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Iodine is often suggested for people who suspect that they might have problems related to a low thyroid levels. As I’ve recently been (finally) diagnosed with an auto-immune thyroid condition, I’ve been researching this subject a lot lately. I am not a doctor and this is not medical advice, I’m just sharing personal information that was helpful to me….
It turns out, there are times when taking iodine can actually do more harm than good…
Is Iodine Good or Bad for Thyroid?
As with any medical condition, there are many variations that fall under the broad category of “thyroid problems” and they must be handled differently.
I found this out the hard way. I had the symptoms of low thyroid for years and from research, knew that iodine could be helpful for thyroid troubles. After much research and at the recommendation of a chiropractor, I started taking iodine and noticed that I felt a lot worse. I figured it might be some kind of adjustment reaction and continued taking it but eventually decided to discontinue it since I didn’t feel any better.
History and research verify my own experience in this…
Data from a number of countries shows that countries who started adding iodine to salt to combat hypothyroidism saw rising rates of autoimmune thyroid problems. Chris Kresser explains:
The following is just a sample of studies around the world demonstrating this effect:
Why does this happen? Because increased intake, especially in supplement form, can increase the autoimmune attack on the thyroid. Iodine reduces the activity of an enzyme called thyroid peroxidase (TPO). TPO is required for proper thyroid hormone production.
The Confounding Factor
In my own treatment plan, I now avoid iodine as my particular type of thyroid problem makes it more harmful that helpful. In fact, some research shows that those with auto-immune thyroid disease will see some benefit just from avoiding iodine.
On the other hand, those with iodine-deficiency induced hypothyroidism can benefit from *careful* supplementation, but given the research showing the increased risk of autoimmune thyroid problems that can result, it is very important to check with a doctor first!
Dr. Paul Jaminet also proposes another factor that affects the iodine/autoimmunity relationship is the presence of selenium:
“Excess intake can cause an autoimmune thyroiditis that bears all the characteristics of Hashimoto’s. However, in animal studies this occurs only if selenium is deficient or in excess. Similarly, in animal studies very high intake can exacerbate a pre-existing autoimmune thyroiditis, but only if selenium is deficient or in excess.
With optimal selenium status, thyroid follicles are healthy, goiter is eliminated, and autoimmune markers like Th1/Th2 ratio and CD4+/CD8+ ratio are normalized over a wide range of iodine intake. It seems that optimizing selenium intake provides powerful protection against autoimmune thyroid disease, and provides tolerance of a wide range of intakes.”
The Bottom Line
I’ll be sharing my own thyroid journey as it unfolds and the protocol I’m using to reverse my symptoms. Anyone who suspects hypothyroidism or thyroid disease should be very careful about supplementation and consider selenium with (or in place of) iodine to see if symptoms improve. Dr. Terry Wahls strongly suggests testing your antibodies periodically to know if they are going up or down if you are making a diet or supplement change, and to be sure to work with the doctor prescribing any thyroid medication to monitor this.
Thyroid disorders (and any hormone-related problems) are complex conditions and it is important to find a good doctor or practitioner who can test the proper thyroid levels and do a thyroid ultrasound to know what the proper treatment plan should be.
This article was medically reviewed by Dr. Terry Wahls, a clinical professor of medicine and clinical research and has published over 60 peer-reviewed scientific abstracts, posters, and papers. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.
Have you ever struggled with thyroid problems or suspect that you might? What has worked for you? Share below!
Discussion (146 Comments)
Hey Katie. Recent follower with 2 young boys. Love your site. Quick question, currently being assessed and diagnosed with hyperthyroidism. Much less information available and was wondering if you had found anything interesting to help? Also have very high uric acid levels. Kat 🙂
Katie - Wellness Mama
working on an in-depth post but an autoimmune diet can sometimes be helpful from what I’ve read
Hi i have just found this site.Its full of wonderful information.i have Hoshimotos or at least i did . i haven’t tested for awhile .I have been a on a very long journey for three nearly four years trying to find informative information to heal me . I have put together my own file and could probably like most write a book .I was wondering however about maca powder . i have been taking this ,as i am high in estrogen and read it levels out your hormones .It has had some positive and negative effects .First two months my menstrual cycle was very light .yahoo as my iron levels are low so was thinking this is good.Then third month i got a woppa of a period that i have never had in my life .put me to bed .my question is the iodine in it .i am probably of the thinking iodine is not for me, but yet i am low in iodine , still making my mind up on that one. what are your thoughts on maca . my doctor has recommended a progesterone cream but not keen yet.
I’ll be following your healing journey. I love your blog. I too am on an auto-immune journey. My integrative doctor recommended The Immune System Recovery Plan by Dr. Susan Blum. I’ve found it very helpful. I’ll read your suggested readings as well!
Good luck and I look forward to reading about your progress!
Maggie, where can I buy Dr. Blum’s book?
Katie - Wellness Mama
Here it is on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1451694970/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=1451694970&linkCode=as2&tag=wellnessmama-20&linkId=A7FY3NPNGQ4RG5RT
I am so thankful you posted this! I love following your page and within the past year I have been on a journey of trying to learn more about my Hashimoto’s I have had for 7 years…at the beginning there were several people encouraging me to take Iodine and thankfully I only took a few pills before doing further research into how it is actually not helpful with our autoimmune disease.
Good to hear it from you who I consider to be a trusted source! Thank you! I look forward to hearing more about your journey to see how I can implement changes that work for you in your life since I struggle with the same disease.
What supplements were you referring to? I have added kelp powder to our supplement regiment which is a source of iodine…wondering if I should omit this.
Katie - Wellness Mama
I don’t/can’t take kelp but for those with no autoimmune issues, it can safely be added to food in small amounts
Hi there, I have low thyroid too and taking Levothyroxine for 2.5yrs since diagnosed whilst pregnant. I also found out round the same time as thyroid condition that I’m allergic to milk protein & chilli, all part of autoimmune disease according to my naturopath at the time. I’ve had quite a few Drs pretty much laugh in my face regarding ever going off the thyroid medication & achieving health naturally. Currently try to supplement with FCLO & selenium (I often forget). I do frequently eat seaweed, would this be problematic for my thyroid condition?
I’ve been using nori Sheets to roll up my salad and meat in, I’m wondering if this small amount of iodine could be affecting my thyroid as my TSH levels have gone way up along with my cholesterol levels all since going gluten and grain free which is disappointing as I was expecting the opposite to happen
Thank you for sharing all of this valuable information. I have autoimmune Hashimotos and I have not been able to tolerate thyroid meds. It has been 11 years or so now… I will be visiting my 10th or so endocronologist soon… as in my case it is difficult to find someone to work with me. They just want to give me meds and raise them, which causes heart issues, and becomes intolerable. I have learned alot from reading many thyroid books, and blogs like yours. It took me reading the book….Hashimotos Thyroiditis: Lifestyle Interventions for Finding and Treating the Root Cause by Izabella Wentz PharmD … recently… to decide I need to try selenium… Not one doctor in all these years has suggested that… or any other supplement, except Vitamin D. I have been to MDs DOs Hormone Specialists, Endocronologists, chiropractors, and a Biochemist…. acupuncture… Everyone needs to solve their puzzle… I am hoping this new doctor will be the one to walk this journey with me and direct me in the right path.. but it is articles like yours that are a tremendous help… I am looking forward to what you may share in the future. Thanks agian!! Angela
Katie - Wellness Mama
I’ve met Izabella and she is wonderful. Have you tried an autoimmune diet as well? best of luck on finding some answers!
Angela: I learned Selenium is good for thyroid on episodes of the Dr Oz show. 2 Brazil Nuts a day = recommended daily allowance of Selenium ! It’s such an easy thing to do .. & I just set 2 out on the counter for my kiddos to eat, too. Good luck !
If selenium isn’t present in the soil where the Brazil nuts grow, getting the right amount from 2 nuts per day may just not happen. Eat Brazil nuts because they are delicious but not as a guaranteed source of selenium- supplementation would be better for that.
I am so disappointed in this post. There are lots of people who would disagree and please consider their books as well. They make a very strong argument for iodine even in Hashimoto’s and there are plenty of testimonials on curezone.com who have seen great results.
The Iodine Crisis: What you don’t know about iodine can wreck your life
by Lynne Farrow
Iodine: Why you need it and why you can’t live without it
Dr. David Brownstein
Julie, reread the article. She mentions Selenium as the golden ingredient if you have symptoms of hashimotos. She actually agrees with Dr. Brownstein in his book about the need for selenium when taking iodine.
Note: It is the Bromine leaving your body that causes all the symptoms of being allergic to iodine. Before taking iodine. People need to look up Bromine and all the havoc it causes to your body. Again, Dr Brownstein covers that in his book too.
Iodine must be balanced with Selenium – either way if they are not in balance can worsen the situation.
Bravoooooooo!!!!!!!!! Thank God someone else besides me knows the benefits of iodine. I would suggest that the author do “solid” research and read the leading authority on iodine (as mentioned) rather than just those who think it is not necessary or (yikes) harmful.
I have Graves Disease. Or maybe I should say “had” because ever since I went organic vegetarian I’ve been in remission. That would be about three years now. My endo laughed at me and said one had nothing to do with the other. I fired him 🙂 Also, I do watch my iodine intake.
I had a similar experience!! I also have/had Graves (which is a form of hyperthyroidism for anyone who doesn’t know), starting in Aug. 2012. I responded well to meds (with adjustments) but about a year ago, in late Feb/early March of 2013, after about 6 months of meds, I read up about gluten and found out that it could be related to autoimmune disorders. So I started cutting out gluten and starting eating more & more whole foods, also added Vit. D because of mild winter depression as prescribed my my GP, little did I know it also is related to the thyroid!, and then my endo kept cutting my med dosage in half until Oct. of 2013 when I went into remission. Now–right before I started cutting out gluten I asked my endocrinologist if she recommended any dietary tips, things to avoid or eat more of, and I didn’t even get the question out when she cut me off and told me that is “Baloney. The only thing that is going to help you is the medicine.” Well, whatever. I didn’t bother telling her I went gluten-free because she probably will dismiss it too, but I definitely feel like cutting out gluten was a factor in my remission, and from what I’d read most Graves sufferers take 2-10 years to go into remission. Fingers crossed it’s still working for me, I get tested again soon but I feel fine so I think I’m still in the safe zone!
I also have Graves Disease but had radiation treatment to destroy my thyroid. I have been on Levothyroxine for 18 years now. I am wondering if you had radiation treatment and then were able to go into remission?
hHI I GOT MY THYROID REMOVED WITH RADIOACTIVE IODINE AND NOTHING GOT BETTER; IM DOUBLE THE WEIGHT TWENTY YEARS DOWN THE LINE AND 20 YEARS AGO I SHUT DOWN HORMONALLY ; I REGRET GETTING MY THHROID REMOVED AS IN RECENT YEARS IVE READ THAT CERTAIN DIETS CAN CURE IT IVE STRUGGLED TO LOOSE WEIGHT AND CANNOT COPE WITH ATKINS ; I WAS VERY ACTIVE UP TO AGED 30 BUT SINCE GETTING THYROID THATS CHANGED; ONGOING STRESS AND WORRY WHICH I CANNOT ERADICATE APPARENTLY STOPS CONVERSION OF T4 TO ACTIVE T3 ; HAVING THYROID IS TRULY SO DIFFICULT TO MANAGE I WISH THERE WERE WEIGHTLOSS CAMPS FOR THYROID PEOPLE ONLY ; INTERESTING TO READ THAT KELP 1000MG HELPED A LADY ; MAYBE EATING SEAWEED IS THE ANSWER ; IM ON 225MCG SYNTHROID AND THEY NEVER TEST FOR T3 AT MY GP THE ONE THING THEY SHOULD BE MONITORING ONLY THS AND T4 ; IT SEEMS THE DRS R TRAINED TO KEEP YOU ILL
Hi Ruth I was wondering what medication they had u on for the Graves disease please? And also was that without any radioactive therapy or surgery? Just medication? Thank you.
the thyroid and hormonal problems are so complex that it can get a little confusing. Thanks for the article! Wellness MaMa, I would love your insight on this I have spider veins that are spreading like wild fire! Is there ANYTHING naturally I can do? They just keep spreading no matter what I do..
Megan, please look up Vitamin C and varicose veins. From what I understand, scurvy can affect the veins and cause varicose veins. If I had varicose veins it is the first thing I would try. Scurvy can actually affect so much. Vitamin C is cheap and easy to find. I believe up to 10 grams a day is what is needed. Granted not all at one time. Maybe a gram or two every 2 or 3 hours while awake. Then when My veins start to look better I would back off to a couple grams a day. Research it and see if it might work for you. Post back in a few months and tell us if you find relief and what you end up trying.
I have been battling Hashimoto’s for several years and, although I wish you did not have to battle this disease, I am grateful to have a resource I can trust. I know how thorough you will be in your research. I am 3 years postpartum from my 5th child and thought I was finally in remission and feeling much better, but my TSH and antibodies have skyrocketed again. I have been on synthetic thyroid hormone for years and am going to try a natural source now, as I have been afraid to quit or alter medication when I was pregnant. If there is one thing that I need to be doing, what is it?
Katie - Wellness Mama
Autoimmune diet and coconut oil if you tolerate it 🙂
I am very interested to read more about your journey, Katie! I have been on Synthroid for almost 10 years now, due to Hashimoto’s…and as I’ve learned more about nutrition and eating healthy, I became convinced I needed to act to stop the autoimmune attack, and deal with the root cause (before I developed other autoimmune disorders: MS, lupus, fibromyalgia, etc.) I have been on the GAPS diet for almost six months now, to deal with my Hashimoto’s. My thyroid antibodies has gone from 112 (pre-GAPS), to 22 (3.5 mos. into GAPS), and now to under 20 (considered normal). My doc and I have begun decreasing my Synthroid dose…
Katie - Wellness Mama
I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism at age 23 and was taking Synthroid as well for 1 year. I was so confused as to why I had this problem so I did some research. Although I was thin and taking a multivitamin daily I still didn’t eat enough veggies and consumed the typical American diet. So I decided to experiment and took 1,000mg of Kelp every other day for 3 months. With a busy and chaotic nursing career I stopped taking the kelp and hadn’t been on Synthroid for several months by that point. My follow-up appointment to check my tsh levels had come so I had my blood drawn expecting the worst. Well turns out my level was at the top of the normal range which amazed me. Anyway I continued taking my kelp as I had before and I feel great. I know everyone is different but I thought I would encourage others of the great benefits of kelp. It definitely helped me:)
What brand of kelp? What other vitamins do you take. I have gained a lot of weight since this bad surgery 11 years ago and sooooooo sick I need help. Please share things you do.