Iodine and hypothyroidism – Speech by Dr Peatfield
Im going to talk about Iodine. Probably expecting us to say something about thyroid and stuff, and adrenals, but there is a good deal of misunderstanding and misinformation about iodine. In fact, there is propaganda against it. Most of you are a bit uncertain about iodine. [Background voices yes] You think perhaps you shouldnt have it, especially with Hashimotos, [background voices yeah]tis propaganda, its not true.
So, Im going to get a few things straight first, and start by saying that you can never be quite well without iodine. The damaging effects of iodine deficiency have actually been known for the best part of 200 years. Recent decades, though, have become convinced that it not only doesnt help, it may actually be bad for us. Now, this conviction stems from poor animal experiments, assertions about medical matters, not backed up by evidence, with which were all familiar, arent we?
The basis of this approach, and its undoubtedly the black hand of Big Pharma, is to convince us all that simple, safe measures are old hat, and that lovely drugs and operations and radioactive iodine are much better.
The element iodine belongs to a small group of elements, which include bromine and fluorine, which are called halogens. At best bromine has little beneficial role to play in medicine, and fluorine is violently toxic; but iodine has many highly beneficial effects.
Now, theres a chap called Bernard Courtois who discovered iodine this is just a bit of technical stuff funnily enough, while making gunpowder from seaweed. [laughter] As you do [background voices yes more laughter] in 1811. And it was latched onto by doctors who found that it helped people with goitres, either due to overactive or underactive thyroid. Two American doctors, in Michigan, around the Great Lakes, in the early 1920s, used it for this. They found so many of their patients were hypothyroid due to iodine deficiency, that they suggested that salt had iodine added to it, so the addition of iodine to salt was begun
This is iodised salt. This iodised salt is widely used throughout the world, though less so in the UK than previously. Physicians found that small amounts of Lugols iodine helped reduce goitre and hypothyroidism; but also that large amounts caused suppression of over-activity, and shrinkage of the overactive goitre.
In the 1930s most especially, the use of natural thyroid became widespread; and thyroxine was synthesised in the 1950s, and the use of iodine became a thing of the past. For the overactive thyroid, the natural Lugols iodine also fell out of favour, and instead neomercazole and propyl thiouracil became the drugs of choice, in spite of damaging side effects. And if these werent enough, the radioactive form of iodine, which collects in the thyroid and kills the cells off, and surgery became the favoured treatment.
In 1948 Wolff and Chaikoff concluded from rat experiments, that iodine would actually block manufacture of thyroid hormones. The truth of the matter was that a high dose would do so; but for a day or so only. By then the damage was done and iodine became less and less used with the resultant increase in thyroid illness. Their papers had gone right through the medical fraternity and all the doctors started to believe that iodine was, in some way, not a good thing, and it became less and less used with resulted increase in thyroid illness. In those days, iodine was used in the manufacture of bread, and even that was stopped, and instead of using iodine, they started to use bromine, which does have untoward effects, sometimes. And, of course, you lose out on your iodine.
We used to use a lot of iodized salt in this country. You can still buy it, but its become much, much less seen, and as a result, of course, there is an increasing amount of thyroid deficiency states because were not getting the salt that we actually need.
Iodized salt is actually widely used throughout the world, and even a small amount of whats called Lugols Iodine, which is a mixture of iodine and potassium iodide, was found in the years before the war to reduce goitre and hypothyroidism quite remarkably, and that large amounts could be used to suppress over-activity, and was used to shrink the over-active goitre.
By the 1930s, the natural thyroid was becoming widespread in use, and then, as we know, Thyroxine was synthesized in the 1950s, and the use of iodine started to fade out. The use of Lugols Iodine, for the over-active thyroid, fell into disuse, and instead of using a simple, safe iodine preparation, now, if you have an over-active thyroid, as you know, you get NeoMercazole and Thiouracil, and if youre lacking and can run fast enough, thats enough to prevent having your thyroid taken out, or your thyroid nuked.
In fact, Im sorry to say, that radioactive iodine is a favourite course of treatment for anybody with an overactive thyroid, and this is, Ive said elsewhere, a terrible, terrible, thing to happen. And most of you, given sufficient iodine, even with an over-active thyroid, may actually avoid the attentions of the surgeons or the physicians with their radioactivity.
So, on the whole, the use of iodine started to get less and less and less, and it all got so much worse; since the RDA was set at a very low figure of 0.15 mg (i.e. 150 mcg), when 37.5 50 mg is a far more realistic dose. Very small amounts (75 mcg) will prevent goitre, since with iodine deficiency, the thyroid enlarges to obtain as much iodine as possible, and when iodine is given it will shrink.
This is where Derbyshire neck comes in. This is enough to stop you getting a goitre, but it is not enough for your general health. In fact, as I shall say in a moment, you can have something like, ten times that dose, and benefit from it.
I saw a lady the other day with a classic Derbyshire Neck. This would have been prevented with sufficient iodine, and what I am actually giving her will be iodine, probably in the form of kelp, possibly Lugols Iodine, and this will shrink Derbyshire Neck. Derbyshire Neck is where there is insufficiency in iodine wherever you are living, particularly in inland areas, and the thyroid enlarges to try and make better use of the iodine it can get.
So, though most of us think in terms of iodine for Hypothyroidism, because it is an essential component of thyroxine, the system does have other uses for iodine, and these too are ignored by modern medicine.
So, uses of iodine: It is an amazingly good antiseptic. It used to be used as a major, major antiseptic in hospitals. And it was actually, at least as good as, if not better, than Hibitane and Dettol. Its very, very good for sterilizing skin, for surgery, as well as in dressing wounds. The system needs iodine generally for the production of other hormones. Specifically, though, it is needed by the tissues of the breast and the ovary. More on that in a minute.
Every cell contains and uses iodine, and glands other than the thyroid need it. Its stored in salivary glands, the cerebral spinal fluid, breast tissue, ovaries, and brain. In this context, low iodine in pregnancy may be a disaster. Low iodine in pregnancy can reduce the IQ of your baby 5 or 10 points, no trouble. And, the World Health Organization has actually recognized that iodine deficiency is the worlds greatest cause of preventable mental retardation. Bit of a worry!
Our main concern has to be the role of iodine in the thyroid gland. Now, youll remember that the thyroid molecule is built up of the amino acid, thyronine, formed from two tyrosines together with the iodine. Four for thyroxine, T4, three for T3, two for T2, and so on. So, iodine is pretty important. And, Ill just mention, and come back to it in a minute, that iodine deficient people have increased risk of thyroid antibodies. I, and I know Dr.Skinner, we diagnose Hashimotos Disease more and more often, this is the autoimmune thyroiditis, where you produce your own antibodies and they destroy your own thyroid.
Another interesting thing to be aware of that if you give iodine, there is a slight rise in TSH. Now, this is where Wolff and Chaikoff got it all wrong, because people say with a TSH thats going up, then actually the iodine is suppressing thyroid function. Its NOT that! The thyroid actually isnt being shut down, but the TSH stimulates the production of cells which transport the iodine, so as to get more iodine to the system. So, youve got a temporary rise in TSH, when you have iodine, but its not because its shutting down the thyroid. Its because the thyroid is actually responding to it.
We know that iodine is needed for thyroid hormone production, but it does have some other things to do. In the cell, the iodide salt, which is what we get mostly in our food, is oxidized to elemental iodine by hydrogen peroxide, by the enzyme thyroperoxidase. Now, if this doesnt work properly, if this oxidization doesnt work properly, and its not oxidized properly, this is why you get antibodies being stimulated. The iodine in the thyroid becomes part of the thyroid molecule, and you need anything from 75 to 150 micrograms a day to do this.
But, if a larger amount is given, say 10 times as much, say 15 milligrams, the iodine can now do some other things. When it attaches itself to a lactose molecule, it forms something called gamma inolactase . Now, THIS is crucial, because it has a role to play in regulating cell growth in the thyroid. And, most especially, a wonderful process, wait for it, called apoptosis. This is a process by which cells are programmed to die as part of the regulation of metabolic processes, and to control growth, so that cells dont take off, and go on dividing and growing out of control. Which, of course, is what happens in cancer. And, this process can occur in the thyroid and in the breast tissue and in the ovaries. Gamma iodolactose controls this alongside cellular calcium.
So, iodine can actually be used to control cancer in at least three very important tissues. In addition to this loss of control of apoptosis, lack of iodine may result in too much hydrogen peroxide which may be produced from over oxidation of the iodine, and this can damage the thyroperoxidase enzyme. It is this which kicks off antibody production, and thyroglobulin can get involved in this as well; so we find anti TPO antibodies, and anti thyroglobulin antibodies. Hence, Hashimotos disease.
Treatment of this situation means that extra iodine must be taken, and much more than 150 mcg RDA; probably 10 times as much. Vitamins B2 and B3 riboflavin and niacin are required. Large amounts of vitamin C, say 4 or 5 grams at least, are also needed, and magnesium should be provided also if deficient.
Now, people do worry about high levels of iodine. One worry is that you may get allergies to iodine, which is very rare, and if it happens, Im afraid, its something that has to be dealt with on its merits. The big worry is the erroneous, but firmly held belief, that iodine CAUSES autoimmune thyroiditis. And, as Ive said, it doesnt. It actually helps prevent it. In fact there is no evidence for this assertion, but youll find doctors believe it all over the place. And, you see it everywhere, that iodine mustnt be used in Hashimotos disease. Its not true! It actually helps!
Another belief we have to counter is that iodine will cause hypothyroidism and goitre. As I said, there is this temporary lift in TSH when you have iodine, but the whole thing settles down within a day or two. And, thyroid enlargement disappears. Some people actually fear that iodine may produce extra thyroid hormones for a while before the level settles down, and it doesnt do this.
There have even been suggestions that it can cause cancer. It prevents cancer. This is part of the attempt of doctors and Big Pharma to discourage the use of iodine, and it doesnt have ANY basis in fact and its untrue. Its been shown that as iodine levels have got less, and less in the western world, the incidence of thyroid cancer has increased.
Incidentally, radio-active iodine from accidental exposure, as from Chenobyl, certainly does, indeed, cause cancer and if you ever want to know what to do if you get exposed to radioactive iodine, you have lots and lots and lots of ordinary iodine and then the body cant take out the radioactive iodine, so you saturate the thyroid with iodine, and then the radioactive iodine wont be taken up [faint laughter]
Coming second to the thyroid itself, the tissues of the breast take up and store iodine. Without iodine, fibrocystic disease of the breast is likely, causing lumpy breasts, discomfort and tenderness. Many workers consider fibrocystic disease a possible precursor to breast cancer. Its role seems to be related to the programmed cell death, apoptosis, I mentioned just now, preventing overgrowth of cells, and also its role as an antioxidant.
Many people think that fibrocystic disease is a possible precursor to breast cancer, and the evidence suggests that it is. Its role seems to be related to this apoptosis bit, where youve got this cell death. Plenty of iodine stops you getting lumpy breasts, and reduces your risk of getting breast cancer.
There is a relationship too, in this context, with oestrogen. Where there is an imbalance between the three oestrogens, with more oestrogen than oestriol present, and a reduction in oestriol, this is oestrogen dominance. Then, along side iodine deficiency, fibrocystic disease is even more likely.
Iodine has been found to promote a better oestrogen balance by actually promoting oestriol production from excess oestrone and oestriol. These are manufactured in the ovary which will cause normal levels of iodine to insure proper balance between these three. So, it will actually help you deal with oestrogen dominance. And all these risks becoming very much worse by xenoestrogens in our diet, thats all the foodstuffs which have got oestrogen-like activity which contributes so much to oestrogen dominance in so many of you ladies.
Now, just a few words about how to take it. First thing to say is that the RDA at 150mcg is too low! You can all have more, especially you girls, you ought to have more.
David Brownstein, to whom I am indebted for some of this, recommends that the best way of taking in iodine, is a mixture of iodine and iodide. Probably Lugols iodine is the best preparation; one or two drops a day will provide somewhere between 12 and 50 mg a day. Iodizyme PH from allergy research is another excellent product; even tablet daily may correct iodine deficiency.
These preparations are excellent and probably best for diagnosed iodine deficiency. But since so many of us are deficient, the use of kelp tablets is a simple and inexpensive alternative, and a valuable adjunct in the treatment of hypothyroidism and breast disease. You can buy them virtually anywhere. Three a day, maybe four, maybe more, perfectly safe, and will actually mean that you need less thyroid hormones, and youre protecting yourself against fibrocystic disease and possible cancer of the thyroid, breast and ovaries. Taken in this way it is entirely safe; and sometimes works so well that you may need to reduce your thyroid hormone replacement dose. When starting iodine replacement monitor your response and temperatures and pulses very carefully.
I did say Im indebted to David Brownstein for some of this it was something else that he said that I wanted to pass on. He has pointed out that the evidence for reduction in salt in our diet is probably misplaced. The problem really comes from the refined salt. Refined salt is actually not particularly good for us, because its too simple, too refined. He uses routinely, for people with low thyroid and low adrenal function, Celtic salt, Himalayan salt, unrefined salts. And, Ive found myself, some benefits from so many people whom Ive told to come off this ridiculous no salt regime, for their blood pressure. The evidence for it is very, very thin, but all the doctors believe it, and believe it and believe it and believe it, and, instead, use unrefined salt. And, I personally use unrefined salt. Its much nicer, its much safer and it will actually help your thyroid/adrenal function.
So, I wanted you to go away with the thought that, yes, you do need more iodine, and you can have it in the way of kelp. Yes, all this business about you mustnt you dare not, have salt because of your blood pressure is largely illusory. None of these things that we all read about from doctors similar to low thyroid and all the rest of it, what you actually need is decent unrefined salt, and you can have as much as you need. Even if youve got high blood pressure, you may actually find the blood pressure comes down.
So, those two things to take away.
Thanks ever so much.