Having an iodine deficiency can make it difficult for the body to properly detoxify itself as well as be a leading cause of thyroid dysfunction. It can lead to hormonal issues and it can also promote the growth of cancerous cells.
Iodine and Breast Cancer
Most people are deficient in this essential nutrient due to a lack of eating iodine-rich foods and because exposure to common halogens such as chlorine, fluoride, and bromides all have the ability to displace iodine, therefore interfering with its absorption. Chlorine and fluoride compounds are commonly added to municipal water supplies, and bromides have replaced iodides as an additive for commercial flour production since the 1980s.
The recommended daily allowance for iodine is set at 150 micrograms, yet the thyroid gland alone requires about 6 milligrams of iodine per day in order to operate sufficiently. The breasts require another 5 milligrams and iodine is also used by all of the other organs of the body as well. Studies have shown that populations with higher intakes of iodine have lower rates of breast cancers. For example, Japan has the highest dietary intake of iodine (with an average of 13 mg per day) and it also has the lowest rates of breast cancers, buy this changes quickly when the woman leaves her homeland and adopts the dietary habits of her new country.
The connection between iodine deficiency, fibrocystic breast disease, and breast cancer continues to grow.
Dr David Brownstein was a conventionally trained doctor who realized that the medicines that he was prescribing for his patients were only masking their symptoms and not actually solving their health issues. He began studying holistic medicine when his father became ill and has since become the go-to expert on using iodine and other holistic methods for the treatment of serious thyroid issues. He is also the author of several books on holistic health.
David says, “If we supply the body with the right nutrients it should do fine for a lifetime. So, I consider one of the basics of these to be iodine. Every cell in the body needs and requires iodine to function optimally. We can’t function optimally in an iodine deficient environment. I’ve tested, along with my partners, over 6,000 patients. Over 96 percent were low in iodine, the vast majority were significantly low in iodine. When I talk to clinicians around the country who are looking at this, they find the same numbers that I’m finding.”
Iodine serves many functions in the body: The immune system cannot function without it and you can’t fight infections without it. But its main job is to maintain the normal architecture of the endocrine glands, these include: the thyroid, breasts, ovaries, uterus, and the prostate, which is where many new cancer cases are occurring.
When one has an iodine deficiency, one of the first problems is the formation of cysts within the breasts, ovaries, uterus, prostate, and the thyroid. As the deficiency continues, these cysts will become nodular and hard. The tissues may become hyperplastic, which is a precursor to cancer. Over 80 percent of women are currently suffering from fibrocystic breast disease and David believes this can all be remedied with iodine supplementation. David says that iodine has apoptotic properties, meaning that it has the ability to stop cancerous cells from dividing, basically stopping this cycle of growth and in some cases iodine is able to completely reverse the disease. In his book, Iodine : Why You Need It, Why You Can’t Live Without It, Dr David Brownstein reports on three cases of spontaneous regression of breast cancer after starting iodine supplementation therapy.
Case study #1– Joan was a 63-years-old English teacher who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1989. She declined conventional treatment and began taking 50 mg of Lugol’s Iodine Solution, per day. Six weeks later, a PET scan showed that, “all of the existing tumors were disintegrating.”
Case #2– Delores was 73 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2003. She declined to have conventional treatments of radiation and chemotherapy, and instead took 50 mg of Lugol’s Solution daily. A follow-up ultrasound of the breast 18 months later showed that the malignancies had diminished in size. Two years later, a follow up mammogram and ultrasound failed to show any abnormalities and were declared to be normal by the radiologist.
Case #3– Joyce, 52, was diagnosed with breast cancer and started on 50 mg of Lugol’s Solution per day. Three years after starting iodine therapy, her follow up mammograms and ultrasound exams continue to show decreasing of the tumor size, with no progression of disease.
A lecture by Dr David Brownstein
There are two main types of thyroid dysfunction: under-active (hypo-active thyroid) and overactive (hyper-active thyroid)
1. Signs of having a hypo-active (under-active) thyroid– symptoms include fatigue and/or sluggishness, sensitivity to the cold, heavy menstrual periods, joint pain, muscle pain, pale dry skin, thinning brittle hair and/or fingernails, constipation, leg cramps.
- A simple test to see if your thyroid is sluggish: Take your temperature immediately upon waking up for 7 days in a row using the armpit method. Then find your average waking temperature for the week. Do this by adding all of the numbers together and dividing by 7. The normal temp for the underarm is 97.4. If your average waking temperature is below this number this is a good indication that you may have a sluggish thyroid.
2. Signs of an overactive (hyperactive) thyroid: A hyperactive thyroid gland, or hyperthyroidism, is a condition that results from an overabundance of the thyroid hormone in the body. According to the American Thyroid Association, a hyperactive thyroid causes a speeding up of every function in the body and this can result in hand tremors, irritability, nervousness, increased perspiration, a racing heart, insomnia, diarrhea, weight loss, muscular weakness, and thinning of the skin and hair. Treatment of a hyperactive thyroid depends on our age, the severity and type of disease present, and other medical conditions.
Diagnosing thyroid dysfunction
The function of the thyroid gland is to take iodine from the foods that you eat and convert it into the thyroid hormones thyroxine (T4), and triiodothyronine (T3). Thyroid cells are the only cells in the body that can absorb iodine. These cells combine iodine with the amino acid tyrosine to make the T3 and T4 hormones which are then released into the blood stream and transported throughout the body where they control metabolism, which is the conversion of oxygen and calories into energy.
Checking the thyroid– If you go to your doctor complaining of thyroid symptoms, your doctor may order a hormone test that may come back looking normal even though you have an underlying thyroid condition. This is how this can happen…When a patient complains about issues that are related to hormones, the first (and sometimes only test) that your doctor may order is a TSH (or Thyroid Stimulating Hormone test). Most laboratories consider a normal range for TSH to be anywhere from 0.3-4.2, while most holistic health practitioners, functional MD’s, and endocrinologists would prefer that the TSH does not exceed 2. Because of this discrepancy in numbers, your general practitioner may tell you that your tests came back within the “normal range,” even when there are problems. Additionally, the TSH test cannot accurately measure if your cells and tissues are properly receiving and utilizing the circulating thyroid hormones.
Instead of the TSH test, you can request to have a comprehensive thyroid assessment panel that will look at the various hormone levels in your body. This includes TSH, FT3, FT4, reverse T3, anti thyroglobulin and anti-TPO. The comprehensive thyroid panel will check to see how well the thyroid produces T4, as well as how much of the active form of T3 is created, and how well the body is able to convert and use the T3, and whether or not there are significant anti-thyroid antibodies present.
How to read the results of a Comprehensive Thyroid Panel
Thyroid Stimulating Hormone or TSH will fluctuate throughout the day based upon the needs of the body. FT3 and FT4 are both produced by the thyroid gland. If the TSH is low and FT3 and FT4 are both low, then this is an indication of thyroid dysfunction.
Optimal FT3 levels should be testing within the last quarter of the top of the range. If FT3 is mid-range or lower, and you are experiencing symptoms of hypothyroidism, then you may be suffering from hypothyroidism.
Optimal FT4 is usually between the middle to the top of the range. If you have low FT4 levels, along with a mid-range or slightly higher FT3, and are experiencing symptoms of hypothyroidism this usually means that the T4 is having a hard time converting to T3, which is also an indicator that you may have hypothyroidism.
People with hyperthyroid (overactive thyroid disease) will usually have too much T3 and T4 in their blood. That’s because the antibody thyroid-stimulating immunoglobulins (TSI) are misdirecting the thyroid to make too much T3 and T4.
Ask your practitioner if they are familiar with the full panel assessment, or find yourself a functional medicine practitioner who can help to get you back on the right track.
Dr Mark Hyman on ways of reversing thyroid dysfunction
Protecting your thyroid
- Request to have a thyroid protector whenever you have an x-ray. Radiation destroys the thyroid, but often the thyroid protectors have been removed because they are cumbersome to the technicians. Also don’t have unnecessary x-rays. This includes having yearly dental x-rays. They are great for your dentist’s bottom line but may not be in the best interest for the patient.
- Get a thermogram instead of a mammogram so you aren’t exposing your breasts to harmful radiation.
- Include iodine-rich foods such as sea kelp, wakame, sea salt, yogurt from grass-fed animals, eggs, cranberries and strawberries.
- Remove soy and other polyunsaturated oils from your diet and substitute with extra virgin olive oil and Organic Virgin Coconut Oil instead.
- Those with a low functioning thyroid may have issues when consuming large amounts of raw goitrogenic foods. Goitrogens are naturally-occurring chemicals that are found in certain raw foods such as: broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, bok choy, kale, radishes, kohlrabi, rutabagas, soy, turnips, and mustard greens. Rotating your vegetables regularly and/or lightly steaming them will eliminate this issue. Read more about this below.
- Remove sugar from your diet as it interferes with thyroid function
- Eat organically whenever possible to avoid pesticide and herbicides that are hormone disruptive.
- Eat lightly steamed asparagus often and add fresh asparagus spears to your daily juicing routine.
- Detox your body in order to remove accumulated toxins
- Filter your drinking water- fluoride and chlorine can displace iodine in the thyroid gland. Your body needs a minimum of 50 ounces of water per 100 pounds of body weight per day in order to flush toxins out of the body and to stay well hydrated. Consider purchasing a water filtration system that will remove fluoride, chlorine, and other chemicals and metals that are found in municipal water supplies. A simple carbon filtration system will only remove chlorine so don’t assume that any filter will do. You can find products online that will remove the harmful elements and leave the beneficial minerals intact, such as a Big Berkey Water System.
- Use a non-fluoridated toothpaste such as Tom’s of Maine Fluoride-Free Toothpaste.
- Learn ways to handle stress appropriately.
- Get regular exercise
Supplements for those with hypothyroidism:
- Consider supplementing with a quality iodine, such as Lugol’s Iodine Solution.
- It is important to start with a low dose (one drop in a glass of filtered water) and then build up to an optimal dosage. It is normal to experience detox symptoms during this time. You can find more information on supplementation and detoxing with this link.
- Trans-dermal application is another effective method to get iodine into your system. This can be done by applying the iodine tincture directly onto the breasts, forearms, or other areas which allows it to be absorbed through the skin. Watch out for staining on clothing when using this method.
- Supplementing with sea kelp or sea weed is another way to obtain iodine if you would rather take it from plant sources. One could take two tablets twice per day to reach the recommended dosage.
- Getting adequate amounts of the following: Vitamin C, A, B complex, D3, zinc, magnesium and selenium are all important for those doing an iodine protocol. These can be difficult to obtain from the diet alone, so supplementation with a whole foods vitamin may be needed to cover any nutritional shortfalls.
- Ashwagandha has the ability to improve thyroid and hormone function and reduces inflammation of the thyroid gland.
- Black Cumin Seeds are also shown to help with hypothyroidism. Read more about the benefit of black seeds.
- Myrtle, Spearmint, and Peppermint Essential Oils can be combined with a carrier oil and used topically over the thyroid gland. Read more about essential oils.
Goitrogens and hypothyroidism
Symptoms of hypothyroidism can include weight gain, heavy menstrual periods, fatigue, depression, cold intolerance, arthritis, muscle aches, dry skin and hair, thinning hair, brittle nails, puffy face, slow heart rate and constipation.
Goitrogens are naturally-occurring chemicals that are found in certain raw foods such as: soy, broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, bok choy, kale, radishes, kohlrabi, rutabaga, turnips, mustard greens. Goitrogens can interfere with thyroid function in two ways: Some compounds induce antibodies that can cross-react with the thyroid gland, or they can interfere with thyroid peroxidase (TPO) which is the enzyme responsible for adding iodine during production of thyroid hormones. Either way, the thyroid isn’t able to produce the hormones that it needs to regulate metabolism properly.
When a healthy person eats goitrogenic foods the thyroid easily compensates and makes more of the hormones that are needed. But when a person has thyroid dysfunction, the thyroid gland may actually grow more cells as it tries to keep up with hormone production and this may eventually form into a goiter (which is a swelling or enlargement of the thyroid gland).
- Rotation: Use the chart above to help you rotate between the various plant families, this should be done about every 2 weeks. Rotation is necessary because all leafy greens contain small amounts of toxins that work as the plants defense mechanism from predation. For example, goitrogens in kale and other brassicas can interfere with the thyroid hormone function in susceptible individuals, and oxalic acid, which is found in spinach, can also be problematic in high amounts. Regular rotation between the families helps to keep this from becoming an issue.
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