Iodine Applications

Iodine in combination with the amino acid tyrosine is manufactured into the thyroid hormone thyroxin. Iodine intake is usually insufficient, and since Americans have begun restricting their salt intake at the advice of their physicians, deficiency has become epidemic.

The average person takes in 170-250 mcg/day of Iodine. Japanese ingest about 100 times more because of their consumption of seaweed. Japanese subjects were fed Chinese cabbage, turnips, buckwheat, and noodles with 2.0 mcg of Iodine, soybean or seaweed – goiter developed in all groups except the seaweed group.

Some 11 million Americans have either a hypothyroid (low, underactive) or a hyperthyroid (overactive) condition. Thyroid hormones control and regulate digestion, heart rate, body temperature, sweat gland activity, nervous and reproductive system, general metabolism and body weight. Just because you don’t have a goiter does not mean that you have enough iodine. Deficiency has been recently associated with breast and prostate cancer.

During the early 1900’s, the iodine/iodide solution called Lugol’s solution was used extensively, effectively and safely in medical practice, for both low activity and above normal activity of the thyroid gland. The recommended daily intake for iodine supplementation was 2 to 6 drops of Lugol solution containing 12.5 to 37.5 mg total iodide. (Abraham, G.E., The Original Internist, 11:17-36, 2004.)

In the 1960’s, one slice of bread in the USA contained the full RDA of 0.15 mg iodine. The risk for breast cancer was then 1 in 20. (Epstein, S.S., et al, Breast Cancer Prevention Program Macmillan, NY, 1998, pg 5.) Over the last 2 decades, iodine was replaced by bromine in the bread making process. Bromine blocks thyroid function and may interfere with the anticancer effect of iodine on the breast (Abraham, GE, The Original Internist, 11:17-36, 2004) Now, the risk for breast cancer is 1 in 8 and increasing 1% per year (Epstein, SS, et al, Breast Cancer Prevention Program Macmillan, NY, 1998)

The RDA limits for vitamins and minerals were established after World War II. One of the last essential elements included in the RDA system was iodine, established in 1980 and confirmed in 1989. The RDA for iodine was based on the amount of iodine/iodide needed to prevent goiter, extreme stupidity and hypothyroidism. The optimal requirement of the whole human body for iodine has never been studied. Therefore, the optimal amount of this element for physical and mental well being is unknown. (Abraham)

Symptoms of Hypothyroidism or Hashimoto’s Disease

Fatigue, Cold intolerance, Muscle aches & pains, Heavy or more frequent periods, Low sex drive, Brittle nails, Weight gain, Hair loss, Muscle cramps, Depression, Constipation, Elevated blood cholesterol, Puffy face, Dry skin and hair, Inability to concentrate, Poor memory, and Goiter.

Symptoms of Hyperthyroid or Grave’s Disease

Insomnia, Heat Intolerance, Excessive sweating, Lighter/less frequent periods, Hand Tremors, Rapid pulse, Exophthalmos (“bug-eyes”), Weight loss, Increased appetite, Muscle weakness, Frequent bowel movements, Irritability, Nervousness, and Goiter. Many foods and food additives are known as “goitrogens” because they interfere with the thyroid’s metabolism and produce goiter when consumed in inordinate amounts (i.e., nitrates, broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts, etc.). Iodine (iodide ions) is an essential trace mineral nutrient required to produce thyroid hormones. The element iodine occurs in food and in the body as the ionized or chemical form called iodide.

The thyroid gland combines iodide with the amino acid, tyrosine, to produce thyroxin and triiodothyronine. These hormones control the body’s idling speed (Basal Metabolic Rate) and support normal growth and development. Symptoms of iodine deficiency include sluggishness (hypothyroidism), weight gain and, in extreme cases, an enlarged thyroid gland (goiter). During pregnancy, iodine deficiency can cause severe mental retardation (cretinism) in children. Before salt was iodized in the 1920s, goiters were common in areas of the United States, especially the South, with iodine-deficient soils.

Though rare, goiter sometimes occurs in women and children in certain areas of California, Texas and the South, and in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, Canada. Goiter is still common in parts of Africa. Certain substances called goitrogens in vegetables like cassava and rutabagas block iodine uptake and may contribute to the occurrence of goiter when excessive amounts of these foods are consumed. Sources of iodide include seaweed (kelp & dulse), shellfish like shrimp, clams and oysters, marine fish and iodized salt. Iodine occurs in food in other chemical forms besides iodide. Sodium iodate, a commercial dough oxidizer, occurs in some commercially baked goods.

Milk and milk products may contain traces of free iodine, used as a disinfectant for milk cows and in milk production (a Betadine-type solution is applied to the teats and udder of the cows during the milking process as an antiseptic). The typical diet supplies more than twice the US Reference Daily Intake (RDI) of 150 mcg. Consuming 2 mg per day is generally considered safe for healthy adults. Breast milk contains iodine to provide for the infant’s requirements, and lactating women require extra iodide in their diets. An additional 50 mcg of iodine per day is recommended.

Iodine as supersaturated potassium iodide (SSKI) has been used clinically in the treatment of asthma, slow lymphatic drainage, sebaceous cysts, fibrocystic breast disease and to promote desirable balance of estrogens. Iodine, as a water purifier, possesses antiviral and antibacterial activity (5 drops of Tincture of Iodine per quart of water). Excessive amounts of iodide can cause iodine-induced goiter. Other side effects include rash and allergies. Sources of Iodine that are derived from kelp or dulse (sea lettuce) are much less apt to cause any of the nasty side effects you can get from using Tincture of Iodine (antiseptic) or in the form of Potassium Iodide (expectorant) or Sodium Iodide (table salt) which are not water-soluble.

Iodine Fact Sheet

Iodine is a trace mineral produced by the body that is essential for normal growth and development. Seventy to eighty percent of iodine is found in the thyroid gland in the neck. The rest is distributed throughout the body, particularly in the ovaries, muscles, and blood. A deficiency of iodine can lead to hypothyroidism (low thyroid hormone levels); symptoms of this condition include sluggishness, weight gain, and sensitivity to temperature changes. In infants and children, hypothyroidism can impair physical and mental development.

The classic sign of iodine deficiency is an enlarged thyroid gland. Some people with hypothyroidism develop an extremely large thyroid, known as goiter. Today, iodine deficiencies in the United States and other developed countries are rare because table salt is supplemented with iodine and crops in developed countries are generally grown in iodine-rich soil. In developing countries, however, where soil is often low in iodine, more than one billion people are estimated to be at risk for disorders caused by iodine deficiencies.

Uses of Iodine

Iodine offers a variety of potential therapeutic uses, primarily in the prevention of hypothyroidism. A health care provider may also recommend iodine supplements for the following conditions:

Fibrocystic Breast Changes

There is some evidence to suggest that hypothyroidism and/or iodine deficiencies may contribute to the development of fibrocystic breast tissue. People with fibrocystic breasts experience tenderness, particularly just before menstruation. Certain foods may worsen breast tenderness such as caffeine (including from chocolate) and high fat foods. During a physical exam, the doctor can feel cysts and fibrous (hardened) tissue.

A review of clinical studies found that iodine replacement therapy (particularly for those with low levels of iodine) may improve the tenderness associated with fibrocystic breast tissue. The women taking iodine experienced very few side effects. Iodine deficiency has also been associated with ovarian cysts, breast cancer, thyroid goiter and hypothyroidism. Recent work in the field of iodine deficiency has shown that replacement therapy decreases the risk of breast cancer and promotes the reversal of fibrocystic breast disease.


Many women with chronic vaginal symptoms use over-the-counter preparations such as iodine to relieve symptoms. Iodine, used as a douche, may reduce vaginal inflammation as well as the itching and discharge that go along with this health condition. Povidone-iodine has the advantage of iodine without the disadvantages of stinging and staining. Douche for vaginitis: generally two tablespoons of an iodine solution to one quart of warm water once per day. Douching should not be done without first consulting your healthcare provider.


Iodine is commonly used as a topical treatment for wounds. Ointments containing iodine are frequently used on burns to lower the risk of infection.

Dietary Sources

Iodized salt is the primary dietary source of iodine. Plant and animal sea life, such as shellfish, white deep-water fish, and brown seaweed kelp, absorb iodine from the water and are great sources of iodine. Garlic, lima beans, sesame seeds, soybeans, spinach, Swiss chard, summer squash, and turnip greens are also good sources of this mineral. Bakeries may also add iodine to dough as a stabilizing agent, making bread another source of iodine.

Foods That Prevent Your body From Utilizing Iodine

Foods that prevent the body from using iodine are: turnip, cabbage, mustard greens, cassava root, soybeans, peanuts, pine nuts and millet. These foods are called goitrogens and excessive consumption can cause goiters. However, cooking usually inactivates goitrogens.

Available Forms of Iodine

Sodium iodide (iodine) is available as part of a multivitamin/mineral combination or as a topical treatment for wounds.


Sudden, large doses of iodine may impair the production of thyroid hormones, causing hypothyroidism temporarily in someone with otherwise normal thyroid function. Excessive iodine intake can also increase the risk for other thyroid diseases such as Hashimoto’s, Graves’, certain thyroid cancers, and thyrotoxicosis (a dangerous condition due to an excessive amount of thyroid hormones in the bloodstream). For these reasons, iodine supplementation is not recommended for people who live in areas where iodine levels are sufficient. It may be harmful to take more iodine than is typically consumed per day (160 to 600 micrograms [mcg]) from table salt. Daily intake of 2,000 mcg iodine may be toxic, particularly in people with kidney disease or tuberculosis.

Here is some additional info we found on

“… Work done by many researchers over the last few years has shown that iodine is utilized by many different sections of the body. Twenty percent of all of the iodine sits in the human skin. A lack of iodine in the skin manifests as very dry skin and skin that does not sweat when an individual becomes hot. In newborn children iodine is responsible for the development of the babies’ I.Q. Recent research shows iodine deficiency is felt to be the source of attention deficit disorder in children.

Iodine is utilized by every hormone receptor in the body. The absence of iodine causes a hormonal dysfunction that can be seen with practically every hormone inside the body. Dr. Flechas has recently been able to show that patients with insulin resistant diabetes have a partial to full remission of their illness in the presence of taking iodine. Iodine deficiency is also felt to be the source of ovarian cysts. With iodine replacement therapy the cysts disappear and women have stopped having ovarian cysts.”

Iodized Salt

In the United States, sodium iodide has been added to table salt (sodium chloride) to create “iodized salt” since 1924. It provides 76 mcg of iodine per gram of salt. With this enrichment, goiter virtually disappeared in America. Small amounts of additives stabilize iodine in iodized salt and prevent caking: They include glucose, sodium thiocyanate, sodium aluminum silicate or sodium bicarbonate. Sea salt is not a good source of iodine. Although seawater is rich in iodide, iodide is lost during purification. Note that sea salt and iodized salt contributes the same amount of sodium as standard table salt. Hetzel, Basil S., “The Control of Iodine Deficiency,” American Journal of Public Health, 83:4 (April 1993), pp. 494-95.

Iodine is an essential constituent of the thyroid hormones thyroxine [3,5,3’5’tetraiodothyronine (T4)] and 3,5,3′-triiodothyronine (T3). The major role of iodine in nutrition arises from the important part played by the thyroid hormones in the growth and development of humans and animals. Iodine nutritional status can be assessed by means of goiter surveys, the determination of urinary iodine excretion and the measurement of levels of thyroid hormones and of the pituitary thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH).

Iodine Deficiency in Children

Recent studies on schoolchildren living in iodine-deficient areas in a number of countries indicate impaired school performance and IQs as compared with matched groups from non-iodine-deficient areas. These studies are difficult to design because of the problem of establishing appropriate control groups. There are many possible causes both of impaired school performance and impaired performance in IQ tests and these may confound the interpretation of any differences between such areas that might be observed.

The iodine-deficient area is likely to be more remote, suffer more social deprivation, and have poorer schools, a lower socioeconomic status and poorer general nutrition. All such factors have to be taken into account, apart from the problem of adapting tests developed in Western countries for use in developing countries. However, several studies indicate that iodine deficiency can impair school performance even when the effect of other factors, such as social deprivation and other nutritional factors, has been taken into account.

Iodine Deficiency in Adults

Iodine administration in the form of iodized salt, bread or oil has been demonstrated to be effective in the prevention of goiter in adults. It may also reduce existing goiter in adults; this is particularly true of iodized oil injections. The obvious nature of this effect leads to ready acceptance of the measure by people living in iodine-deficient communities. A rise in circulating T4 can be readily demonstrated in adults following iodization. The major determinant of brain and pituitary T3 is serum T4 and not, in contrast to liver, kidney and muscle, T3.

Low levels of brain T3 have been demonstrated in the iodine-deficient rat in association with reduced levels of serum T4, and these have been restored to normal following correction of iodine deficiency. These findings provide an explanation of suboptimal brain function in subjects with endemic goiter and lowered serum T4 levels, and of its improvement following correction of iodine deficiency. However, it must also be emphasized that relationships between T4 and T3 are influenced by the fact that selenium is a component of at least one of the enzymes mediating this conversion. Thus a fall in selenium status reduces T3 synthesis and may increase the adverse consequences of iodine deficiency.

Iodine – Intake, Absorption and Bioavailability

The iodine contents of foods and of total diets differ appreciably and are influenced by geochemical, soil and cultural conditions which modify the iodine uptake of staple crops and foods of animal origin. Cooking reduces the iodine content of food. The data show that frying reduces the iodine content by 20%, grilling by 23% and boiling by as much as 58%. Iodine is readily absorbed, and excess intake is controlled by renal excretion. Absorption is usually complete but may be delayed in protein-energy malnutrition. Thyroid hormones in animal foods and other organic iodine compounds are not completely absorbed-there may be a loss of up to 50%. The usual recommended level for the population mean intake’ of iodine is 100-150 ug/day.

This level is adequate to maintain the normal thyroid function that is essential for normal growth and development. In the presence of goitrogens in the diet, the intake should be increased to 200-300 ug/day. Goitrogens are found in a number of staple foods used in developing countries, including cassava, maize, bamboo shoots, sweet potatoes, lima beans and millet. They are derived from cyanogenic glycosides, which are capable of liberating large quantities of cyanide by hydrolysis. Not only is the cyanide itself toxic, but the metabolite in the body is predominantly thiocyanate, which is a goitrogen. Except in cassava, these glycosides are located in the inedible portions of the plants or, if in the edible portion, are present only in small quantities so that they do not cause a major problem.

Cassava, on the other hand, is cultivated extensively in developing countries and represents an essential source of calories for more than 200 million people. Recent studies indicate that the essential element selenium is a component of the enzyme responsible for converting thyroxine to T3. It remains to be determined whether the systemic utilization of iodine is impaired in subjects deficient in selenium. In the presence of long-standing iodine deficiency, an increase in intake, even to normal levels, may be associated with hyperthyroidism. This cohort phenomenon, reflecting an autonomous and sustained metabolic response of the thyroid to previous iodine deficiency, does not develop if community prophylaxis with iodine was introduced at an early stage of deficiency.

Iodine Deficiency and Reproductive Failure

A case-control study was done in Central India to study iodine status in women with unexplained reproductive wastage and normal fertile controls. The study group consisted of women with two or more unexplained abortions, two or more unexplained stillbirths, or two or more unexplained neonatal losses. Iodine nutritional status was estimated by urinary iodine excretion. Some 91% of the study group had varying degrees of iodine deficiency, compared with 76% of controls (p < 0.001). Women with reproductive insufficiency were more likely to have goiter compared with controls (37.9% vs 16. 1%). These findings support other research suggesting that iodine deficiency can cause reproductive failure.

Of the numerous causes of infertility and reproductive failure, iodine deficiency is usually overlooked. The addition of iodine to table salt has largely eradicated iodine deficiency in the United States. However, some individuals deliberately consume a low-salt diet for health reasons. These people may be at risk for developing subtle iron deficiency. Chhabra S, Hora A. Reproductive insufficiency in women with iodine deficiency. J Obstet Gynaecol 1996; 16:242-243.

More About Iodine Deficiency Caused by Table Salt

J.C. Jarvis, M.D. author of Folk Medicine was particularly fond of iodine replacement due to the chlorine content of our drinking water. He writes: “”The clinical activity of any one of these four halogens is in inverse proportion to its atomic weight. This means that any one of the four can displace the element with a higher atomic weight, but cannot displace an element with a lower atomic weight. For example, fluorine can displace chlorine, bromine and iodine because fluorine has a lower atomic weight than the other three. Similarly, chlorine can displace bromine and iodine because they both have a higher atomic weight.

Likewise, bromine can displace iodine from the body because iodine has a higher atomic weight. But a reverse order is not possible. A knowledge of this well-known chemical law brings us to a consideration of the addition of chlorine to our drinking water as a purifying agent. We secure a drinking water that is harmful to the body not because of its harmful germ content but because the chlorine content now causes the body to lose the much-needed iodine…” (Folk Medicine, Henry Holt & Co., 1958, HB, p. 136)

To counter the effects of iodine loss, Dr. Jarvis recommended various methods including: eating foods rich in iodine: food from the ocean, radishes, asparagus, carrots, tomatoes, spinach, rhubarb, potatoes, peas, strawberries, mushrooms, lettuce, bananas, cabbage, egg yolk, and onions; Painting a small area of the body with tincture of iodine; and taking preparations known to be rich in iodine, including cod liver oil, kelp tablets. Dr. Jarvis was very keen on Lugol’s iodine for treating various illnesses, including colds and flu, and for countering the effects of stress: He writes, “Supposing you do follow the suggestions outlined above and find that some weeks the pressures of your private and your business life are causing you to lose the ability to bounce back.

Then you should add a drop of Lugol’s solution of iodine to your glass of apple or grape juice at breakfast, or you may take it in the mixture of apple cider vinegar and water. The point is that the potassium in the solution (Lugol’s is 5% potassium iodine) blocks off the body mechanism that organizes for aggressive action, releasing its hold on the body when opportunity for rest and relaxation arises. The iodine swings into action the body and the building up and storing of body reserves. When working under pressure, include the Lugol’s solution dose each day until the period of pressure passes. If it should happen that your body becomes saturated with iodine, you will find that there is an increase of moisture in the nose. If this occurs, omit the iodine until the nose is normal.” Lugol’s Iodine can be purchased in some drug stores or over the Internet.

Lugol’s Iodine Solution Cures Salmonella Poisoning


Here is a remedy that’s been around quite a long time. It stops Salmonella poisoning immediately. Also used to treat Giardia. If you have gas and bloating and suspect Salmonella poisoning, here’s the recipe:

  • 1/2 glass of water.
  • Add 6 drops of Iodine Solution.
  • Stir and drink in entirety.

You will feel better within an hour. Take this 4x a day, after meals and at bedtime, for 3 days in a row, then as needed.

Using Iodine to Purify Your Water

Iodine is a very effective method for water purification. Iodine destroys bacteria, viruses and cysts, and its action is dependent on its concentration, the water temperature and duration of contact. A concentration of 8 mgs per liter at 20 degrees centigrade, will destroy all pathogens if left for 10 minutes. Lower concentrations and lower water temperatures require a longer duration of action. Various preparations of iodine are available, including tincture of iodine, iodine crystals and tablets. Manufacturers instructions should be followed in each case. With tincture of iodine, adequate levels are normally achieved by using 4 drops to 1 liter of water or one drop to a glass. As with all halogens it is less effective against cryptosporidia.

Iodine has been used safely for periods of several months, however it is not known whether there are adverse effects associated with longer term use. Those with a history of thyroid disease or iodine allergy, the pregnant and the very young may be advised against using iodine for water purification. The taste of iodine can be largely removed by neutralizing the iodine, after it has had time to work, with soluble vitamin C, lime or lemon juice. It should be noted that this also stops the disinfectant action, so care should be taken to prevent recontamination of water.

Tincture of Iodine: USP tincture of iodine contains 2% iodine and 2.4% sodium iodide dissolved in 50% ethyl alcohol. For water purification use, the sodium iodide has no purification effect, but contributes to the total iodine dose. Thus it is not a preferred source of iodine, but can be used if other sources are not available. 0.4 cc’s (or 8 drops) of USP tincture (2% iodine) added to a liter of water will give the 8 mg/l (same as 8 PPM). If the iodine tincture isn’t compounded to USP specs, then you will have to calculate an equal dose based on the iodine concentration. Lugol’s solution: Contains 5% iodine and 10% potassium iodide. 0.15 cc (3 drops) can be added per liter of water, but 3 times more iodine is consumed compared to sources without iodide.

Betadyne (povidone iodine) Some have recommended 8 drops of 10% povidone iodine per liter of water as a water treatment method, claiming that at low concentrations povidone iodine can be regarded as a solution of iodine. One study indicated that at 1:10,000 dilution (2 drops/liter), there was 2 PPM iodine, while another study resulted in conflicting results. However, at 8 drops/liter, there is little doubt that there is an antimicrobial effect. The manufacturer hasn’t spent the money on testing this product against EPA standard tests, but in other countries it has been sold for use in field water treatment.

Author: Life Enthusiast Staff