There has been increasing interest in the holistic, nutritional use of iodine in medical practice over the last several years as it has been shown that most people in the United States are deficient in iodine. The Midwest region has always had a low iodine level in the soil, but now more so due to depletion of the soil from over farming. The body does not produce iodine so people do need to supplement on a steady basis – the degree to which they need to supplement varies from person to person.
The use of iodine for better health was discussed in the book “Folk Medicine: A Vermont Doctor’s Guide to Good Health” by DC Jarvis, M.D. (1958). Most recently, scientific studies were done by Dr. Charles Hakala, D.Pharm, along with his colleagues, Dr. Guy Abraham, M.D. and Dr. Jorge Flechas, M.D. Interestingly, despite interest in increasing iodine intake, the traditional Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) is still quite low. The RDA is a bare minimum of 300-500mcg daily, which is far below the 12,500mcg -25,000 mcg a day being recommended by some iodine-literate physicians. The theory is that the increased iodine can help to improve thyroid function since it is a key building block of the thyroid hormones T3 and T4. Iodine can also help to push out the other bad minerals such a fluorine and bromine which otherwise build up in the body. Iodine has also been shown to have cancer- protective effects. The average Japanese person has for centuries eaten about 12,500mcg daily on the average in the form of seaweed.
To prescribe iodine correctly in larger amounts than the RDA, it is necessary to do a random urine test for iodine and or, preferably, the iodine challenge test. In the challenge test, the dose of 12,500 mcg of iodine is given orally and starting immediately the urine is collected for 24 hours. This measures how much iodine is excreted in the urine. If the body holds on to most of the iodine that means that the body needs the extra iodine. The same test also measures the bad minerals, fluorine and bromine. They are in the same biochemical family, the halides, and they compete with iodine and block iodine from being used.
Based on what we know, it is a good idea to take some iodine daily even as low as 1,000 mcg or more typically 12,500mcg, especially after doing the urine challenge test. Iodine is available for supplementation as drops of dark brown liquid called Lugols Solution, or as a clear liquid, which is Potassium Iodide (KI). Iodine also for convenience comes in a tablet or capsule or as loose natural seaweed. All of these are good.
In general, patients do well will extra iodine except in cases of autoimmune diseases. Patients with a history of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis could possible aggravate the inflammatory process with iodine in some cases – but not in every case. For this reason there is usually an element of caution for cases of thyroiditis. Similarly, where there are benign thyroid nodules or cysts seen on an ultrasound of thyroid, iodine should be used cautiously. I have seen the iodine cause adenomas, or cysts, to swell up – these cases need to be monitored with repeat iodine urine levels and repeat thyroid ultrasounds. Every patient must be treated individually.