A few weeks back I had an appointment with a naturopath and was reminded of the issues that some of us may have with iodine and our thyroids. It was something I started to look into a few years ago, but when my adrenal issues surfaced, I went about healing those first.
But now my adrenals seem fine and yet I’m plagued with issues coming from……somewhere.
After talking with me for an hour, my naturopathic doctor decided to start treating my thryoid glands and one of the treatments is supplemental iodine.
What is Iodine?
I’ve actually talked about iodine here before, it was part of my Superfoods for Fertility post, and yet it seems even I still struggle to get enough iodine in my diet.
Iodine, a non metallic trace element, is required by our bodies for making thyroid hormones. As in, if you do not have enough iodine in your body you can not make enough thyroid hormones. When our bodies are deficient in this element, it affects our thyroid, adrenals, and entire endocrine system. Not only is it important in a fertility diet, it’s essential in the prenatal and nursing period as well. Infant mortality rates start to climb in areas known for iodine deficiency, and it’s also been linked to higher rates of miscarriage and still birth. – Superfoods for Fertility
Iodine is critical to human health. It forms the basis of thyroid hormones and plays many other roles in human biochemistry. While the thyroid gland contains the body’s highest concentration of iodine, the salivary glands, brain, cerebrospinal fluid, gastric mucosea, breasts, ovaries and a part of the eye also concentrate iodine. In the brain, iodine is found in the choroid plexus, the area on the ventricles of the brain where cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) is produced, and in the substantia nigra, an area associated with Parkinson’s disease. – WAPF, Sally Fallon, The Great Iodine Debate
Depending on where you live in the country, it can actually put you at greater risk for an iodine deficiency. As for me – I live in what’s known as the “goiter belt”, an area of the country that struggles with getting enough iodine, due to the lack of fresh seafoods in our diet. (The ocean and the animals that live in it are magnificent sources of iodine)
Before the 1920s, iodine deficiency was common in the Great Lakes, Appalachian, and Northwestern U.S. regions and in most of Canada. Treatment of iodine deficiency by the introduction of iodized salt has virtually eliminated the “goiter belt” in these areas. However, many other parts of the world do not have enough iodine available through their diet and iodine deficiency continues to be an important public health problem globally. (source)
Iodine was added to the salt we routinely eat, which has taken care of much of the goiter issue, but are we still deficient enough to cause other health issues? And what about those of us who choose to no longer consume iodized salt?
Food Sources of Iodine
- Fruits and Vegetables grown by the sea, including coconut products
- Blackstrap molasses (158 mcg per 100 grams/3.75 oz)
- Saltwater fish; haddock, whiting, herring (330 mcg per 100 grams)
- Butter from cows fed on iodine rich soil
- Dried Kelp (62,400 mcgs per 100 grams)
- Spinach (56 mcg per 100 grams)
- Milk and dairy products (14 mcg per 100 grams) (at least 20% of iodine is lost during pasteurization so raw is best)
- Eggs (13 mcg per 100 grams)
Symptoms of Iodine Deficiency
- Goiter – Without enough iodine in the body, the thyroid enlarges (develops a goiter) as it tries to keep up with demand for thyroid hormone production.
- Cretinism – a condition commonly characterised by mental retardation, deaf-mutism, squint, disorders of stance and gait, and stunted growth in children of mothers who were iodine deficient.
- Dry skin
- Increased sensitivity to cold
- Menstrual cycle abnormalities
- Thinning and brittleness of the hair and nails
- Unintended weight gain
Iodine deficiency has also been tied to fibrocystic breasts and breast cancer.
Iodine Patch Skin Test, or Iodine “Painting”
One of the treatments that my naturopath wants me doing right now, is iodine painting, a transdermal supplementation of iodine. Though the use of Lugol’s Iodine Solution I can gage the iodine status within my body and also supplement with iodine at the same time.
Since there is no test that measures the level of iodine in the body, you can actually use this iodine solution to see where your own iodine levels are because your body will only absorb what it needs. And the solution is yellow so you’ll be able to see how long it takes.
Skin Patch Test:
- Use a yellow iodine, like Lugol’s solution
- Place a drop of the iodine on a thin area of skin, like the inside of your arm.
- Note the length in hours it takes to disappear.
If your body has an adequate amount of iodine, the stain should last about 24 hours. Some of it will evaporate and so it’s difficult to know exactly how much you’re absorbing, but it’s a tried and true method used my many holistic practitioners.
The inefficient uptake of iodine from the skin and slow release can be seen as an advantage for those wishing to safely improve their iodine status without medical supervision. This treatment does not seem to provoke a detoxification reaction that often occurs with oral ingestion of Lugol’s. (source)
My patch test lasted for three hours. *ahem*
Over the last 3 weeks I’ve dutifully reapplied the iodine solution (about 3 drops spread over a thin area of skin – about the size of my palm) each time I’ve noticed it has disappeared. It’s slowly been taking longer to disappear, being visible about 8 hours later. I’m hopeful that in a few more weeks I’ll be closer to 24 hours.
There are of course cautions when using iodine, especially when someone has a thyroid disorder.
Taking too much iodine can also cause problems. This is especially true in individuals that already have thyroid problems, such as nodules, hyperthyroidism and autoimmune thyroid disease. Administration of large amounts of iodine through medications (ie Amiodarone), radiology procedures (iodinated intravenous dye) and dietary excess (Dulce, kelp) can cause or worsen hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism. (source)
There are also cautions against using it internally due to some detoxifying effects from the iodine, so I suggest you work with a holistic health practitioner if you plan on taking it internally.
Have you ever done the iodine patch test? Or worked on supporting your thyroid through supplemental iodine?