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Iodine and Orthoiodosupplementation
Iodine is a trace mineral that is essential for life. It is needed to make thyroid hormones, which are necessary for maintaining normal metabolism in all cells of the body. Nutritional Iodine deficiency is associated with soil iodine deficiency. Local produce grown in areas whose soil is low in Iodine may not supply adequate amounts of Iodine.
As with many nutritional supplements and natural medicines there are two very divergent points of view about the use of iodine. The conventional one is that we need very little and that we get enough through our food and iodized salt. The other is that we don't get nearly enough for optimum health and that ortho iodine supplementation has many health benefits.
To put this in perspective, consider the history behind iodine. Before the practice of putting trace amounts of iodine in salt, it was common for people to develop goitre in certain geographic areas were soils were devicient in iodine. Goitre is an enlargement of the thyroid gland that is usually associated with several thyroid disorders. It has also been known for a long time that iodine could be used to treat and prevent goitre and other thyroid conditions. In fact, in the medicine of the last century, it was common to prescribe iodine for many poorly understood or undiagnosed conditions, often with good results. The forms given were often potassium iodide and lugol's solution which is a mixture of potassium iodide and dissolved iodine crystals.
One can get a sense of how iodine can and has been used in folk medicine by reading Folk Medicine by DC Jarvis, M.D. Dr. Jarvis was a country doctor in New England in the early to mid 1900's. His practice was in a rural agricultural area and his observations on the health of the farmers and their livestock is quite interesting. He used apple cider vinegar, honey and lugol's solution as a basis for treating and preventing many diseases and disorders. Iodine either as kelp tablets or lugol's solution was used for lethargy, hyperactivity, heart conditions, poor fracture healing, susceptibility to infections, sickness in general and to increase endurance.
Dr. Weston Price was a dentist who traveled the world in the early 1900's documenting the relationship between the diets of indigenious people and their health, their dental health in particular. He noted that where possible, people would include seafood as a preferential food source, sometimes traveling great distances to obtain it. On one trip to Peru, he interviewed some natives living at 16,000 ft elevation in the Andes mountains. He noticed that each carried a carefully guarded pouch that contained kelp. They told him that they obtained it from the ocean, which was a month's travel by foot and that it was used to "protect the heart".
In the 1800's and early 1900's Iodine in the form of Postassium Iodide was regarded as a universal medicine and was frequently prescribed when the doctor was unsure of a diagnosis. The widespread use of iodine in the form of lugol's solution generally provided an amount of 0.1 to 0.3 ml of lugol's solution (2 to 6 drops), containing from 12.5 to 37.5 mg of elemental iodine. This all changed around 1930 with the introduction of thyroid hormone. The 1940's saw the disappearance of publications on the medical use of iodine and lugol's solution, the appearance of iodophobic publications and the corresponding promotion of iodized salt, thyroid hormones for hypothyroid conditions and goitrigen drugs and radioactive iodine for hyperthyroid conditions.
Now fast forward to contemporary times. Recent research has renewed interest in iodine supplements for solving health issues. This is described very well in Published Research by Guy E. Abraham, M.D. . A growing number of alternative medical practitioners are again using orthoiodinesupplementation as an important tool in their practices.
How much Iodine do We Need?
The current official RDA for an adult is 150 mcg. (micrograms). This value was only established very recently in 1980 and confirmed in 1989. This is the amount that is supposed to prevent goiter in the majority of the population. It is estimated that the average iodine intake in the U.S. is 240-300 mcg/day for adult men and 190-210 mcg/day for adult women. There is evidence that iodine intake in the U.S. has decreased significantly over the past 20 years. Between 1988 and 1994, 11% of the U.S. population was found to have low urinary iodine concentrations and 6.7% of pregnant women and 14.5% of women of childbearing age had urinary iodine concentrations associated with insufficient iodine intake.
While the RDA may be enough to prevent goiter in the majority of the population, is it enough for optimum health? Contrast the Japanese diet with the American diet. Mainland Japanese consume a daily average of 13.8 mg of elemental iodine, and they are one of the healthiest nations based on overall well being and cancer statistics. Japanese women do not stop consuming iodine-rich foods during pregnancy, and Japanese fetuses are exposed to maternal peripheral levels of iodide at concentrations of 10-5M to 10-6M. There is no evidence that the higher levels of iodine are harmful. Dr. Abraham believes that the human body needs at least 100 times the RDA for optimum health.
Iodine Interaction with Other Nutrients
Deficiencies of Selenium, vitamin A and Iron may exacerbate the effects of iodine deficiency. Iodine is essential for the synthesis of thyroid hormone, but selenium-dependent enzymes (iodothyronine deiodinases) are also required for the conversion of thyroxine (T4) to the biologically active thyroid hormone, triiodothyronine (T3).
Some foods, known as goitrogens, contain substances that interfere with iodine utilization or thyroid hormone production. Casava contains a compound that is metabolized to thiocyanate and blocks thyroidal uptake of iodine. Some species of millet and cruciferous vegetables (like, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, Kale, etc.) and turnips also contain goitrogens. The soybean isoflavones, genistein and daidzein, have also been found to inhibit thyroid hormone synthesis. Most of these goitrogens are not of clinical importance unless they are consumed in large amounts or there is coexisting iodine deficiency. Recent findings also indicate that tobacco smoking may be associated with an increased risk of goiter in iodine deficient areas. It is probable that the effects of many of these goitrogens may be reduced or eliminated by optimum iodine supplementation.
Among the most powerful goitrogens are the elements and compounds in the halide family of chemicals, other than iodine. The halides include iodine, bromine, chlorine and fluorine. Because the halides are chemically similar to iodine, iodine can be displaced or bound up when competing halides are present in significant quantities.
Side Effects of Iodine Supplementation
The side effects reported with the use of inorganic non-radioactive iodine are:
Dr. Abraham reports an estimated 1 percent of patients taking iodine supplements in daily amounts of 6.25 to 50 milligrams will experience some of these side effects. This is based on the experience of clinicians with several thousands of patients on Iodoral®. (Iodoral® is an enterically coated tablet version of Lugol's solution developed and marketed by Dr. Abraham). Orthoiodosupplementation induces a detoxification reaction in some patients with high bromide levels. The symptoms include increased body odor and cloudy urine. The body odor lasts one to two weeks, but the cloudy urine may last several months before clearing up.
Side effects can be minimized by increasing fluid intake. Increased fluid facilitates the excretion of excess iodine and the bromides, fluorides and heavy metals that the iodine displaces. Dr. Abraham also reported that the administration of magnesium in daily amounts up to 1200 mg eliminated the body odor but not the cloudy urine. It is believed that hypothyroid function may be caused by the release of stored bromide by the iodine. Bromine is a potent goitrogen and is common in the environment and in food additives. Side effects may be reduced by lowering the dose of iodine or by discontinuing iodine supplements for a few days at intervals until tolerance is developed and side effects diminish. Dr. Abraham sugggests that in some patients, it may take up to 2 years.
Iodine and Fibrocystic Disease of the Breast
Several studies have demonstrated a relationship between low iodine intake and fibrocystic disease of the breast. The minimum amount of iodine required for control and prevention of FDB is equivalent to 0.1mg/kg body weight/day. For example, for a 50 kg woman, the daily amount of iodine would be 5 mg.
Iodine Supplementation and Heavy Metal Detoxification
Iodine supplementation results in the increased excretion of fluorides and bromides which interfere with iodine absorption. Dr. Abraham noted that in some patients the excretion of lead, cadmium and mercury increased several fold after only one day of iodine supplementation and that increased aluminum excretion was noted about a month after beginning supplementation.
Where to get Iodine Supplements
Iodoral, the iodine supplement developed by Dr. Abraham is available here.