The question about whether iodine is beneficial or harmful for Hashimoto’s patients requires more than a short answer. Among Functional Medicine practitioners, there is a wide range of opinions about existing iodine research. Some doctors use various forms of iodine supplements to improve low-thyroid symptoms in Hashimoto’s patients. Others believe that any supplemental iodine is harmful for a person suffering with Hashimoto’s Autoimmune Thyroid Disease.
After years of experience with hypothyroid and Hashimoto’s patients, my personal approach is to test first. My patients take a “urine spot test” to determine iodine levels, because more than 90% of iodine is excreted in urine. If there is a below-normal lab result, I use a selenium supplementation protocol, which allows me to introduce 150 mcg. of iodine daily to these patients, to improve their hypothyroid symptoms without any adverse reaction.
For more information, I offer a free, 15-minute phone consultation, which can be scheduled on our Contact Us page or by calling (704) 853-8000.
Why is iodine important to the thyroid gland?
Most of the iodine a person requires is obtained from food sources. Iodide from iodized salt and iodine from various foods are taken into the bloodstream and are then absorbed by the thyroid gland. Thyroid peroxidase (TPO), an enzyme, converts iodide into active iodine, which the thyroid can then use to make thyroid hormone. The thyroid normally requires about 120 mcg. of iodine daily to make a sufficient amount of thyroid hormone. In addition to iodine, the thyroid gland needs tyrosine, selenium, and zinc to make thyroid hormone.
What are the consequences of too much iodine?
When a person has too much available iodine, this excess can trigger an autoimmune thyroid disorder, such as Hashimoto’s Disease. Our nationwide salt iodization program (adding potassium iodide to table salt) began in 1924. At that time, the main cause of hypothyroidism in the United States was a lack of sufficient iodine. Now, many decades later, Hashimoto’s Disease is the cause of at least 90% of all hypothyroid cases, in the United States and in other developed nations with iodized salt.
Iodine is found in many foods eaten daily in this country. Americans consume iodide/iodine in some salty processed snacks, in iodized table salt, and in foods such as cured meats, seafood, and even dairy products and eggs (because of iodine added to feed). Also, Caucasian populations are particularly at risk for thyroid problems from too much iodine. For those who are consuming too much iodine, an alternative to iodized salt is sea salt, found in many grocery stores.
Anyone with Hashimoto’s Disease may experience worsening thyroid symptoms when consuming too much iodine.
What is someone has too little iodine?
Though too much iodine may be harmful, too little iodine means that the thyroid gland cannot make enough thyroid hormone. The result is hypothyroidism—often, but not always, recognized by the development of a goiter. A goiter is a (usually visible) lump on the neck, composed of enlarged thyroid cells. A person with a goiter will also have typical hypothyroid symptoms, such as extreme fatigue, intolerance to cold, weight gain, brain fog, dry skin, constipation, thinning hair, etc. See Low-Thyroid Symptoms for more information.
Knowing how much iodine is really being consumed is an important part of having an optimal level of health with Hashimoto’s Disease. Understanding iodine balance is just one of the many tools my patients receive at Carolinas Thyroid Institute. See encouraging patient testimonials about changed lives on our Success Stories page.