The importance of Iodine testing in the human body
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.
Iodine is essential to normal growth and development. Iodine deficiency in utero and during growth can result in cretinism, a condition of severely stunted physical and mental growth due to prolonged nutritional deficiency of iodine or from untreated congenital deficiency of thyroid hormones (hypothyroidism). The condition is characterized by short stature, delayed bone maturation and puberty, infertility, neurological impairment and cognitive impairment ranging from mild to severe. Iodine deficiency also causes goiter, the gradual enlargement of the thyroid gland. Both conditions have led to public health campaigns of iodine administration in many countries. The addition of iodine compounds to table salt or water represents the first attempt to provide nutrient supplementation via “fortification” of common foods.
Iodine is essential for normal growth and development. Iodine deficiencies during pregnancy and growth can result in cretinism, a state of mild to severely impaired physical and mental growth due to the long-term nutritional deficiencies of iodine or untreated congenital deficiencies of thyroid hormones (hypothyroidism). This condition is characterized by a small body length, slower or delayed bone development and puberty, infertility, neurological impairments, and cognitive impairments ranging from light to heavy. Iodine deficiency is also the cause of goiter, a gradual enlargement of the thyroid gland. Both conditions have led to public health campaigns of iodine delivery via table salt and tap water in many countries.
Iodine may have other benefits – for which more study is needed. Evidence indicates that increased iodine consumption replaces and therefore helps detox other halogens, such as fluoride and bromide, and even toxic metals like lead, aluminum and mercury. One theory is that liberal amounts of iodine in the diet can protect against the harmful effects of fluoridated water. Iodine supports the immune system and protects against abnormal growth of bacteria in the stomach.
In addition to the thyroid and mammary glands, other tissues possess an iodine pump (the sodium-iodine symporter) which allows iodine concentration. Thus, it is logical to conclude that iodine plays an important role in these organs—the stomach mucosa, salivary glands, ovaries, thymus gland, skin, brain, joints, arteries and bone.
The 24 hours Iodine challenge test – Defining your personal need
A challenge towards the reigning attitudes to iodine compounds came in 1997, when Dr. Guy Abraham, a former professor of obstetrics and gynecology at UCLA, mounted what he calls the Iodine Project. He had his company, Optimox Corporation, make Iodoral, the tablet form of Lugol’s solution (which combines iodine and potassium iodide), and he engaged two family practice physicians, Dr. Jorge Flechas (in 2000) in North Carolina and Dr. David Brownstein (in 2003) in Michigan to carry out clinical studies with high doses of the iodine compound. The project’s hypothesis is that maintaining whole body sufficiency of iodine requires 12.5 mg a day, an amount similar to what the Japanese consume and over eighty times the RDI of 150 mcg. The conventional view is that the body contains 25-50 mg of iodine, of which 70-80 percent resides in the thyroid gland. Dr. Abraham concluded that whole body sufficiency exists when a person excretes 90 percent of the iodine ingested. He devised an iodine-loading test where one takes 50 mg iodine/potassium iodide and measures the amount excreted in the urine over the next twenty-four hours. He found that the vast majority of people retain a substantial amount of the 50 mg dose. Many require 50 mg per day for several months before they will excrete 90 percent of it. His studies indicate that, given a sufficient amount, the body will retain much more iodine than originally thought, 1,500 mg, with only 3 percent of that amount held in the thyroid gland.
According to Abraham, more than 4,000 patients in this project take iodine in daily doses ranging from 12.5 to 50 mg, and in those with diabetes, up to 100 mg a day. According to these physicians, iodine at these doses does indeed reverse fibrocystic disease; allows diabetic patients to use less insulin and hypothyroid patients to use less thyroid medication; resolves symptoms of fibromyalgia; and stops migraine headaches. They report that the side effects of iodine, including hypo- or hyperthyroidism, allergies, swelling of the salivary glands and thyroid, occur in less than 5 percent. Urine tests confirm that iodine at these doses removes the toxic halogens fluoride and bromide from the body. They believe that iodism, an unpleasant brassy taste, runny nose, and acne-like skin lesions, is caused by the bromide that iodine extracts from the tissues. Symptoms subside on a lower dose of iodine.
Developed by Drs. Guy Abraham and David Brownstein, the protocol involves giving 50 mg iodine/iodide per day as and monitoring the excretion of iodine in the urine. The high levels of iodine/iodide are necessary to replace bromine and fluorine (and also chlorine) that have built up in the tissues, due to years of toxic exposure.
The iodine/iodide loading test is based on the concept that the normally functioning human body has a mechanism to retain ingested iodine until whole body sufficiency for iodine is achieved. During supplementation with iodine, the body progressively adjusts the excretion of iodine to balance the intake. As the iodine content in the body increases, the percentage of the iodine retained decreases, showing up as an increased amount of iodide excreted in the 24-hour urine collection. When whole body sufficiency for iodine is achieved, the absorbed iodine/iodide is excreted as iodide in the urine.
In the U.S. population, the percent of iodine load excreted in the 24-hour urine collection prior to supplementation with iodorol averages 40 percent. After three months of supplementation with 50 mg iodine/iodide per day, most non-obese subjects not exposed to excess goitrogens achieve whole body iodine sufficiency, arbitrarily defined as 90 percent or more of the iodine load excreted in the 24-hour urine collections.
Removal of Bromine and Chlorine from the body
In addition to monitoring iodine excretion, Brownstein and colleagues also monitor urinary excretion of bromide and fluoride, goitrogenic halogens that the iodide gradually replaces over the course of supplementation. To facilitate the excretion of bromine, Dr. Brownstein recommends a combination of vitamin C, unrefined salt and magnesium, including baths of Epsom salts and sea salt. The patient is advised to avoid all sources of bromine, including fire retardant in carpet, clothing and mattresses, and bromide-treated breads, baked goods and grains. Bromine and chlorine are used extensively in materials in automobiles of recent vintage—in the seats, armrests, door trim, shift knobs—so avoidance of riding in cars with the windows closed is important.
For ongoing thyroid protection, it is important to avoid sources of bromide, fluoride and chloride (including environmental perchlorates, often found in drinking water). This means
- drinking purified or filtered water instead of tap water,
- consuming organic food (conventional produce and grains are treated with bromide-, chloride- or fluoride-containing pesticides and fumigants),
- avoiding bromated breads and consuming plenty of unrefined sea salt along with an iodine-rich diet.