When Iodine Might Be Bad For Your Thyroid

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Iodine for Thyroid Problems-helpful or harmful
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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?

It depends.

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!

Katie Wells Avatar

About Katie Wells

Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder of Wellness Mama and Co-founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. WellnessMama.com is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.


146 responses to “When Iodine Might Be Bad For Your Thyroid”

  1. Heather Avatar

    Hi Katie,
    I was wondering for your condition, what too much iodine is? For example, a few weeks ago, you sent a post on how to make sol, are you drinking sol daily? Also, are you using sea salts that have iodine on your food, or have you changed to salt with no iodine? I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism a few yrs ago but the medical drs are not interested in finding out why I have it, but I do take synthroid every day. I recently tried taking 2-3 tbls of coconut oil to try to improve my TSH in hopes that I could decrease my synthroid dose but I only lasted a month, unable to tolerate the taste. I still use lots of coconut oil in most of my cooking but that’s it. I also saw an expensive naturopath for several months a year ago which got me on the what seems to be the GAPS diet which did wonders for my digestive system but has not helped my thyroid function. He also had me take some also expensive homeopathic remedies for quite a while as well as a product called thyroid PX but it only minimally helped and was not sustainable financially. I would be interested to know what things you find work for hypothyroidism. Any help would be appreciate greatly. Thanks!!

    1. Katie - Wellness Mama Avatar

      I use himalayan salt (not super high in iodine) for all of my cooking now. For me, I even have to avoid vitamins with iodine in them, as even small levels can cause a problem. I’ve been using a modified autoimmune paleo protocol, plus natural thyroid supplementation plus coconut oil and exercise and am seeing a big difference in how I feel 🙂

      1. Linda Avatar

        Katie, what is the name of the natural thyroid supplementation you take? Is it on Amazon. Is there a book of the auto immune diet? What is the name? Is it on Amazon?
        I lived in an apt with toxic mold for three years and found out about the mold when it was too late. The first symptom was increased weight and fatigue which I got almost immediately. That was 9 years ago. I have all the symptoms of hypothyroidism, approx. half of my eyebrows are gone, but every time I get tested the doctors said I don’t have it! It is reported that mold in an apt. can harm the thyroid and give you hypothyroidism, besides other problems!

        I took iodine and gained weight from the iodine! I drank barley water for a few days and gained pounds in a few days from the barley water! I did the first stage of the GAPs diet for approx two weeks and to my horror gained approx. 20 pounds and five inches on my waist! I eliminated all processed foods, sugar and junk food years ago. Nothing I have ever done has helped me. I take Coconut Oil daily. It hasn’t helped! The selenium has never helped. I need to lose approx 50 pounds! The fatigue is extremely severe. My body doesn’t provide me with the energy I require! Despite having gotten much worse, I believe that God will heal me.

        1. Katie - Wellness Mama Avatar

          I had to have a thyroid antibody test and a thyroid ultrasound (which showed tiny nodules) to finally get a diagnosis. It can be hard to find a doc that will do those test and who understands how to interpret the results (I had “normal” T3 and T4 for years before finally getting the rest of the tests done). I take Wp-Throid and a cortisol reducing supplement right now, but both are prescription. I’m going to try to interview my doctor to get a protocol that other can take to their doctors to hopefully get some answers. Have you ever tried an Auto-Immune protocol?

  2. Concerned papa Avatar
    Concerned papa

    Greeting what are the ladies thoughts about babies eating sand,grass ,leaves, chewing on pencils(non toxic) , as far as being ok? Besides obvious choking hazards is there a benefit to teaching to not put certain things in their mouth now at young age (nine months),or is it better to let them experience things.Thank you

  3. Concerned papa Avatar
    Concerned papa

    Hello thanks for posting about the Iodine thing it is a topic which recently came up in our household as well, as it seems many people here in Ca have implemented Iodine supplements into their diet in the recent years due to the radiation threats. I’m not a doctor either but i’ll bet there’s records somewhere of a massive increase in thyroid related problems due to this. My ladies doctor told her keep taking Iodine and i felt that she didn’t account for the problems caused by it.

    1. Daphne Avatar

      The massive increase in thyroid related problems are going to occur due to the Fukushima radiation!

  4. Judy Avatar

    How do you find a doctor that knows what he’s talking about…I am tired every morning and drag through the day, have insomnia, always wanting a nap, have put on 40 lbs. in 4 yrs, hair has thinned drastically on forehead and sometimes my joints ache so bad I only want to go back to bed only it hurts to bad to lay there either….etc… I told the doctor everything and he checked my thyroid checks, my hormone checks and decided that my thyroid levels although a little low wasn’t significant enough to be the problem. So he checked my testosterone and it was 6 . He put me on testosterone injections. now I have all the problems from before plus I’m hairier on my face arms and legs….ugh! Would some one please help me.

    1. Maggie Avatar

      I would HIGHLY suggest seeking some natural-based professional help, like someone at a health food store for starters. Doctors view the body differently that someone in holistic medicine. I am no doctor, but from my experience within the herbal world it sounds like you have a hormone imbalance, an giving you a hormone not meant for your feminine body was NOT the answer. I would definitely seek and read through Katie’s other posts specifically about red raspberry leaf tea, nettle, and a natural food base. If there is any type of diet soda, beverages with dyes (like Mio or Crystal Light), or regular processed foods in your diet, this alone can REALLY mess up your entire system. I hope this helps!
      In Him who reigns,

  5. Cynthia Avatar

    Hi Katie,
    I’ve enjoyed your blog for a long while now. Such useful information, and my family enjoys so many of your recipes.
    This topic is one of particular interest for me, as I also have thyroid antibodies. I’ve been on the GAPS diet for several months now to address the thyroid autoimmunity and food sensitivities, and have seen improvement. I am just curious as to what you think brought on your thyroid issues? I know from your blog that your diet is wonderfully healthy. Not asking to be nosy….it’s just that I’m putting a lot of hope in healing through food and am a little surprised that someone who is as conscientious as you are would be dealing with this issue. (I know in my case, my issues were brought on by a lifetime of unhealthy eating.) I know you are familiar with the GAPS diet. Do you plan to do the diet to address your thyroid autoimmunity? Thanks so much for your feedback. I wish you the best in addressing your thyroid disorder. And thanks for blessing the rest of us with the information in your blog. Wishing you abundant rest and health,

    1. Katie - Wellness Mama Avatar

      I’ll definitely be sharing more details as I go. I have a really strong family history of thyroid problems and my last pregnancy seemed to be the springboard for me (plus a lot of additional stress). I’m on a modified autoimmune diet now (stricter than GAPS) but am seeing great results. Hope that helps for now but I’ll definitely be sharing a lot more in the future

      1. Cynthia Avatar

        Thanks for your reply. My thyroid issues also began, or at least became apparent, after my third baby and a period of prolonged lack of sleep and somewhat increased stress. I have been very cognizant lately of the effects of not enough rest and too much stress on the body. Homeschooling a family of 5 is enough to keep me constantly busy. I admire your ability to do all that and keep up with your blogging activities! I hope your future posts include your thoughts on exercise. Before this thyroid business began I was a runner, which I suspect is not a great idea for me now. Now I’m somewhat in a no-man’s land of no exercise apart from a little bouncing on a mini-trampoline occasionally. I value your opinion and would love to hear your thoughts on how much/when exercise is appropriate when dealing with an autoimmune thyroid related situation.
        Many blessings:-)

  6. Alysia Avatar

    I just wanted to say thank-you for sharing this. I worked in a health food store for years and didn’t know this! I really appreciate your website 🙂

  7. Laura Avatar

    Thanks Katie for sharing your own experiences and all the data and background you have researched. I take Armour Thyroid (30mg twice a day). Been on it for the last 5 years or so. Recentiy, with the approval of doc, I began taking a drop or two a day, with the knowledge that if I feel weird or hyper, to stop immediately. I am due to have blood work checked in a month or two and I wanted to see what it would do. It is too soon to know at present, but my doc looked at my markers and said that it would not hurt me to try it. I totally agree with you that you must talk with doc first. The hard part is finding a doc, who believes the same as we do AND on our insurance plans. They are worth their weight in gold, lol!!!!

  8. Suzanna Avatar

    I also have a thyroid condition and felt much worse taking iodine. I’m curious if you believe you are getting adequate iodine from your diet alone or if you think you are actually getting less than the recommended amount? Also, are you concerned that in cooking with non-iodized salt, your family members who don’t have thyroid conditions are lacking in iodine? These are things I wonder about so I end up cooking with both iodized and non-iodized salt.

    1. Katie - Wellness Mama Avatar

      I add small amounts of kelp to my kids food (not too much though since high iodine levels can contribute to autoimmune issues if they ever have to deal with them in the future) but with eating regular seafood and occasional seaweed, I feel like my iodine is ok.

  9. Christine Avatar

    Hi Katie,

    Fractionated, reductionistic approaches to nutrition will almost always cause problems. Adding large doses (or even medium doses) of one vitamin or mineral can upset the body’s balance, and it ignores the fact that humans need ALL essential nutrients in sufficient quantities for optimal functioning. By the way, selenium, like other minerals, is present in some soils and completely absent in others. Furthermore, our soils are low in minerals as they’re only fertilized with N, P and K. That’s why it makes sense to take supplements and to supplement with all essential nutrients in an a form and dosage the body needs. (I certainly feel better after doing so…)

  10. Pat Robinson Avatar
    Pat Robinson

    Yes, Dr. Kharrazian has been cautioning about iodine supplementation, especially for women with thyroid issues, for years.

  11. tess Avatar

    Hi Katie, I’m sorry that you are dealing with this. you sound relieved to have a name for your ailments and now can start your journey. Last year I was diagnosed with hashimoto’s – I had very low levels of antibodies though which is a good thing. At the time I had 5 other girl friends diagnosed with it as well – now that is another subject of conversation. I immediately started on a paleo diet (after being vegan for 20 years) and was able to reverse my numbers within a month! You are going to have success, too!

  12. Jeanne Avatar

    I’m taking the iodine and selenium. Feel much better but still not losing weight! Before this I even tried the armour thyroid medication and felt worse. I am under a functional medicine doctor doing this. 🙂 Jeanne

  13. Erica Avatar

    Sorry about your thyroid issue but I am confident that God will guide you through your research on which treatment will be best for you. I currently have the same condition and started treating myself with Dr Christophers herbs thyroid activator and thyroid maintenance. Doing great so far. I had been on synthetic meds for a while and slowly weaned my self off and found dr Christophers products.

  14. lina Avatar


    Glad to hear that you now know what you have to deal with. I have suspected a thyroid issue (hypo and hyper) over the years but I heard that the testing is not so accurate so I didn’t really bother until I could find a proper test to give an accurate diagnosis. Can you recommend a proper test to ask my doctor to administer?

    I wish you lots of luck during your journey!!

  15. Deborah Miles Avatar
    Deborah Miles

    Well you are not a doctor & I appreciate you stating that. I take a subscribed medication for hypothyrodism for 9 yrs @ 112 mg & was tired of it & wanted to get off especially because I am a clean eater. I started taking iodine supplement from a highly respected health store with my subscribed medicatation, but took take the iodine every other day, with my doctors knowledge & within 4 months my meds are down to 88. So I am getting better. Before long I will take nothing.

  16. Nikki Battin Avatar
    Nikki Battin

    I also have hasimotos. .found out a year and a half ago bc of swelling in my fingers whixh was initially believed to be rheumatoid arthritis. I got the run around bc I was 27 at the time and they were unwilling to put me on medication. However, with my TSH hanging out at 6 it also meant I could not get pregnant. I have been put on synthroid and have been increased 3x and am still not at an optimal level 🙁
    thank you for the insightful information. 🙂 I feel like once I was diagnosed I have found out there are alot of people around me who also have this autoimmune disease.

  17. Kathy D. Avatar

    I have been supplementing with Selenium for about 2.5 years. I seemed to have gotten a case of psoriasis after I moved to Idaho. It would usually disappear in the summer after exposing my skin to 30 + minutes of sunshine each day during the limited summer months (usually only 2). And then I would have a full outbreak on my legs and arms starting around November or December. Over time, it got worse. And finally, in the last three years, it wouldn’t go away no matter how much sun I got. I discovered that there was a depletion of selenium in the soil in Idaho. I started taking selenium with vitamin E, and vitamin D
    and noticed that I no longer got a full outbreak of psoriasis during the winter months. I started taking iodine for awhile, but never noticed any thing good or bad with it. I read some more about it and thought I should be careful and stopped. I’m currently finding what works best for my health and have been able to keep myself from a full psoriasis outbreak, even in the dead of winter. Now, I’m looking for that next step to completely get rid of this stuff once and for all.

    1. Susie Avatar

      Hi Kathy,
      2 years down the track and I am reading your comment. I am interested to know how your psoriasis has developed. My 10 year old has scalp psoriasis and slightly suppressed thyroid levels. Our integrative doc recommended she supplement topically with Lugols iodine but didn’t mention supplementing with selenium. I’m interested to hear your story.

  18. A.E. Avatar

    This in incredibly interesting to me as I have a very unique situation surrounding this type of situation. My mother and her parents all had Hashimoto’s. I was the only child born to her after she had her thyroid removed and was on the medication, which ‘surprise’, turns out to be not such a good thing. From the research I’ve done, it can cause all sorts of problems for the developing fetus – as my numerous health issues can attest. Since I have a different kind of problem that arose because of this medication being introduced inutero, and there haven’t been any studies done on how to treat this, I have had quite the time managing and finding anyone who even wants to try. I’ll be very interested to see how it works out for you. Particularly with the selenium factor.

  19. Jessica Avatar

    Hi Katie,

    I’m very sorry to hear about your recent diagnosis. I too had those fatigue symptoms until I started taking kelp supplements. Kelp has iodine in it but is different from iodine supplements as the body only uses what it needs. I highly recommend kelp, which is derived from seaweed.

    In addition, all my friends who have taken xylitol, in gum or toothpaste have had fatigue symptoms and would have cold for months without recovering! Although the Internet says it is supposed to strengthen immune systems, I believe that it actually wreaks havoc on our immune system. Anyhow I urge you to see if perhaps xylitol is the root of your ills if you take it in any sort of form, also another substance is fluroide which makes people feel fatigued.

    In my opinion, autoimmune disease is actually derivative of an immune system that has been suppressed, despite what at all the doctors say. It is a kind of inflammation from too many toxins in the body.

    Thanks for all your informative posts!

    1. Nettie Muir Avatar
      Nettie Muir

      Oh my God this site has some good information! Thanks I will continue reading your web site – keep it coming!

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