Iodine For Health
What is Iodine?
Iodine was given its name from the Greek word for purple or violet, ioeides, and was so called because this was the colour of its elemental vapour. As an element, iodine occupies a place on the periodic table with other halogens. In its standard form iodine resembles bluish black crystals.
Iodine is used in the production of acetic acid, it is used as a supplement in animal food stuffs and it is a very effective disinfectant. Iodine has a chequered history in the world of supplemental health and nutrition and it is this use of iodine in human nutrition that I am interested here.
The Isolation of Iodine
Many beneficial by products are, ironically, developed as the result of investments and research in warfare, and although iodine as an element is not in itself a by product of warfare, its discovery was.
The sea contains concentrations of iodine as does seaweed. In the nineteenth century, a French chemist, Bernard Courtois was employed making a component of gunpowder by processing seaweed. It was during this time he observed and isolated the emerging violet vapour, later to be identified as iodine.
Courtois engaged three fellow chemists to research the vapour and its crystalline form. These scientists took three more years to classify the element and to give it the name iodine.
A Brief History of Health and Iodine
Over the years following the isolation of Iodine by Courtois, physicians started to suspect the active ingredient in seaweed, which they were using to treat the thyroid disorder, goitre, was in fact this new element, iodine. A Tincture was created and proved to be very effective, so effective that the trials expanded to include hypothyroidism.
In 1829, J G A Lugol found a way to make an iodine solution with elemental iodine, potassium iodide and water. In this form iodine was able to be used as a disinfectant. During the early part of the 20th century iodine became popular as a treatment and people were taking it in large quantities for many health related reasons, as a result the authorities decided to heavily regulate its use.
Even as recently as 2013 iodine deficiency is being studied by professionals. A recent study published by 'The Lancet' (1) was conducted on iodine levels in pregnant women in the UK and their subsequent children's development. The findings suggest that a mild to moderate deficiency "can pose risk to the developing infant".
There are clear links, established and well documented, between iodine deficiency goitre and cretinism. Iodine has been used successfully as a supplement to treat these group who have been living with these conditions in iodine deficient areas. The most well known being in Europe and The Great Lakes of Northern USA, sometimes referred to as the Goitre Belts. Cretinism was found amongst Alpine villagers in and around Switzerland.
In more recent years iodine deficiency is thought to lead to a more diverse range of disorders, which have been observed in newly emerging deficient countries for example, India. Information collated in 2006 suggested that out of the 130 countries responding with data, 33.5% acknowledged iodine deficiency as a public health problem (2)..
These disorders include, in addition to 21st century goitre and cretinism, mental retardation, social problems, psycho-motor defects, hypothyroidism, hearing and speech impairment.
Iodine deficiency is probably one of the easiest, least expensive elements to supplement. Whilst the consequences of iodine deficiency may be irreversible, many of the deficiency disorders are preventable.
Why I take Iodine
I now think I had iodine deficiency. My diet was poor as a young independent adult, I rarely ate fish or consumed milk and neither did I take salt.
I did about six months of research before I decided to try Lugol's iodine. I needed to be convinced of the safety, to understand how the recommended daily allowances were arrived at, I wanted to understand what new work was being done with iodine as a continuation of the work of the turn of the 20th century, and I looked at consequences of taking too much..
Initially I took it for a specific reason, and that was for breast tissue health. I read everything Dr David Derry's MD PhD had written on iodine and breast cancer and then corresponded with him for a short time. I read even more iodine books by people like Dr David Brownstein MD until eventually I satisfied myself that I needed to include iodine and its protocol into my supplement regimen.
My first protocol was to Dr Derry's specification. I followed this for 7 months and then reduced to a maintenance dose. During this time I made some surprising health observations.
Bromine is poisonous to the human body our modern lifestyles mean exposure to it is higher that would be naturally. It is found as bromides in many everyday places, in plastics, some personal hygiene products, some flavoured drinks, pesticides, fire retardants and so forth.
It is suggested that our iodine receptors are very good at the uptake of bromine, and as bromine is higher in the periodic table it readily displaces iodine, this is sometimes referred to as bromine dominance theory(3). One way to remove this bromine is to take iodine in sufficiency.
There are tests available for bromide dominance which help work out what dosage of iodine might be best in order to detoxify bromides out of the system. There are supplemental protocols which include selenium, companion nutrients, salt and magnesium, and it is recommended this full protocol be worked through in conjunction with an iodine literate doctor.
My Observations whilst taking Iodine
I apply empirical reasoning with my supplementation testing. Empirical reasoning is experimentation based on trial and error. Another method I sometimes utilise is model based reasoning. I use this to build models that I can test for specific ailments.
When I first took iodine I observed many immediate things, some symptoms were apparently attributable to bromide detoxification for example a runny nose, others were beneficial health developments. Once I became more comfortable with the dose I started to note the physical improvements.
My skin began to clear a little, I always had acne and with iodine I noticed my skin was somewhat less prone to developing blemishes, I have to add iodine did not clear my skin completely. Other conditions that responded a little to iodine were pompholyx and my wheat allergy.
Iodine alone was not the complete story for me because I went on to discover I had central hypothermia, which I subsequently fixed, however iodine is still very much part of my protocol and combined with maintaining a set point of 37C or 98.6F now serves to enable my immune system to have a go at fixing those ailments like my wheat allergy and my pompholyx. Interestingly, after the combination of resetting my low body temperature and taking iodine, I have noticed that that my remaining breast, which used to itch all the time, now only itches occasionally and when it does I check my temperature and/or take a drop of iodine.
Do you think your diet contains enough iodine?
Dietary Sources of Iodine
Probably the better sources of iodine are seaweed, fish and shellfish. It is suggested that small amounts are available from grains and some plant foods, but this seems to depend on the presence of iodine in the soil.
in some countries like the UK milk has been suggested as a source of iodine, but by what route and in what quantities seems to be open to some debate.
The general consensus amongst mainstream health professionals is that a varied diet ought to provide all the iodine requirements for an individual. The generally held belief amongst alternate health professionals, based on the emerging statistics of studies done on iodine deficiency across the world, is that iodine availability from diet alone is inadequate, and that a new, more appropriate recommended daily suggestion ought to be calculated and be made readily available as a supplement in the form of Lugol's.
Dr Mark Sircus on Iodine
Iodine Literal Doctors
Probably the safest way to supplement iodine, if it is established that iodine deficiency is a problem, is to enlist the help of an iodine literal doctor. These professionals have been trained and fully understand how Iodine supplementation works, what the side effects or bromine detoxification effects might be and can help adjust the dosing and accompanying protocol to enable absorption of this vital element.
My thinking currently on Iodine
I wished there would be more collaboration between all professionals to bring an end the confusion and conflicting advice surrounding iodine supplementation. I would also like to see iodine put to many more practical uses, for example, disinfection in homes and hospitals and purifying water etc, a much safer approach instead of using expensive and often harmful chemicals.
I do think Iodine is a majorly important trace element. I am open to the different ideas on dosing both with large supervised amounts for serious diseases like fibro-cystic breast disease and equally with lower doses for simply maintaining optimal health and ensuring the health of future generations.
In the 21st century there is simply no excuse for anyone in the world having an iodine deficiency.