believe that iodine deficiency is a causative risk factor in developing an autoimmune thyroid problem” (130).
Dr. Brownstein explains that when the body is deficient of iodine, the glandular tissue of the breast can become cystic. If the iodine deficiency continues, the breasts can become firm and nodular and go into a hyperplastic state. In this state, the cells multiple rapidly and become more disordered in appearance. Without correction of the deficiency, this can result in breast cancer. “Fibrocystic breast disease is a precursor to breast cancer” (Brownstein, 76). “Bromine can also bind to iodine receptors in the breast and is a known carcinogen to the breast” (Brownstein, 50). Dr. Brownstein has had countless cancer patients come to him and when evaluated and placed on appropriate iodine treatment they have seen improvements or have reversed their condition. In many cases it results in a cure from their cancer.
When iodine is supplied in adequate amounts for the body, it is able to bind to a fat molecule, iodolactone, which is a “key regulator of apoptosis and cellular proliferation of the thyroid gland” (Brownstein, 103). Apoptosis is programmed cell death, because all cells have a beginning and an end. Cancerous cells do not undergo apoptosis, and continue to divide and overwhelm the body. When iodine promotes apoptosis, it is an anti-cancer substance and is vital for the body.
The breasts are one of the biggest storage sites for iodine in the body, which means they also require adequate amounts of iodine. When the iodine is being overrun by toxic halides like bromine, there is an even bigger loss of iodine for the breast tissues. “In an iodine deficient state, the thyroid gland and the breasts will compete for what little iodine is available… This will leave the thyroid gland and the breasts iodine depleted and can set the stage for illnesses such as goiter, hypothyroidism, autoimmune thyroid illness, and breast illnesses including cancer an cystic breast disease” (Brownstein, 153).
Iodine supplementation can help the body to metabolize the three estrogen hormones favoring the safer form of estriol and leading to the optimal balance in these hormones. When estrogen is imbalanced, it can result in mood swings, weight gain, breast cancers, ovarian cancers, and uterine cancers (Brownstein, 159). Proper balance of estrogen is not possible when there is iodine deficiency. Iodine also has the ability to prevent cancer progression in the breast tissue. Estrogens are often considered a factor in causing breast cancer and fibrocystic disease, and in order to prevent this, one of the most common treatments is to place the patient on contraceptive pills to suppress the amount of estrogen in the body. This can often exacerbate the issue and make it worse. Contraceptive pills also have detrimental effects to the gut flora resulting in gut dysbiosis (Campbell-McBride, 36). The solution in many cases is iodine supplementation.
Many seek out laboratory tests to see if their thyroid is functioning optimally. What many do not realize is conventional medicine only bases this on a blood test, which Dr. Brownstein explains are not sensitive enough to pick up thyroid abnormalities (74). In other words, your serum thyroid levels may appear normal even though you are having symptoms, you likely have an underlying thyroid issue (Fuchs, 7).
There are many factors contributing to the epidemic of iodine deficiency. This is a brief overview of the terrifying effects of iodine deficiency and the amazing benefits the body can see when adequate levels are restored. There are many benefits of iodine supplementation and only a couple of them have been discussed here. Some benefits include helping to manage and/or treat breast cancer, fibrocystic breasts, thyroid disorders, fatigue, headache, ADHD, and much more. Work closely with your GAPS Practitioner or another trained practitioner in iodine supplementation as this is often an issue for many GAPS patients.
Brownstein, David. Iodine, Why You Need It. Why You Can’t Live Without It. Michigan: Medical Alternatives Press, 2008.
Campbell-McBride, Natasha. Gut and Psychology Syndrome. Medinform Publishing, 2010. 36.
Fuchs, Nan. The Health Detective’s 456 Most Powerful Healing Secrets. Basic Health Publications, Inc, 2006. (7).
Kapil U. (2007). Health consequences of iodine deficiency. Sultan Qaboos University medical journal, 7(3), 267–272. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3074887/