EP 60: Why You Can’t Live Without Iodine with Dr. David Brownstein

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EP 60: Why You Can’t Live Without Iodine with Dr. David Brownstein

If I were to pick the top two master nutrients for optimum health, they would be iodine and zinc. I’ve talked extensively about the importance of zinc, particularly in mental health, for several years. In this episode, I talk about iodine with Dr. David Brownstein, a world leader in holistic medicine. We tend to associate iodine with thyroid health, but it’s so much more than that. Dr. Brownstein explains how this powerful nutrient plays a crucial role in regulating metabolism and other bodily functions and how iodine deficiency correlates with infections, autoimmune diseases, and cancer. He also explains how people are getting the double whammy of iodine deficiency and also fluoride and bromide toxicity, which inhibit iodine from doing its function in the body. Tune in to learn about the benefits of iodine supplementation and how to make it count.

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Within the below transcript, the bolded text is Samantha Gilbert and the regular text is Dr. David Brownstein.

Why You Can’t Live Without Iodine with Dr. David Brownstein

If I had to pick the top two master nutrients for health, they would be iodine and zinc. I’ve talked a lot about zinc in previous episodes and its importance in mental health. In this episode, we’re talking about iodine with a special guest, Dr. David Brownstein, a true warrior and world leader in holistic medicine. Dr. Brownstein is a board-certified family physician who utilizes the best conventional and alternative therapies. He’s the Medical Director for the Center for Holistic Medicine in West Bloomfield, Michigan here in the United States. He is a member of the American Academy of Family Physicians and serves on the board of the International College of Integrative Medicine.

Dr. Brownstein has lectured internationally about his success using natural therapies. He has authored sixteen books including Iodine: Why You Need It. Why You Can’t Live Without It. We tend to think of iodine for thyroid health, but in truth, every cell in your body requires iodine to function optimally including, but not limited to, estrogen metabolism, balancing heavy metals such as lead and mercury, as well as a virucidal helping white blood cells produce hydrogen peroxide to fight viral and bacterial infections. Increased rates of autoimmune diseases, thyroid disorders, and cancer correlate with our worldwide iodine deficiency, which is around 97%. Thanks for being with us. Here’s my conversation with Dr. Brownstein.

Welcome to the show, Dr. Brownstein. I’m so grateful you’re here.

Thank you for having me.

Iodine Deficiency: An Epidemic in the US

I’m excited to talk about iodine because it’s such a life-changing nutrient that every cell requires to function optimally. In this episode, we’re going to talk about its importance in not just the thyroid gland, but also in estrogen metabolism, menstrual cycle pain, scars, as a virucidal, and so much more. I’m curious. What was the turning point in your career when you realized that iodine deficiency was an epidemic here in the United States?

That goes back to the beginning of my medical career. I’ll shorten the story a little bit. I was a conventionally trained doctor. I wanted to go to medical school and be a physician. I modeled after my family physicians since I was young. I didn’t go to medical school with alternative medicine in mind at all. I went with conventional medicine. That’s all I did growing up. We went to the doctor when we were sick and took whatever the doctor prescribed. We didn’t question anything. I didn’t take any vitamins.

I went to med school and did my residency in family practice. I started practicing conventional family practice. I remember telling my patients not to take supplements and that it was a waste. My turning point came about six months into that practice when I was negotiating a buy-in for a partnership. I get up to get ready for work and I blurted out to my wife for the first time, “I don’t want to be a doctor anymore.” She stops what she’s doing. She was getting ready for work as well. She looks at me.

We got $100,000 in student loans at that time. She has known me since I was eighteen. That’s all I wanted to do, so I took every class at the University of Michigan to get into med school. She said, “What’s wrong?” I’m like, “I can’t do this for the next 30 or 40 years.” She goes, “Why?” I’m like, “I’m just prescribing drugs and aren’t treating the underlying cause of the symptoms many times. I’m prescribing other drugs to treat the problems from the first drugs. People aren’t getting better. It’s not good medicine.” She said, “What are you going to do?” I’m like, “I don’t know.” She said, “Why don’t you do another residency?” I’m like, “One of those was enough.”

I was floundering and losing sleep. At that time, a patient had been bothering me to meet his chiropractor. I had never referred chiropractors. I used to tell people, “Don’t go.” I thought they were dangerous even though I never met one or never knew what the philosophy was. In my anxiety and my lack of sleep, I let that patient set up a meeting with that chiropractor.

The meeting comes around the following week. I remember going to meet him. I remember leaving the house and telling Allison that I’m going to cancel the meeting. It’s a waste of my time. She said, “That’s rude. It’s too late. Go and be nice.” I went to the meeting. His name was Dr. Robert Radtke. He was a functional chiropractor and applied kinesiologist using water nutrition in his practice. He started talking about functional biochemistry and chiropractic philosophy, which I knew none of.

He brought me a book at the meeting, which was Dr. Wright’s Guide to Healing with Nutrition by Jonathan Wright. He was an allopathic physician. I took that book home. I read that book until 2:30 AM. I had to work the next day, too. I was excited after meeting Dr. Radtke, hearing his thoughts, and then seeing this book. Those were the first two things that were introduced to me as a different form of medicine.

The chapter I focused on that night was the chapter on heart disease. My dad had suffered his first heart attack at 40 and his second heart attack at 42. Over the next twenty years, he had two bypass surgeries and numerous angioplasties. He was on twelve medications to control blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes. He looked awful. He was pale and pasty. He was getting continual angina. He was using nitroglycerins to control his angina like candy every day. We couldn’t do anything when he would get chest pain. I was waiting for the phone call that he died at any moment.

I called my dad before I left for work. I said, “I want to draw some blood work on you. Can you come by?” We drew the blood test. I get him back a few days later and I checked two things. I check his testosterone levels and his thyroid levels. His testosterone levels were below detectable limits so they couldn’t register on the test and his thyroid levels were in the reference range but in the lower part of the reference range. I put him on two things, which were natural thyroid hormone and natural testosterone.

Within seven days, his twenty-year history of continued angina melted away and never returned. Within 30 days, his cholesterol level is in the 300s, and on medication, it fell below 200. I was able to take him off those medications. He still stayed below 200 even though he never changed his bad dietary habits. He was a good eater. More importantly, he looked better. He acted better. He went from pale and pasty to pink and healthier-looking. He was able to do things.

I remember he called me up seven days after we started this and he said, “I have had no chest pain today.” I said, “When was the last time that happened?” He goes, “I don’t remember.” I saw him and he looked like a new man. Once I saw that happen, I’m like, “That’s the medicine I want to do.” I went to the partners of the practice and I said, “I need to leave.” They said, “Why?” I’m like, “I want to go do holistic medicine.” They said, “What’s that?” I said, “I’m not sure, but I’m going to go figure it out.” They said, “Why don’t you do it here?” I’m like, “No. I need a holistic office where everybody is on the same page about what we’re doing.” That was my turning point. That’s how I started.

For the first ten years or so of that practice, I never used iodine. I used a lot of thyroid hormones on patients and bioidentical natural hormones. Patients were getting better. My practice was growing. I felt I was doing good for the patients, moving them in the right direction, and treating the underlying cause of their illness, but I didn’t like how I had 3/4 of my patients on thyroid hormone. I didn’t think we were born to need thyroid hormone because we’re getting a little bit older. I was like, “Why would 3/4 of my patients need thyroid hormone to feel good?”

I would go to the co-factors of what makes the thyroid gland work well. I would study each one of them like selenium, magnesium, and B vitamins. Iodine was also part of that. I would check people on these levels. At that point, there was no good iodine testing available, but I would check people on levels that I could draw like selenium, magnesium, and B vitamins. I would replace them when I found them with low levels. I would try various co-factors and nothing worked as well as thyroid hormone about getting people to feel better.

I would try high iodine on and off. I would try low doses, meeting doses, and high doses. It never made people worse, but it didn’t make them feel better. I would get frustrated with it. I was interested in iodine because I live in Michigan around the Great Lakes. Our soil is one of the most iodine-deficient areas of the world. It has been known for over 100 years. All the states that border the Great Lakes and the Canadian areas that border the Great Lakes have been known to have low iodine levels. I figured people were low in iodine, but there wasn’t a test available to check it.

I would get frustrated with iodine. I’d use it and not use it. Somewhere around a decade later, I read a Letter to the Editor from Dr. Guy Abraham who had developed an iodine-loading test. I became very interested in that because I could perhaps test people, so I called him up. He took a little bit of cajoling and I took a lot of grief from him at first, so he got to know me. We became friends. I started to fly out to California to work in a lab with him 4 to 6 times a year. He had set up a lab at my office and I started testing people for iodine and writing papers with him and researching things. He taught me more about iodine than he’ll ever know.

What I realized was I was using the wrong form of iodine. When I started using the right form of iodine, I found that I no longer needed 3/4 of my patients on thyroid hormone. I needed less than 1/4 of them on thyroid hormone, and they continued to feel good. They felt better when they got on iodine. I learned more about iodine’s relationship to the other glandular tissue, breast, ovaries, uterus, pancreas, prostate, as well as a thyroid gland that you can’t make any hormone in the body without iodine. Here I was using these bioidentical natural hormones, which I still do, but now, I use them in conjunction with iodine. It has transformed my practice. It’s the single best thing that I’ve done in my years of practicing medicine.

I always state that if the government comes to my office and says, “We don’t like this holistic medicine stuff you’re doing,” which they have, and they said, “You could take one thing with you.” Iodine would be it. It’s inexpensive. Every cell in the body needs and requires iodine for function. The glandular tissue concentrates it for a reason. It needs it to make all the hormones of the body.

We’re suffering from glandular problems in our country. 1 in 7 women has breast cancer. 1 in 3 men has prostate cancer. We all know people with pancreatic cancer. We all know people with ovarian and uterine cancer. Thyroid cancer is the fastest-growing cancer. We’re a mess in our country. It’s not even in the US but in the Western world. It’s a global iodine deficiency problem.

In my office, we’ve tested well over 7,000 people. Over 97% are deficient in iodine. The vast majority are markedly deficient in iodine. I can tell you the only ones that aren’t deficient have usually seen a lecture of mine or read a book of mine and they’re taking iodine. Otherwise, we can’t get enough iodine in our food supply to put optimal levels in the human body. It’s impossible. We can talk about that more. That’s my short and long story of how I got involved with it. It has been a good ride.

You need to take iodine. Otherwise, you can't get enough iodine from our food supply right now to put optimal levels in the human body. Click To Tweet

I so appreciate you sharing about your father because when it’s someone that’s so close to us and we see them suffering, we think, “I want to help,” and you being a physician, it’s having the discernment and the desire to realize and make these connections rather than setting them aside and saying, “That’s woo-woo. Nutrients don’t work.” You decided, “I’m going to look into this a little bit more.” We’re so blessed to have you and all the work that you’ve done over the years.

How Iodine Supports Thyroid Function

I didn’t realize it was that high, 97% is significant. You talk a lot about that in your book and then also the right form of iodine, which I have found as well. I’m curious. The highest concentration of iodine is in the thyroid gland. We can’t make thyroid hormone without it. Would you mind walking us through how iodine supports thyroid function?

The thyroid gland in the lower part of the neck weighs about 1.5 ounces. The thyroid gland produces about a teaspoon of thyroid hormone for a whole year. That teaspoon of thyroid hormone has to drive the metabolic processes of the cells 24/7, 365 days of the year all the time. If you have little variations in that teaspoon, people feel it.

Since the thyroid affects every cell in the human body, if you’re too much or too little thyroid hormone, you’re going to have symptoms and not feel good. One of the most common problems that you see in clinical practice is a malfunctioning thyroid gland, particularly a low thyroid gland. The thyroid gland produces two major thyroid hormones called Thyroxin and Triiodothyronine or shorter versions of T4 and T3.

T4 is the inactive thyroid hormone. T3 is the active hormone thyroid hormone. The 4 and the 3 refer to how many iodine atoms are attached to the thyroglobulin molecule. You need adequate amounts of iodine. There are other co-factors that are needed to make this thyroid hormone, but iodine is the crucial step for that. If we’re not getting enough iodine in our diet or we’re getting other things in our diet or in our environment that are pushing iodine out of the body, which is both what’s happening, iodine deficiency becomes prominent. That’s what’s happening across the US.

Our food supply is too low in iodine. We’re getting exposed to chemicals that have goitrogen, which stimulates a goiter or a swollen thyroid. These chemicals include bromide and fluoride. They’re closely related to iodine. For those who can recall chemistry in high school or if you took chemistry in college and know the periodic table of elements, group seventeen is the halides. They’re on the right side of the periodic table. These are grouped together because they’re similar structures in the human body. They can competitively inhibit one another. It means if you get too much of one, you can push out the other one.

There are four major halides in that group, iodide, fluoride, bromide, and chloride. Two of those halides are essential. We can’t live without them or we won’t exist. That’s iodide and chloride. Two are non-essential toxic items. That’s bromide and fluoride. These non-essential toxic items poison enzymes in the body. They bind up iodine receptors and can competitively inhibit iodine. If we get too much bromide and fluoride in our environment and our diet, it can kick out, particularly iodine. The reason it is particularly iodine is the size of the structure of iodine is similar to bromine. Bromine is a good competitive inhibitor of iodine and vice versa.

EFL 60 | Iodine
Iodine: Fluoride and bromide are non-essential toxic items that bind to iodine receptors and competitively inhibit iodine. If we get too much bromide and fluoride in our environment and in our diet, they can kick out iodine.

We don’t have bromide receptors in our bodies. We have iodine receptors in our body, but if you don’t have enough iodine and get too much bromine, you can bind up those iodine receptors with bromine. That causes problems. I can tell you that bromide is a huge problem in our modern world. Bromide is used in food, drinks, and consumer items. It’s used in computers, iPhones, and all electronics. It’s a fire retardant used in cushions, couches, beds, carpets, and curtains.

Dr. Abraham and I did that research on bromine and found huge bromine levels in people. I wrote about a study in my book where I compared 9 breast cancer patients with 9 non-breast cancer patients. I found bromine levels were twofold higher in breast cancer patients and iodine levels were twofold lower. Compared to our predecessors, our iodine levels have declined further than theirs. They may have been low in iodine, too, but they didn’t have exposure to these toxic chemicals such as fluoride and bromine. Fluoride comes from our water supply. Fluoride and bromine were found in many drugs on the market. Bromine is in all the items that I mentioned before. That has double whammy our iodine problem. Not only do we not get enough iodine in our diet, but we got these toxic halides that push more iodine out.

We become more iodine deficient over the years. That’s what’s driving this 1 in 7 women with breast cancer, 1 in 3 men with prostate cancer, thyroid cancer being the fastest-growing cancer, and pancreatic, ovarian, and uterine cancer growing at epidemic rates. Unfortunately, that’s where we are. We’ve got a sick country. COVID exposed that to everybody.

Iodine was part of my treatment for COVID. Iodine not only helps the glandular tissue make these hormones and supports the immune system, but the immune system can’t fight back against infections without iodine. If you are iodine deficient and you get hit with a viral infection like Coronavirus, you’re going to have a harder time getting over it than someone who has enough iodine. If you have bromine toxicity, you’re going to have an even worst time getting over it. I write about this in all my books. This is a 30-year journey and I’m still learning as I go. That’s why if they tell me one thing I can take with me, it is iodine.

Iodine and Reverse T3

I so appreciate you walking us through that. Dr. Brownstein. I was thinking back to when I was a child. They gave us fluoride tablets for our teeth. I’ve never had a cavity, but I’m sure that those fluoride tablets didn’t do me any good, so I always think about that. With regard to bromide and all the byproducts, I think about all the flours that are used, the gluten-based flours or all-purpose flours, and how that is so massively in our food supply. Our children are eating it. It’s unfortunate, so I appreciate you walking us through how these things get into our environment, food supply, textiles, and everything. It’s no wonder we’re seeing the rates of disease that we see. You’ve talked about this before, but regarding reverse T3, what do you see with regard to iodine and lowering reverse T3?

Iodine is an essential item for every cell in the body. We can’t live without it. You can’t make thyroid hormone or any hormone in the body without iodine. I mentioned to you that the thyroid gland has to release inactive thyroid hormone T4, which has to be converted to T3 or deiodinated. If you take one of the iodine atoms off it to make it an active thyroid hormone that will bind to its receptor, then you get the response that you’re looking for. In the case of thyroid hormone, it will produce heat in the cells. You’ll be warmer or your brain will work better and your energy will be better.

There is another compound called reverse T3 that’s part of that. They don’t mention much of it and they don’t mention the purpose of checking it. When you have inactive thyroid hormone, the thyroid gland produces T4 which has to be converted to active thyroid hormone, which is T3. It can be also converted into reverse T3. It can go one way or the other, whether it’s reverse T3 or active T3.

One of the reasons the body will park thyroid hormone into reverse T3 is if you’re sick and you need rest, your body will slow down your thyroid hormone production and park it into reverse T3. However, if you’re iodine deficient and your thyroid gland gets inflamed, you can get an autoimmune problem of your thyroid glands such as Hashimoto’s disease or Graves’ disease. These are iodine-deficient diseases. I describe this in detail in my Thyroid book and my Iodine book.

In those cases, the body will park a lot of thyroid hormones to reverse T3 because there’s inflammation going on in the thyroid. It’s not working correctly. It’s telling you to go to bed to rest until it gets better. When I teach doctors about thyroid hormones, we go through the whole metabolic pathway of thyroid hormones. What I tell them is elevated reverse T3 is usually 1 of 3 things. It’s iodine deficiency, which is the most common one. Number two is liver congestion or liver overload. People need to do a liver cleanse. Your liver, one of its main jobs is to keep the blood clean. In our toxic world, the liver works overtime to do that. If the liver gets congested or doesn’t function, your body’s going to tell you to go to sleep and rest. It’s can’t function optimally.

The third thing is metal toxicity such as mercury, lead, cadmium, arsenic, and nickel. It will all reflect in this elevated reverse T3. One of the first things you can do when you see an elevated reverse T3 is to look at whether they’re iodine deficient. Sometimes, putting them in iodine will help. Iodine has a chaotropic effect with metals that it seems to displace metals and allow the body to release heavy metals that are normally difficult to release. We don’t quite know the mechanism of how it happens, but it happens, and I’ve documented that it happens.

An elevated reverse T3 is very commonly found in blood tests. In a lot of lectures I originally went to, doctors would tell other doctors to prescribe T3 for that or active thyroid hormone. It’s not treating the underlying cause of the problem. The underlying cause is iodine deficiency. If I ever ran into problems with treating people with thyroid, it was, one, I was using too much thyroid hormone and too much T3. I don’t think there’s much of a need for T3 for long-term use in people once you get iodine levels situated.

Is Iodized Salt Enough?

I’m glad you said that because there seems to be an epidemic. We see this a lot in the functional world of overdosing people with thyroid hormones. To have a deeper conversation about the root cause, why this is happening to begin with, and how we can get in there and correct it in a way that is going to benefit the patient, that’s common sense. I’m grateful that you’ve walked us through that. I’m curious, we’re told that iodized salt is going to correct this issue for us, but there are a lot of problems with these heavily processed salts. Why is this not a sufficient source of iodine?

The Iodization of salt occurred in the 1920s in the US. It occurred because of what was happening in Midwest right in my area of Michigan and Ohio particularly. As the country expanded from the East Coast to the West Coast and the population expanded in the early 20th Century, a problem was developing, which was noticed at the highest levels of the US government. The problem was that people were developing goiters at huge rates. Goiter is a swollen thyroid gland. The thyroid gland sits in the lower part of the neck.

If you look at old paintings from Italy and elsewhere, you’ll see a lot of depictions of goiter and swollen thyroids in some of those paintings. In the US in the early 20th Century, goiter was becoming a problem, but the bigger problem was the animals were having thyroid problems. The animals were not procreating correctly and were not growing to their optimal size.

There was a worry from the highest levels of the US government that as our population expanded and colonized from East to West across the United States, the human population growth would strip the food supply. We have a humanitarian crisis at our hands. We couldn’t supply enough food to maintain our population. There was a doctor from Ohio who had written a paper about iodine in a medical school. The US government commissioned him to do a study on animals to find out the minimal amount of iodine needed in food to prevent the thyroid problems the animals were having.

He did a study on animals where he put varying amounts of iodine in food. What he found was the minimal amount of iodine where the animals could procreate correctly and grow to the right size. From that data, he estimated the amount of iodine that humans would need. What happened at that point was they put iodine in salt to get that iodine in. The first studies were done in Ohio. The next studies were done in Michigan. What they found was in teenage girls who were starting their menses, the rate of goiter or swelling of the thyroid went down a couple of hundred percent as soon as they put iodine in salt.

They utilized iodized salt for the rest of the country. A small amount of iodine in salt was found to help with goiter, but that was back in the 1920s. That was before the fluoridation of water. It was before bromide was used in all these consumer goods, food, and water. They didn’t quite have the same exposure that we have now. That’s why I said earlier that our iodine levels are worse than our predecessors because of that whole toxicity exposure.

Iodized salt is still effective at preventing goiter in the vast majority of people, but it’s not enough to give enough iodine for the rest of the body. That’s why we all need to supplement with iodine. I don’t think you can get enough from food. The only good food sources of iodine are from the ocean. It would be ocean animals and ocean vegetables, but the ocean is also polluted with bromide and fluoride.

The ocean animals and ocean vegetables have the same iodine transport molecules called Sodium Iodine Symporter that we have. They can get overwhelmed with fluoride and bromide and competitively inhibit iodine. The researcher was David Marine. I was looking it up as I was talking to you. He was a physician in Ohio and he did those original iodine studies.

It’s so powerful to see the progression and how our environment impacts us on that level. The thing that I’m always concerned about with these heavily processed salts is, to your point, how it impacts people with goiter. The salt, in and of itself, the processing of the salt, and all the challenges with that are always my concern. You’ve written and spoken about that as well. I always recommend things that are unprocessed like pink salt, Himalayan salt, or something that’s going to be more bioavailable in the body and not create another toxic challenge.

I’ve written a book on it called Salt Your Way to Health. The problem with salt is that the salt has been refined. That’s the thin white stuff that we are all familiar with. It’s in restaurants all over the country. Morton Table Salt is an example of refined salt. The reason it’s white and small in size is it had the minerals taken out of it. The minerals are referred to as impurities by salt manufacturers. The minerals are not impurities. Minerals are needed for us. I recommend people use unrefined salts such as Himalayan salt or Celtic Sea Salt.

Salinas, Celtic Sea Salt, and Redmond salt are three versions I’ve tested numerous times for toxicity. They’re good versions of salt. There’s very little iodine in unrefined salt. There’s less iodine in unrefined salt than in refined salt. You’re not going to get enough iodine from refined salt. You’re going to get less iodine from unrefined salt. My view is to work with an iodine-literate and functional holistic doctor who can test your levels and appropriately guide you. In our toxic world, most of us are going to need to supplement with iodine.

I’m so glad you said that. I know that if I don’t take my iodine every day, I notice a difference in how I feel. My eyelashes start falling out. I notice more hair loss on my head. It’s fast, at least for me. I notice it quickly.

The reason it’s fast is we’re not iodine camels. We don’t have a hump of iodine that we can draw on. Iodine is used up as soon as you use it. If you stop for a day, your iodine levels will dramatically decline. 2 to 3 days after you stop, your iodine levels go back to this deficient baseline of where you were. You can feel it. I’m like you. I can feel it two in a day or two of stopping iodine. I feel my energy level dropping. The difficulty of concentrating comes forward a little bit. Iodine is very important. Since we don’t have iodine stores, it needs to be supplemented on a daily basis.

In this toxic world, most of us are going to need iodine supplementation. We're not iodine camels. We don't have a hump of iodine that we can draw on. Since we don't have iodine stores, it needs to be supplemented on a daily basis. Click To Tweet

How Iodine Helps Other Hormones

It needs to be constantly replenished. I’d like to get back to how iodine helps other hormones and their receptors, specifically estrogen metabolism. It’s wonderful for so many things like reducing hot flashes. It’s great for the menstrual cycle, shrinking cysts, and skin tags. Can you share with us a little bit more about how iodine helps with our other hormones outside of the thyroid gland?

Every single cell in the body has a requirement for iodine to function optimally. We’ve been designed for iodine, but we’ve also been designed pretty well so that we can function in an iodine-deficient environment. We just don’t function well. I mentioned earlier that iodine concentrate in glandular tissue. The glands include the thyroid, ovaries, uterus, breast, prostate, and pancreas. All those glandular tissues produce hormones, some locally and some are released into the bloodstream and have distal effects on the body.

You simply cannot make a hormone without iodine. If you’re iodine deficient, all those glands are affected by it. They’re not only affected by hormone production. They’re affected in their structure. There’s a continuum of iodine deficiency where if you have adequate amounts of iodine, you have a normal architecture of the glands. The glands look normal. There’s no growth in them. They look healthy.

In iodine deficiency, the first thing that happens in these glands is you start getting a disrupted architecture. Many times, cysts start to form. If it goes on longer, the cysts become harder and nodular. The gland usually enlarges and the thyroid gives a goiter. If it goes on longer, they take a hyperplastic appearance. If you took a biopsy and look at them under a microscope, that’s a precursor to cancer in those tissues, so cancer is the last step.

In animal test tubes and human studies, iodine has been shown to arrest that progression wherever it catches it and reverse it. There are not many things that reverse cells that are moving into cancer or become cancerous, but iodine is one of them. It’s called an Apoptotic Effect which can turn cancer cells from rapidly dividing cells back into normal cells. It stops them from dividing until it metabolically overwhelms and the individual may die.

This is why I believe this iodine deficiency epidemic is why we’re seeing 1 in 7 women with breast cancer, 1 in 3 men with prostate cancer, and ovarian, uterine, pancreatic, and thyroid are the fastest-growing cancers. All those other ones are increasing at epidemic rates. That’s one of the major health problems our country is facing.

Thank you for walking us through that as well. I want to get back to autoimmune thyroid disorders. There’s a lot of confusion about this. In your book, Iodine: Why You Need It. Why You Can’t Live Without It, you explain so brilliantly that falling iodine levels correlate with the incidence of autoimmune disorders. Yet, interestingly, we’re told that iodine exacerbates Hashimoto’s and Graves’ disease and should not be taken in these conditions. I was hoping we could go back to that and you could share with us a little bit more about that.

I have a chapter in my Thyroid book and a chapter in my Iodine book on this. There’s a myth going around that iodine causes and worsens Hashimoto’s disease. I can refute that myth very easily and ask you the following questions. Has Hashimoto’s disease gone up or down over the last decades? It has gone epidemically up. When I was in my training, I would see a patient here and there with Hashimoto’s. You see kids with Hashimoto’s disease. Hashimoto’s is commonly diagnosed if people check the appropriate labs for it. During the last few decades, has iodine levels gone up or down in our population? It’s going down.

The WHO has checked this. The US government has checked this through the NHANES, which is the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. As iodine levels have declined, Hashimoto’s has gone up. That’s an inverse correlation. That disproves the hypothesis that iodine causes Hashimoto’s disease. That single fact or single confluence of effects disproves iodine causes Hashimoto’s disease. Iodine deficiency may be causing Hashimoto’s disease. That could be up for debate, but iodine does not cause Hashimoto’s disease. That is not up for debate. My belief is iodine efficiency is the major cause of Hashimoto’s disease. I’ve treated many patients with iodine in Hashimoto’s disease and the Hashimoto’s disease resolves.

I have two daughters who my wife diagnosed with Hashimoto’s. We were having dinner. One was 12 and one was 11. They were in soccer and doing things, but they were complaining that they were tired, have headaches, and they’re cold. My wife says, “Do you think they got a thyroid problem?” I remember I was holding the fork of food. I put the fork down and I hit myself in the forehead. I’m like, “I treat people all day.” It’s like the shoemaker’s kids without shoes.

I draw their levels and they both have Hashimoto’s disease. I document this in my lecture where I put them on iodine. I showed Hashimoto’s signs going down over time. A couple of years later, neither of them has signs of Hashimoto’s disease. Iodine is not the only thing we did. We did some diet changes and some nutritional support, but iodine was the main factor in that.

Iodine’s Antiseptic Properties

Thank you for sharing that story with us. As you said, this seems to be going around in the holistic functional community that you need to stay away from iodine in these conditions, so I’m glad we were able to have that conversation. I’d like to transition to the immune system. You touched on that a bit ago about how iodine helps white blood cells produce hydrogen peroxide to fight viral and bacterial infections. I was hoping we could talk about this a little bit more and those co-factors such as vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin D. What have you noticed in your patient population with regard to pneumonia and influenza-like illnesses? You mentioned COVID. We know that iodine is wonderful for COVID as well. I’d love to talk about that with you.

Iodine is needed for white blood cells to produce hydrogen peroxide and other items to kill foreign invaders. Iodine has direct antiseptic properties to it. That means it can kill viruses, bacteria, and parasites. It’s one of the reasons before surgery that they rub iodine in your skin. It’s to cleanse the skin from any bacteria or other infectious organisms that could potentially cause a problem. It’s also one of the reasons I used iodine as part of my COVID protocol.

Iodine has direct antiseptic properties to it. That means it can kill viruses, bacteria, and parasites. Click To Tweet

I wrote about iodine in my book, A Holistic Approach to Viruses. Iodine has been a mainstay of mine for treating people during flu season. Every flu season, 20 to 120,000 Americans die every year, and more are hospitalized. In our practice, we don’t do that. We don’t see our patients dying from the flu. We don’t see our patients hospitalized for the flu. None of my partners can recall a patient dying from the flu. I can’t recall and my partners can’t recall a patient hospitalized from the flu in 30 years of doing this. Part of the reason is that we’ve got people on iodine.

I also use iodine as part of my sick protocol. With the first sign of a scratchy throat, cough, or fever, I had people use high-dose vitamin A at 100,000 units a day. It’s straight vitamin A, not beta-carotene. I have them use 50,000 units of vitamin D and 25 to 50 milligrams of iodine. If they were already on iodine, I have them double their dose of whatever they were taking. I have them use vitamin C at 1,000 milligrams an hour either until they got bowel tolerance or they got better. I ask them to use those high doses for about four days. What those doses were doing was supporting the immune system, helping the body produce more hydrogen peroxide to fight foreign invaders, and having a direct antiseptic effect for these viral and/or bacterial organisms that are causing so many problems.

During the Coronavirus epidemic, our protocol played out very well. It also includes nebulized peroxide and iodine. We had people nebulized. Nebulized means to turn a liquid into a vapor so you can breathe it into small particles. Asthmatics nebulize asthma medication to open up their lungs. Many years ago, I tried to nebulize peroxide and iodine on an end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease patient. This gentleman was in his 70s. He came to me and he was blue. I called him a blue man. He looked like a smurf. He was wearing a nasal cannula and carrying oxygen with him. He could barely talk. He was planning on dying anytime, and he looked like he was dying at any time.

I knew about the old literature that doctors would nebulize iodine and peroxide to help the lungs with infection as well as to help oxygenate the lungs. I had him start nebulizing a combination of peroxide and iodine. He started breathing better. He started coming into the office. He’d drag his tank around, but many times, he didn’t have it around his nose.

I took care of him for about fifteen years. He was near 90 when he died. He took that nebulizer from one nursing home to the next. I would visit him in a nursing home and that nebulizer was front and center. He would do it 3 to 4 times a day. That gave him at least a decade or more of his life. I’ve used it on patients with pneumonia and COVID.

During the COVID breathing times, the nebulized peroxide and iodine were one of the most fabulous treatments I’ve seen. Usually, with the second dose of nebulizing, people could breathe again. Their lungs would open up. Iodine can be used in many different ways. It can be used topically for a skin wound. If they have breast cancer or some kind of skin cancer, you can put iodine on the skin. Twenty percent of the body’s iodine is in the skin. It keeps the skin healthy. With cysts, nodules, hyperplasia, and cancer, it can help to reverse that. You can rub iodine over where tumors, cysts, or nodules are. You can also take it orally to help with it internally.

Iodine and Other Metal Toxicity

Thank you so much for your service during this period of COVID and all that you’ve done to share the truth about treatments that work and help people. We’re so grateful to you. I’m glad that you talked about applying it topically because in my clients, especially my female clients, when they get a lot of breast tenderness and cramping, I’ll have them paint their breasts and their bellies. They always feel better. It’s that top dog nutrient that does so many things in the body. You talked about how iodine is a wonderful detoxifier of metals such as mercury, lead, and so forth. Is there anything else you want to add to that conversation regarding metals?

Metal toxicity is a huge problem. The two metals that I see high that most people have are mercury and lead. The most common sources of mercury are the dark fillings in the mouth. The younger generation doesn’t have that as much as people over the age of about 35 and older. The second most common source of mercury toxicity is eating fish. The third most common reason for mercury toxicity is an environmental toxin that’s released from coal burning. It’s all over the place. If you’re not checking for it, you won’t see it. I can tell you that conventional doctors aren’t trained in how to check for it. You need to work with a functional holistic doctor or practitioner who can check for this.

Metal toxicity is a huge problem. The two metals that most people have are mercury and lead. They’re all over the place. If you're not checking for it, you won't see it. Click To Tweet

The second most common toxicity is lead. Lead is still in our water pipes. It’s in lead paint. It’s still in homes from before. It is still all over the environment. It’s particularly carrying our water into our homes, especially in older cities that have not replaced their lead pipes. Flint, Michigan was the latest example of lead. Flint is just a microcosm of what’s going on. Lead is under every city that’s older than 60 years old across the United States. These things aren’t being checked.

The amount of lead and mercury toxicity is known out there. If you start checking it, you’ll see it. Aluminum toxicity is high, particularly with aluminum-based antiperspirants. Cadmium is another one that I see frequently in people from cigarette smoking. Even people who don’t smoke cigarettes, you’ll see cadmium toxicity. Arsenic toxicity is in well waters all over the US, particularly in Michigan where there’s a lot of farming. A lot of pesticides and insecticides have arsenic as their chemical made up. A lot of well waters are contaminated with arsenic. Once these things are brought to light, you can do specific detox programs to rid the body of that. Iodine can be part of that detox program or part of that immune system support program.

Adverse Reaction to Iodine

One thing we talked about was co-factors, and you mentioned that throughout our conversation. What I’ve noticed in my clinic is that iodine requires companion nutrients to work optimally such as zinc and selenium. You’ve talked about other nutrients that support the use of iodine as well. I also like to upgrade the diet first before I add in iodine because some people notice detox effects. We want to make sure that people are educated and understand if they’re having a negative impact, and what that means. I was wondering if you could walk us through what’s happening when someone has an adverse reaction to iodine, and why an adverse reaction doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s not beneficial for them.

You can get an adverse reaction from anything. You can get an adverse reaction from water, magnesium, or vitamin C. People can have an allergic reaction to anything. There are some people that have an allergy to iodine. However, an allergy to inorganic and non-radioactive iodine is very rare. An allergy to an iodine diet is not so rare. It doesn’t mean because you have an allergy to an iodine diet that you’re allergic to inorganic and non-reactive iodine.

EFL 60 | Iodine
Iodine: There are some people who have an allergy to iodine. However, an allergy to inorganic non-reactive iodine is very rare.

Allergic reactions are pretty rare. What’s not so rare with iodine is since iodine can displace fluoride and particularly bromide, when you give iodine, the receptors release bromide that has to be released from the body. Sometimes, that overwhelms the liver and the kidneys, particularly if the liver is already a little bit toxic going into that. People can feel crappy with that. That can mean tiredness, brain fog, and flu-like symptoms. It’s called a Herxheimer reaction.

In this case, what I tell people to do many times if they have a reaction from taking iodine is to stop the iodine and take a teaspoon or two of salt. The reason for that is in the olden days of modern medicine in the 20th Century, bromide was part of a lot of different drugs. It’s still a part of many different drugs and so is fluoride. Bromo-Seltzer was commonly used for anti-acid stuff. People would pop that stuff left and right. You could drink Bromo-Seltzer. There was bromide toxicity that would occur.

In bromide toxicity, they would get delirious. They can’t think clearly. Doctors would treat bromide toxicity with salt water or saline. They would give them an ideal amount of saline and try and salt the bromide out. The way you can do that in this world is to use unrefined salt, a teaspoon or two, for about two weeks and then try the iodine again. Well over 90% of people that have problems with iodine can take iodine by doing it that way. The other thing that helps is to detox the liver and then try the iodine again. There are very few people that have an iodine sensitivity that can’t take it. They’re out there, but there are few and far between.

The Best Iodine Testing Methods

That’s why diet is so important. You’ve written and talked a lot about all these chemically-laden foods that go back to creating this burden. That’s why I like to focus on the diet first, and then we can start to add in other therapies later. With regard to testing methods, what are some of the best methods? I like to use urine. What your thoughts are on that? What about using the skin as a testing apparatus?

The theory of using the skin for iodine is that iodine is brownish in color. The oxidized form of iodine is brown in color. When you rub iodine on the skin, there’s a brownish color to it. If you’re deficient in iodine, the skin will absorb that iodine quickly. If that brown color goes away within 24 hours, it’s assumed that you’re deficient in iodine. If the brown color stays, we’ll assume the skin has enough iodine in there.

However, there was a study that measured this. They found out that 80% of the iodine applied to the skin sublimates off into a gaseous phase and is released that way. Since 20% of the body’s iodine is residing in the skin, 80% is not residing in the skin. I don’t think the skin way is the best way to do this. I don’t think it provides much information. Urinary excretion testing is the better way to do it. Functionally, it correlates better with iodine levels when I check through serum, saliva, or urine. The skin does not correlate well at all.

I’m glad you said that. That’s important because that’s also going around as a way to test and then try and supplement. Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?

The only last thing is if you’re not feeling good, don’t settle for not feeling good. Search and find a practitioner who is willing to 1) Listen to you, and 2) Work with you. If your practitioner is not listening to you and is not working with you, then why are you going to them? Find someone who will. Number two, it’s important for you to educate yourself. The main reason I started writing my books was to educate my patients on what my thought processes were and how I viewed the literature out there. I wanted my patients to be partners with me and to be on board with what I was doing. This way, I thought we’d get better results working together. That’s how I’ve done my career of working with my patients.

The best patients are the most knowledgeable ones. I always tell patients, “You’re driving the car. I’m on the side of the street yelling, “Go left. Go right. Go straight.” You decide where that car is going. Many times, I can see the patient driving right for a tree. Either they’re eating poorly or doing whatever they’re doing. I’m telling them, “Turn right.” It’s up to you to turn that wheel to drive down the road or correct the speed and take care of your body. You only got one of these.

It’s tough in this world, and COVID proved it to us. Look what happened in our country to COVID. We performed the worst of every Western country out there. Part of the reason we did that was that we went into COVID as a sick country from the beginning. The other part was the poor advice we were given from the powers that be such as the CDC, FDA, and HHS. Their policies and missteps were directly responsible for a big part of this catastrophe that’s happened with COVID.

Thank you so much for that. Thank you for your time, wisdom, knowledge, and all that you do in the world to help people and share the truth.

Thanks for having me, Samantha.

I appreciate it.

Many practitioners recommend kelp as a natural source of iodine. The reason I don’t like kelp as a source of iodine is that kelp supplements are often contaminated with arsenic and other toxins present in our oceans. Plus many kelp supplements tested by an independent lab were found to contain twice as much iodine as listed on their labels which is a major safety concern. As Dr. Brownstein and I discussed, we highly encourage you to work with a practitioner that is iodine literate with a broad understanding of how to use this powerful nutrient.

Companion nutrients as well as liver health and dietary changes are also important for iodine to work optimally in your body. If you’re ready to finally get to the root causes of your symptoms, I invite you to book a complimentary consultation with me to see how I can support you. Go to EatFor.life then click on the Free Consultation button to book your free discovery call.

Thanks so much for joining us. Dr. Brownstein reminds us that education is the key to achieving optimum health. When you are an empowered patient, anything is possible. You can find Dr. Brownstein at CenterForHolisticMedicine.com and order his books at DrBrownstein.com.

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2 thoughts on “EP 60: Why You Can’t Live Without Iodine with Dr. David Brownstein”

  1. I recall reading an article that suggested that iodine was potentially helpful in the case of atrial fibrillation.Are you aware if there is a protocol for such and if so are you know of a web site link.

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