Medical Disclaimer: The information in this article is provided for general informational and educational purposes only, and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Readers should do their own research and consult with a healthcare professional before supplementing with iodine. Iodine as referred to in this article is the type of iodine found in food and dietary supplements, not the iodine that is used as antiseptic (Tincture of iodine, Betadine, Povidone).

If you are interested in learning more about iodine deficiency and supplementation, please read Iodine: Why You Need It, Why You Can’t Live Without It by Dr. David Brownstein and The Iodine Crisis by Lynne Farrow.

The Essential Element Deficiency That Could Be Ruining Your Health

In 1968, women had a 1 in 20 chance of developing breast cancer during their lifetime. Fifty years later, the odds have risen to 1 in 8.

During the same time frame, the rate of thyroid cancer has risen 182%, and the rate of prostate cancer has more than tripled.

There are many factors that have likely contributed to these rising cancer rates, including chemicals in our food and environment, consumption of animal products and processed foods, and sedentary lifestyles. But there is also an essential element that has gone missing from our diet—and been replaced by a carcinogen.

During the 1960s, iodine was used in the commercial baking industry as a dough conditioner. One slide of bread contained the recommended daily allowance of iodine, and for many people, bread was the main source of iodine in their diet.

During the 1970s, potassium bromate (a form of the chemical bromine) replaced iodine in the production of bread and other baked goods. Potassium bromate is still used widely in the United States baking industry today, though it’s been banned in Europe because it causes cancer.

Sadly, not only did the replacement of iodine with bromine reduce our iodine intake dramatically, it introduced a dangerous chemical into our bodies. And bromine wasn’t just added to bread—it quickly became an unavoidable part of our environment, as it was used as a fire retardant and added to rugs, upholstery, mattresses, stuffed animals, cars, and electronics. Forms of bromine are also used in vegetable oils, sodas, sports drinks, toothpaste, and cosmetics.

Bromine is a halide, as is iodine, and they compete for absorption and receptor binding in the body. As bromine builds up in our bodies, it prevents iodine from binding to receptors and being absorbed by our bodies. So, not only are we not getting enough iodine in our diets, but the little we do get is being bullied out of the way by bromine.

Iodine is used by every cell in our bodies, and it is necessary for life. It regulates hormone production and metabolism, enhances brain development and function, and detoxifies our bodies from toxic heavy metals and halogens. Iodine is also responsible for maintaining healthy tissue structure of the glands of the body, including the thyroid, breasts, prostate, ovaries, and uterus.

When there is insufficient iodine in the body, we can develop cysts, nodules, fibroids, polyps, and eventually cancerous tumors. In the brain, insufficient iodine leads to intellectual disability, ADHD, autism, low IQ, and depression.

Low levels of iodine and high levels of bromine in the body can cause a myriad of other health issues that many of us accept as normal, especially as we get older. Some of these are headaches, unexplained weight gain or the inability to lose weight, fatigue, brain fog, feeling cold, infertility, hair loss, dry skin, allergies, hearing loss, frequent urination, constipation, menstrual irregularities, and low libido. Low iodine and high bromine levels can also cause chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia.

Symptoms and conditions caused by iodine deficiency and/or bromine toxicity

  • Allergies
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Autism
  • Birth defects
  • Blood pressure issues
  • Body temperature issues
  • Brain fog
  • Breast diseases, including cancer and fibrocystic breast disease
  • Cognitive problems
  • Constipation
  • Cretinism
  • Cysts and nodules
  • Depression
  • Dry skin
  • Dupuytren’s Contracture
  • Eczema
  • Endometriosis
  • Excess mucous production
  • Eye problems
  • Fatigue
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Frequent urination
  • Genital herpes
  • Goiter
  • Gum infection
  • Hair thinning
  • Heart arrhythmia
  • Hemorrhoids
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Hearing loss
  • Heavy metal toxicity
  • High cholesterol
  • Hypertension
  • Infections
  • Infertility
  • Insomnia
  • Intellectual disability
  • Keloids
  • Liver diseases
  • Low libido
  • Lung conditions, including bronchitis and pneumonia
  • Menstrual irregularities
  • Miscarriage
  • Nephrotic syndrome
  • Ovarian disease, including cancer
  • Parotid duct stones
  • Peyronie’s disease
  • Preterm birth
  • Prostate disease, including cancer
  • Psoriasis
  • Scars
  • Sebaceous cyst
  • Thyroid disorders, including hyper- and hypothyroidism, Hashimoto’s, and Grave’s Disease
  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • Uterine fibroids
  • Vaginal infections
  • Weight gain or inability to lose weight

If iodine is so essential to life, why don’t we naturally get it from our diet?

The first part of the answer is: We used to. In fact, iodine and seaweed (the richest natural source of iodine) can be documented as the oldest traditional medicine. Prehistoric people hoarded certain types of seaweed, and those who didn’t live near an ocean would travel long distances to get access to it. Ancient Chinese medical documents show that seaweed was used to treat goiters and tumors, and ancient Egyptian documents show that it was used for breast cancer. As Lynne Farrow describes in The Iodine Crisis, iodine isn’t alternative medicine—it’s traditional medicine that has been lost.

So, it’s no surprise that the Japanese, who consume more than 100 times the U.S. RDA of iodine each day (mostly from seaweed), have significantly lower levels of breast, endometrial, ovarian, and prostate cancer than we do in the U.S.

If soil has adequate iodine levels, then the crops grown on that soil can provide adequate iodine in the diet. However, much of the soil that our crops are grown on is depleted of iodine and other nutrients.

Fish, iodized salt, and dairy products (due to iodine added to cow feed and iodophor sanitizing agents used in dairy production) are other dietary sources of iodine, but you’d have to eat unhealthy amounts of these foods to get close to the amount of iodine you actually need.

The second part of the answer is: We need more iodine now than we used to, in order to detoxify from bromine, other hallides, and heavy metals that we’re constantly exposed to.

What about iodized salt?

In the early 1900’s, there was a high rate of goiter (abnormal enlargement of the thyroid gland) in the states that bordered the Great Lakes. Much of the northern United States became known as the “Goiter Belt” because the soil was so depleted of iodine, and many people developed goiter as a result.

Two studies, carried out in Ohio from 1917 to 1922 and in Michigan from 1924 to 1928, tested the effects of adding iodine in the form of iodized salt to the diet. Both studies resulted in dramatic reductions in the rate of goiter, and thus iodized salt became the norm in the U.S.

Unfortunately, there are some problems with relying on iodized salt for our nutritional supply of iodine.

1. Iodized salt contains only potassium iodide, not iodine. Our bodies need both iodine and iodide to function optimally.

2. There is just enough iodide in iodized salt to allow us to avoid goiter—not enough to avoid other health conditions.

3. The Recommended Daily Allowance for iodine was created before bromine was added to the baking industry and other industries. Our current levels of exposure to bromine demand that we take in much higher levels of iodine to maintain iodine sufficiency and prevent bromine toxicity.

4. Due to concerns over consuming too much sodium, many people have reduced their intake of iodized salt or eliminated it completely; it’s estimated that only 50% of the U.S. population uses iodized salt.

5. Studies show that only about 10% of the iodide in iodized salt is bioavailable (able to be absorbed by our bodies).

How common is iodine deficiency?

Every few years, the U.S. government measures vitamin, mineral, and toxicity levels in the U.S. population. This National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) has found that iodine levels fell by more than 50% between 1971 and 2008. The World Health Organization reports that 72% of the world population is iodine deficient. Among the nearly 6,000 patients that Dr. Brownstein has tested in his practice, more than 96% of them are iodine deficient.

Why did we stop using iodine as medicine?

In The Iodine Crisis, Lynne Farrow includes a detailed timeline of iodine usage in medical practice. It chronicles how iodine was used from 15,000 BC through the 1930s as treatment for goiter, cancerous tumors, syphilis, and breast, ovarian, and prostate disease.

Then in 1948, researchers Jan Wolff and Israel Chaikoff published a paper based on unverified research claiming that iodine was dangerous for people with thyroid conditions. Even though their research was unsubstantiated, Wolff and Chaikoff managed to convince physicians that it was true. This misinformation, referred to as the “Wolff-Chaikoff Effect,” has been taught in medical schools ever since, and it temporarily halted further research on the health benefits of iodine.

Luckily, the medical community is finally realizing the mistake. Since 2005, Dr. Guy Abraham, along with Dr. Brownstein and Dr. Jorge Flechas, have committed their careers to researching iodine and disproving the myths that surround it. Their growing body of research is changing how diseases of the thyroid, breast, ovaries, uterus, and prostate are treated. At the American College for the Advancement of Medicine Conference in 2010, half of the doctors and practitioners reported that they were currently prescribing iodine to their patients. And research on iodine has resumed, showing that it can inhibit fibrocystic breast disease and breast cancer as well as seven other types of cancer.

And patients are speaking out about how iodine supplementation has drastically improved their health and potentially saved their lives. Throughout Dr. Brownstein’s and Farrow’s books, dozens of patients describe how iodine has cured their fibrocystic breast disease, shrunk tumors, eliminated prostate problems, resolved thyroid disease, eliminated fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue, and more. An internet search finds endless accounts of how iodine has cured infertility, breast disease, thyroid disease, and many different health conditions.

But since you can’t patent a naturally occurring substance, pharmaceutical companies can’t make money off of iodine. So you won’t see ads for iodine on TV, and you’ll need to look around to find a health professional who fully understands how to guide you through effective iodine supplementation.

How to begin iodine supplementation

If you suffer from any of the conditions or symptoms of iodine deficiency or bromine toxicity, it is worth your while to get tested for iodine deficiency and consider supplementation. This is especially important if you are pregnant or considering becoming pregnant, as iodine deficiency can cause infertility, miscarriage, preterm birth, intellectual disability, ADHD, autism, and birth defects.

Having been through this process myself, these are the steps I recommend following. Please remember that this is not medical advice. Please do not begin to supplement with iodine without first informing yourself.

1. Read Iodine: Why You Need It, Why You Can’t Live Without It by Dr. David Brownstein (Amazon or and The Iodine Crisis by Lynne Farrow (Amazon). Supplementing with iodine is not as simple as popping a pill; you need to understand the science of it, and you must follow a protocol of taking other vitamins and supplements that support the detoxification process.

2. Make an appointment with a healthcare provider if you are currently suffering from a diagnosed health condition OR if you have symptoms of a health condition. This could be an iodine literate practitioner , a functional medicine practitioner, an endocrinologist, or another type of provider that can monitor your health as you supplement with iodine.

3. If you want to do the at-home urine test for iodine deficiency, you can order it from Hakala Labs.
*You should read Dr. Brownstein’s book before doing the urine test. A doctor can order a blood test to check your iodine levels, but the urine test is typically more accurate.

4. If you decide to begin supplementing with iodine, be sure to follow the protocol of recommended dosage and supporting nutrients. The protocol can be found in the Resources section of Farrow’s book, and on

5. My personal recommendation is to start with a low dosage of iodine and gradually increase as you feel comfortable doing so, and if you feel it is necessary. You will probably experience some detox symptoms, but you can mitigate them by following the protocol and starting with a low dosage. The recommended types of iodine supplements are Lugol’s solution and Iodoral.