Iodine Deficiency Effects

You have been told that many breast and prostate cancers are caused by one major nutritional deficiency. What you may not know is how this same deficiency can also cause fatigue, chronic illness (such as Graves’ disease), and autoimmune diseases. And it might even cause your indigestion! The great news is that there’s a simple test to determine if you’re deficient – which you probably are – and an easy way to correct the deficiency. How can I be so sure you’re likely to have this deficiency? Because the nutrient – iodine – isn’t found in many of our food sources. Here’s why:

Forty years ago, the food industry regularly added iodine to store-bought bread. One slice of bread once contained about 150 mcg iodine, the whole day’s RDA. Your average diet in 1960 contained about one mg of iodine per day, with bakery products providing 726 mcg. This amount was enough to significantly reduce your thyroid gland’s ability to absorb radioactive iodine. It also was enough to lower excess thyroid hormone release, preventing hyperthyroidism. And it would provide more availability of iodine for your breasts or prostate.

Then it was withdrawn for fear of adverse effects from too much iodine (Iodophobia). It is very difficult to get too much iodine from food. But to make matters worse, the food industry decided to replace the iodine with bromine in many instances. Bromine belongs to the halogen group of elements, also containing fluorine, chlorine, and iodine. All these elements have similar electrochemical properties, with bromine and iodine being the most similar because of their larger sizes. To the thyroid, bromine looks like iodine and tightly binds to thyroid iodine receptors. However, bromine doesn’t help the thyroid the way iodine does.

And, what’s worse, bromine & chlorine also inhibit iodine’s activity. Once the food industry stopped enriching your bread with iodine and replaced it with an element that doesn’t work, and knocks out any remaining iodine, your body suffered a double whammy. Americans, across the board, are becoming severely deficient in iodine (about 90% or more). Also, our soils are quite deficient in iodine and we Americans do not eat much seaweed and kelp which are good sources from the sea. This deficiency is causing some terrible health problems. Researcher Guy Abraham, MD, my mentor on the subject, has amassed a ton of literature to prove the disease connection to iodine deficiency.

Here are just a few:

Fatigue – An underactive thyroid typically causes fatigue. Iodine supplementation can quickly activate the thyroid and relieve fatigue. Dr Abraham reports iodine deficiency may harm pituitary-adrenal function in rodents. Your adrenal is essential for energy and stamina.

Thyroid disease – When there’s not enough iodine to bind with cell membranes, it allows enzymes called peroxidases (which can damage those membranes) to wreak havoc and cause autoimmune disease, such as thyroiditis (Hashimoto’s or Grave’s). In fact, Dr. Abraham has several cases of both thyroiditis and hyperthyroidism (not just hypothyroidism) that have corrected after sufficient iodine/iodide supplementation. For over a century, high doses of iodine have helped both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism. Many doctors fear giving too much iodine will cause Hashimoto’s to worsen. But this usually isn’t the case. While iodine will help the thyroid increase the production of hormone where necessary, it also inhibits over-release from the gland by giving thyroid enzymes what they want.

These iodine-seeking enzymes that attack thyroid membranes can be normalized when they get the iodine they need. This old information is terrific news for the many people (usually women) who have been told to have their thyroid removed to end hyperthyroidism. These draconian measures ensure the patient will have to rely on prescriptive thyroid hormone for the rest of their life. But iodine can completely solve the problem. One 1860 French physician mistakenly gave a tincture of iodine when he meant to give digitalis to a woman with Grave’s Disease. She recovered within three weeks. When he discovered his mistake, he switched to digitalis, and her symptoms came back. He switched back to the iodine and achieved remission.

Poor digestion – Many organs need iodine, but can’t absorb it until the blood measurements reach very high levels. The stomach and salivary glands are two such organs, but they can’t uptake iodine in any significant amounts until the blood level reaches 100 times what the thyroid needs. Most people do not produce enough stomach acid as they grow older. I firmly believe low gastric acidity can be caused by iodine deficiency, as iodine promotes stomach acidity!

Breast, ovarian, and skin cysts – In addition to fixing almost all cases of breast cysts, iodine also has a remarkable healing effect on ovarian cysts, and even on skin cysts. (For the latter, I recommend rubbing in iodine right over the cyst.)

Dementia and glaucoma – Iodine is found in large amounts in the brain (including the parts of the brain associated with Parkinson’s disease) and the ciliary body of the eye, a possible factor in glaucoma.

Other illnesses – Iodine reduces the dangerous activity of lipoprotein(a). When elevated, this protein can lead to excessive blood clotting and vascular disease. Iodine has been used successfully in headaches, keloid formation, parotid duct stones, and Dupytren’s and Peyronie’s contractures. Doses up to six times the RDA have been used safely for months to combat the excessive mucus in chronic lung diseases. Now that I’ve shown you how important iodine is to your health, it’s time for you to find out if you’re deficient. Actually, you already know that you probably are deficient, but there are times when you might need to know for sure.

Some of you may remember a simple patch test I recommended several years ago. With this test you would simply swab a quarter-size patch of iodine on your skin and watch to see how fast it would disappear. Unfortunately, I can’t continue to recommend this test. While it won’t harm you, it’s simply not accurate enough. There is a test now that’s far more accurate and is fairly inexpensive. The test was developed by Dr. Abraham and is called a loading test. With this procedure, the doctor administers four iodine tablets. If your body has all the iodine it needs, you would expect to urinate out most of the ingested amount over the next 24 hours.

If not, your body would hold on to a significant amount of the iodine and you would know that you’re deficient. But I’m not sure you need the test. David Brownstein, MD, author of the wonderful new book Iodine, also was performing loading tests on his patients. However, Dr. Brownstein and I stopped most of the tests after nearly every test we performed returned positive for deficiency. Now I just start iodine supplementation in any condition where iodine is a known factor. I do recommend a test under certain circumstances. If you’re taking an iodine supplement for several months and experience no clinical results, you might have a problem with absorption.

That’s when a test should be performed. It commonly takes three months of supplementation to get sufficient levels. Another illness that might require a test is cancer. We know iodine deficiency is a factor in breast and prostate cancer, so there’s no need to test. Other cancers probably warrant taking the test even though deficiency is likely. It would be good for the doctor to have a baseline to monitor your condition. Just how likely is deficiency in cancer? In an in-house study, 60 cancer patients (various types) were given the iodine-loading test and then measured for urinary excretion. All 60 patients were found to be seriously deficient in body stores of iodine and some had great excesses of bromine.

The best case excreted only 50 percent of the load and the worst excreted only 20 percent (that means they were retaining a very high 80 percent). Folks, these are some serious numbers. One hundred percent of these cancer sufferers were deficient in iodine! I assure you the problem is population-wide. Your doctor can administer the test very easily, or you can contact Dr. Flechas (828-684-3233), who offers the iodine-loading test for only $75. His iodine website is If you’re deficient and think iodized salt is your answer, I can assure you it’s not. First, the amount of iodine (as potassium iodide) added is relatively small. You will need a minimum of 100 grams of iodized salt daily (20 tsp) to get adequate levels. Even saltaholics can’t eat this much salt.

Dr. Abraham has developed a convenient iodine/iodide preparation you can take by pill instead of the usually unpleasant Lugol’s solution. Called Iodoral, a tablet is quite literally dried Lugol’s solution, providing 12.5 mg of iodine/iodide. In his research, Dr. Abraham found that a person abundant in iodine should excrete at least 90 percent, over the next 24 hours, of a loading dose of four tablets (50 mg). If you excrete less, that means your body needs and is retaining it. Dr. Abraham believes the dose of iodine for maintaining sufficiency of the whole body is at least 13 mg per day (100 times the paltry RDA) – six mg for the thyroid, five mg for the breasts, and two mg for the rest of the body.

Men would likely need less, though not always. Not everyone needs this much, though. Take Betty for example. She visited me with complaints of terribly painful and cystic breasts. She often had to shoo her husband away. Simply providing iodide at a level of five mg per day completely reversed the problem and made her feel womanly and erogenous again. Of course, some people need more. Veronica, 46, limped in on crutches with stage-IV breast cancer with severe pain in her hip from an advanced metastasis. She received IPT, artemisinin, and nutritional supplements, which checked the disease. Her iodine-loading test showed great deficiency.

After three months of Iodoral, her iodine level had not yet come up, but her excretion of bromide had increased 10 times. She now receives only occasional IPT, and is still stable on several nutritional supplements including Iodoral (six daily – 75 mg). Dr. Abraham tells me he also has seen two apparent remissions of breast cancer from the use of Iodoral – two tablets, three times daily. Another physician has a case of prostate cancer in apparent remission with the addition of Iodoral and other supplements. George Flechas, MD reports that many of his diabetes cases need lowered insulin or drugs when taking sufficient iodine.

I have seen the same! Some people may see alteration in their thyroid blood tests or require adjustment in their thyroid medication and iodine dose. Medical supervision is suggested. If you want to get your iodine from food sources, brown and red seaweeds (kombu, fucus, etc.) contain the most iodine. I see no downside to getting abundant iodine from seaweed since it’s a whole food. Eat as much as you like. You can find it at your local health food store or Asian market. Another great source is Mendocino Sea Vegetables (707-895-2996 or


  1. Abraham, Guy. E., MD, Jorge D. Flechas, MD, and John C. Hakala R.Ph. “Effect of daily ingestion of a tablet containing 5 mg Iodine and 7.5 mg Iodide as the potassium salt, for a period of 3 months, on the results of thyroid function tests and thyroid volume by ultrasonometry in ten euthyroid Caucasian Women,” The Original Internist, 9: 6-20, 2002.
  2. Abraham, Guy. E., MD, Jorge D. Flechas, MD, and John C. Hakala R.Ph. “Iodine sufficiency of the whole human body,” The Original Internist, 9: 30-41, 2002.
  3. Abraham, Guy. E., MD, Jorge D. Flechas, MD, and John C. Hakala R.Ph. “Effect of daily ingestion of Iodoral,” The Original Internist, 2002.
  4. Abraham, Guy E., MD. “The safe and effective implementation of orthoiodo supplementation in medical practice,” The Original Internist, vol. 11, no. 1, March 2004. Pages 17-36.
Author: Robert Rowen