Iodine For Thyroid Treatment – Myth Busted?

Straight out of the gate, let me say that iodine is essential for your thyroid to function properly.  In fact, many of us (if not most of us) are deficient in iodine and should consider an iodine supplement for thyroid treatment.  I’ll get into that in a minute.

The need for iodine is not what I’m challenging in this article.  I’m also not challenging the use of iodine specifically as a thyroid treatment.  I’m challenging a popular test used to determine if you are iodine deficient.

The Iodine Test

A popular test for iodine sufficiency involves painting some iodine on your abdomen and then observing how long it takes for the orange/yellow stain to disappear.  The theory is that if it disappears quickly, you are iodine deficient.  If it remains for 24 hours, you are iodine sufficient.

I’ve read about this test many times over the years and I’ve done the test about a half-dozen times over the past couple of years.  The test always shows that I’m iodine deficient as the stain disappears in just a few hours. 

I’ve never been surprised at the outcome because I know that I’m borderline hypo-thyroid.  In other words, when my doctor has tested my thyroid function in the past, I’m consistently at the low end of the normal range. 

However, I’m naturally suspicious until I see proof.  I wanted proof that this test was really giving me the true status of my iodine levels.  I guess I should have been born in Missouri – the “Show Me” state.

Show Me The Proof

I know that having sufficient iodine is important to my health so I decided to do an experiment to see if the “paint your belly with iodine” test was valid. 

I have some 130 mg potassium iodide tablets and I used them to saturate my thyroid with iodine.  I took one tablet daily for two weeks to makeup any iodine deficiency that I might have.  After 2 weeks, I felt certain that my thyroid was saturated with iodine.

I then performed the “paint your belly” test 2 days in a row while still taking the 130 mg tablets.  What happened?  The stain disappeared in just a few hours.  Myth Busted!

That pretty much proved to me that the “paint your belly” test was an urban legend and was not an accurate indicator of anyone’s iodine status or the need for thyroid treatment with iodine.

More Research Needed

The results of my not-so-scientific experiment made me even more curious so I did a lot more iodine treatment research.

I found that idea of iodine being toxic at moderate to high levels is likely not true.  The idea that iodine can be toxic came for an experiment on rabbits and guinea pigs performed in the 1940’s. 

The results were mistakenly applied to humans who metabolize iodine differently.  More modern research shows that our kidneys efficiently remove any excess iodine in our bodies in just a few hours with zero toxicity from iodine treatment.  Also, our grandparents took large doses of iodine as medication for multiple illnesses and they suffered no ill-effects.

I also learned that in the past few decades, the amount of iodine in our diet had been drastically reduced.  Iodine has been added to salt for a long time to insure that the population received enough to prevent goiters.  However, since low sodium diets are being recommended by doctors to reduce heart disease, many people have reduced their salt intake.  The results are that many of us do not get enough iodine.

Also, there is a lot of competition for access to our thyroid glands.  Chlorine in our tap water, fluoride in our toothpaste, plus the bromide in commercially baked breads all compete with iodine in the thyroid.  If we are getting a lot of chlorine, fluoride, and bromide, we are probably not efficiently absorbing the iodine that we receive.

My conclusion is that I need to be receiving supplemental iodine in my diet.  I can’t make any recommendations for you since the official party line is that excess iodine is toxic.  So, do a little reading and decide for yourself what is best for you.

The Last Thing I Learned

The one last thing that I learned in my research is that an iodine deficiency can take a couple of months to correct.  Therefore, even thought I believe that the “paint your belly” iodine test is not valid, I’m going to reserve my final judgment for a while.

For now, I think it’s an urban myth.  But, after I continue taking daily iodine supplements for several months, I’ll repeat the test and report my results.

Stop by at Unconventional every once in a while and see how my little experiment turns out.  Or, if you like, just subscribe to my RSS feed and receive an update whenever I post something new.

Best wishes for living life without an orange belly and keeping enough iodine in your thyroid – Cheers!

PS – Iodine does a lot more for your body than just make your thyroid work right.  Every cell in your body has iodine receptors.  God did not put them there just for fun.  But, that’s a topic for another time.