Are Iodine Supplements Safe for Low Thyroid Sufferers?
Listen very closely to what I’m about to tell you. There is a lot of controversy surrounding Iodine supplementation and Hypothyroidism and so I want to share with you why this is a concern.
Iodine is important for thyroid hormone metabolism. You must have iodine to make T4 and T3. T4 (inactive) is converted into T3, the active form of thyroid hormone. There is one….ONE kind of hypothyroidism in which iodine works very well……and it’s called Primary Hypothyroidism. (side note, There are about 24 different ways that thyroid hormone chemistry can go wrong).
In Primary Hypothyroidism, the thyroid gland is not excreting and not manufacturing sufficient amounts of T4. This is the type of hypothyroidism that responds very well to drugs such as Synthroid®, Levothyroxine®, and Armour®.
But—Primary Hypothyroidism is NOT the most common cause of hypothyroidism. The most common cause of hypothyroidism is Hashimoto’s Autoimmune Thyroiditis.
In Hashimoto’s, your immune system is attacking and trying to kill your thyroid gland.
Specifically, your immune system targets:
1. Thyroid Peroxidase (TPO) -an enzyme used to make T4 and T3.
2. Thyroglobulin (TGB) -a protein used to make T4 and T3.
You can learn more about these Thyroid antibodies and why testing for BOTH of these is so important here
Issue #1 with Iodine:
Iodine stimulates the manufacture of TPO inside the thyroid gland. If you are already attacking TPO (have Hashimoto’s) then increasing levels of TPO is like throwing gasoline on the fire.
Issue #2 with Iodine:
If you have undiagnosed Hashimoto’s, taking Iodine can cause Hashimoto’s autoimmune thyroiditis. Iodine triggers Hashimoto’s disease. There’s a ton of research studies on this topic that show over and over that iodine is a trigger for Hashimoto’s.
How do they know? In many countries around the world they’ve given people prophylactic iodine, meaning, “Hey, we think our citizens in this area don’t have enough iodine in their blood. Their TSH levels look weird, they have goiters. Let’s give them all iodine and correct that.”
In almost 100% of the cases, when they give iodine, they also flare up those people who have undiagnosed Hashimoto’s.
That is a horrible thing to do to someone because once you have one autoimmune attack, the chances are you’re going get another one. In Hashimoto’s, the autoimmune attack can move very quickly into the parietal cells of the stomach, casing pernicious anemia….into the pancreas causing blood sugar problem…and into the cerebellum, causing dizziness, vertigo and balance problems.
So please read this next part very closely…
There’s thousands of people on Yahoo! Groups and chat groups saying, “I’ve treated my hypothyroidism with iodine, therefore iodine is good for low thyroid symptoms.”
No, Iodine is not. You must get tested first to make sure you do not have Hashimoto’s. A very simple test to do. You get what’s called a TPO antibody test and you get a TGB antibody test. If either one or both of those antibody tests come back positive, DO NOT TAKE IODINE. It’s very simple.
If you recently had your thyroid levels done, check out this video I did titled, “Understanding your Thyroid lab Ranges”
When a person has Hashimoto’s and they take iodine, their symptoms get worse. I’ve lost count how many times I have seen this with patients.
I’m not telling you that iodine doesn’t work on some people because clearly, it does. It works on those people that have Primary Hypothyroidism, but that’s not the most common kind of Hypothyroidism. Do yourself a favor and be safe.
If you experience classic low thyroid symptoms like;
- unexplained weight gain
- dry skin, brittle nails
- sluggish mental speed
- brain fog
In the scientific journals Iodine + Hashimoto’s has been called “an explosive mix”. I’ve seen too many people get into trouble over the years trying to self supplement and using iodine/Iodine patches.
Iodine is not safe for low thyroid symptoms until you have ruled out Hashimoto’s and even then I don’t like to gamble.
Other Blogs You May Find Interesting
- 5 Thyroid Patterns that Wont Show up on Standard Lab Testing
- Why You Should Avoid Self Treating Your Thyroid Disorder.
- A Brief Overview of How Your Thyroid Gland Works
- Hypothyrodism and Gluten. Foods Containing Gluten That May Surprise You
- Read more about the Triggers to autoimmune diseases here
- Testing for Hashimoto’s Why testing is critical to proper treatment
SurksM, Sievert R. Drugs and thyroid function. NEJM, 1995;333(25):1688.
Weetman A. Graves’ Disease. NEJM 2000;343(17):1236.
Effect of iodine intake on thyroid disease in China. N Engl J Med. 2006 Jun 29;354(26):2783-93.
Evolution of thyroid autoimmunity during iodine prophylaxis0the Sri Lankan experience. Eur J Endocrinol. 2003 Aug;149(2)103-10.
High prevalence of thyroid dysfunction and autoimmune thyroiditis in adolescents after elimintion of iodine deficiency in the Eastern Black Sea Region of Turkey. Thyroid 2006 Dec;16(12):1265-71.
Experimental study on effects of iodine deficiency and excess on thyroid autoimmunity. Zongua Yu Fang Xue Za Zhi. 2006 Jan;40 (1):18-20.
Why measure thyroglobulin autoantibodies rather than thyroid peroxidase autoantibodies? Thyroid 2004 Jul;14(7):510-20.
Camargo RY, Tomimoria Ek, Neves Sc, et al. Thyroid and the environment: exposure to excessive nutritional iodine increases the prevalence of thyroid disorders in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Eur J Endocrinol. 2008 Sep;159(3):293-9.
Zonenberg A, Tolejko B, Scelachowska M, et al. Markers of endothelial dysfunction in patients with iodine induced hyperthyroidism. Endokryonol Pol. 2006 May-Jun;57(3):210-7.
Chong W, Shit Xg, Teng WP, et al. Multifactor analysis of relationship between the biological exposure to iodine and hypothyroidism. Zhongua Yi Za Zhi. 2004 Jul 17:84(14):1171-4.
Zois C, Stavrou I, Kalogera C, et al. High prevalence of autoimmune thyroiditis in school children after elimination of iodine deficiency in northwestern Greece. Thyroid. 2003 May;13(5):485-9.
Markou KB, Georgopoulous NEA, Makri M, et al. Improvement of iodine deficiency after iodine supplementation in school children of Azerbaijan was accompanied by hypo and hyperthyrotropinemia and increased title of thyroid autoantibodies. J Endocrinol Invest. 2003;26(2 Suppl):43-8.
Yoon SJ, Choit SR, Kim DM, et al. The effect of iodine restriction on thyroid function in patients with hypothyroidism due to Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Yonsi Med J. 2003 Apr 30;44(2):227-35.
Lynne Burek C. Autoimmune thyroiditis research at Johns Hopkins University. Immunol Res. 2010 Jan 20. [Epub ahead of print]