Over the past few years, a growing number of people have been taking doses of iodine ten times the daily amount of 150mcg recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO). Most of them – but not all – claim to have improved their health in this way, sometimes dramatically.
Detractors from this practice say that it’s dangerous to take too much iodine, that it can damage the thyroid and can trigger autoimmune conditions such as Hashimoto’s.
It’s a controversial area.
I’ve been trying out the high-dose iodine protocol for a couple of months at the time of writing, to treat hypothyroid-type symptoms, with good results so far. If you want to see how I got on with the protocol, take a look at my Iodine Deficiency Diaries series on YouTube.
This is the first one in the series.
women with painful or lumpy breasts were advised to paint them with iodine
Lynne Farrow, in her book The Iodine Crisis, says that iodine has helped people suffering from a range of conditions, including fatigue, cysts, menstrual problems, weight gain, breast pain, psoriasis, Type 2 diabetes, fertility problems, genital herpes, incidence of miscarriage, fibromyalgia, vaginal infections, eczema, erectile problems and libido.
Farrow says that in the early 20th century, iodine used to be prescribed for a wide range of medical conditions, including atherosclerosis, syphilis, uterine fibroids, poisoning, scarlet fever, bronchitis, pneumonia, obesity, depression, breast pain, eczema, genitourinary diseases, malaria, ovarian cysts, rheumatism, gastralgia, tonsillitis and coughs.
In the 19th century women with painful or lumpy breasts were advised to paint them with iodine, and doctors sometimes injected iodine into the breast tissue. Tincture of iodine was applied to wounds.
Serious health risks on a mass scale
Europe has the highest percentage of iodine deficiency in the world, and the UK is the seventh most iodine deficient country.
Read more about why iodine is an essential nutrient for mental as well as physical health here.
How iodine fell out of favour
In the 1950s, experiments on rats conducted by Jan Wolff and Israel Chaikoff suggested that iodine could be harmful to the thyroid. Lynne Farrow says that this research led to iodine being stigmatised as potentially dangerous in amounts greater than the WHO recommended daily level of 150mcg.
The thyroid gland, a butterfly-shaped organ in the neck that regulates metabolism, needs iodine in order to function. But it is widely believed that too much iodine can cause it to malfunction, possibly causing autoimmune conditions.
The research of David Brownstein, MD, and the late Guy Abraham, MD, suggests that this belief is based on unreliable evidence, and that the current recommended daily amounts of iodine, 150mcg are far too low.
Mainland Japanese people are believed to consume approximately 13.8mg of iodine daily, more than 10 times the WHO recommended dose, mainly from seaweed. The Japanese have relatively low levels of breast, endometrial and ovarian cancers, and Japanese women have significantly lower levels of fibrocystic breast disease.
Dr Brownstein, in his book Iodine: Why You Need It; Why You Can’t Live Without It, recommends a daily dose of between 12 and 50mg a day for iodine deficient adults. This is a process that should not be taken lightly. I have been supplementing at this level for two months now, and have seen some improvements with just a few detox effects.
It’s clear that some people experience much more serious detox effects than I did when taking high doses of iodine. They are probably in the minority compared to those who benefit from the treatment, but everyone has a different constitution.
These effects are very wide-ranging, but among the most common are fatigue, brain fog, tremors, depression and anxiety. I experienced all of these, but only for a short time, and they were reduced by taking the companion nutrients and by doing the salt loading procedure regularly (details below). Some people report stronger and more unpleasant detox effects.
So if you are thinking of starting this treatment, you should proceed cautiously, preferably under medical guidance from a practitioner who is familiar with this protocol, and certainly having read the books by Lynne Farrow and Dr Brownstein, so you know exactly what to expect and how to treat any symptoms or side-effects that occur.
The toxins that block out iodine
The main cause of side effects when taking high doses of iodine is the detoxification of chemicals, some of them in everyday use. These are classified as halogens: bromine, fluorine, chlorine and astatine. They can bind to the iodine receptors in the thyroid gland, blocking iodine uptake and disrupting the function of the thyroid, as it needs iodine to make thyroid hormone.
Bromine is added to bakery products and fire retardants in the US, and is used in some medications and in crop spraying. Fluoride is added to drinking water in some regions.
Chlorine, the oxidised form of chloride, is added to swimming pools as a disinfectant, and is often used to purify the water supply. Chlorine can be removed from water by using filtration products (see below).
Dr Brownstein says that all of these elements are more toxic when iodine deficiency is present.
What is Lugol’s?
Lugol’s iodine solution is not a brand – it’s a name given to the formulation made from iodine and potassium iodide which was first developed by Jean Lugol, a French doctor, in 1829.
It shouldn’t be confused with tincture of iodine, which is formulated from sodium iodide and should not be ingested.
Lugol’s can be painted onto the skin or ingested, but be very careful to take the correct dosage.
Lugol’s can sometimes trigger gastric irritation, so many people prefer to take tablets like Iodoral, or Iodorx, which offer a similar formulation to Lugol’s, but in tablet form.
Taking high dose iodine
Taking high doses of iodine is likely to trigger a significant detoxification reaction in the body, and the iodine supplementation protocol has been set up to deal with this.
It’s often recommended to start doing the salt loading (see below) and taking the companion nutrients several weeks BEFORE you start taking the iodine, in order to get the detox process started, in the hope that by the time you start taking the iodine the detox effects are not too strong.
The guidelines are to build up the intake of iodine gradually, starting with 12.5mg of iodine (such as Iodorol, Iodorx or Lugol’s) each day, and increasing the dose by 12.5mg every week.
During this time, you should include the following “companion nutrients” in your daily diet:
• 3,000mg vitamin C
• 200mcg selenium
• 300-600mg magnesium oxide (I didn’t take this, as an online diet analyser showed that I was already getting more than 600mg magnesium in my diet, and I managed fine without it.)
• 500mg niacin (B3) twice a day – start by taking a much lower amount to see how your body reacts to it. (I still can’t take more than 200mg without getting a sharp hot flush and itchy rash.)
• 100mg B2 three times a day (I only take 200mg B2 a day, and it turns my pee neon yellow.)
• 1/2 teaspoon unprocessed sea salt added to the diet. It’s very important to use unrefined salt, as table salt is refined, which means essential minerals have been removed.
In addition to this, you should carry out the Salt Loading Protocol twice a day while detox symptoms continue. This is a very important part of the detoxification process.
• Dissolve 1/4 teaspoon of unrefined, unprocessed sea salt or Himalayan salt in about 4 fluid ounces or half a cup of warm water.
• Follow this immediately with 12-16oz of pure water.
This should trigger copious urination – if not, repeat in 30-45 minutes, and repeat again if necessary.
With most of us being encouraged to reduce our salt intake, health-conscious people will probably have an innate reluctance to ingesting salt in this way. But it really is a necessary part of this process. And it’s very important to take unrefined salt, not table salt.
If you’re concerned about this you could try and reduce your general daily intake of salt to make up for the extra salt you’ll be consuming.
And if you suffer from a health condition such as hardening of the arteries, where too much salt could present a danger, it’s important to take advice from your GP or iodine-literate practitioner.
Lynne Farrow points out in her book on iodine that the use of salt water for detoxification is not new, and that the US army used salt water intravenously on Gulf War soldiers to combat bromide toxicity from medication prescribed to prevent against a possible nerve gas attack.
Many people who undergo the Iodine Protocol cease taking iodine for 48 hours every week, but continue with the salt loading and taking the companion nutrients during this time. This is known as “pulse-dosing” and it can help alleviate the detox symptoms.
How to stop chlorine blocking iodine uptake in the body
If you’re concerned about chlorine in the water supply, there are a number of filtration options you can try.
Binchotan charcoal is said to remove elements like chlorine from water by attracting the negative ions to the surface of the charcoal. It also neutralises the water’s pH levels.
After three months of use, the stick has to be boiled in water for 10 minutes, after which it can be used again for a further three months.
Chlorine can also enter the bloodstream through vapour inhalation and skin absorption while bathing.
This Dechlorinating Bath Ball Filter from Pure Showers is designed to remove chlorine and other contaminants from bath water. You have to swoosh it around the bath for three minutes before getting in. It lasts for 12 months or up to 400 baths.
Pure Showers also stocks a range of shower filters to remove chlorine, bacteria and heavy metals from the water.