Iodine and Apoptosis - Implications For Immunity, Autoimmunity, Leaky Gut, Methylation, Cancer, etc.


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I've been doing a good deal of research the past few months on iodine, and feel I've learned much--as well as experiencing various health improvements from iodine supplementation. Though I feel I'm still in the beginning stages of my "iodine experimentation", (and at times feeling a bit overwhelmed by what a broad topic it is), I thought I'd share a few notes that I feel are particularly relevant to people with ME/CFS.

Iodine and Apoptosis: Iodine is needed by every cell in the body, but tends to concentrate in areas where there is frequent cell regeneration (apoptosis). This includes nasal passages and mucus cells of the stomach lining, where cell regeneration takes place every 2-3 days. If there is insufficient iodine in the body to perform this critical function, dysfunction occurs. -- Sounds to me like this could have some pretty significant implications for digestion and gut health, and affect some of the dynamics associated with leaky gut syndrome.

Iodine and Autoimmunity: Here's a couple of quotes from the book, "Breast Cancer and Iodine", by David M. Derry, MD, PhD. -- "Iodine can coat incoming allergic proteins to make them non-allergic...". "Iodine binds softly to the double and triple bond of lipids to protect these bonds while they are being transported to synaptic sites in the brain and blood vessels of the body". -- The author believes this is why iodine deficiency likely has major implications for all sorts of auto-immune conditions.

Iodine and Immunity: The above references to high concentrations of iodine in the nasal passages and stomach can have some pretty significant implications for our overall immunity. I read one testimonial online of a man who experienced exasperating, ongoing sinus infections for years, being unable to shake them. When he finally discovered iodine supplementation, his sinus infections cleared up within days. Reminded me of the many references I've seen of pw/ME/CFS struggling with sinus infections.

Also, as inferred by the title of the book I referenced "Breast Cancer and Iodine", the scientific evidence of the connection between iodine deficiency and cancer is by most accounts, extensive and irrefutable, even though it's doubtful most oncologists ever give it a second thought.

Iodine and Thyroid Health: The thyroid gland captures dietary iodine, and synthesizes thyroid hormones from it (T3 and T4), storing it in the body until needed. -- Interestingly, taking thyroid extract can correspondingly increase the amount of iodine needed by the thyroid gland. Even though the thyroid gland will function better, apparently this can happen at the expense of iodine concentrations in other parts of the body. -- A distinction is made between "Tissue Level" and "Blood Circulating Levels" of iodine.

A couple more points: Hal Huggins (holistic dentist for many decades) has extensive experience and knowledge of mercury toxicity and its many detrimental effects. He believes just one of these effects is mercury's ability to bind with T3 and T4, essentially rendering them unusable by the body. This could possibly explain why a good number of people often get thyroid tests that come back normal, but can improve their thyroid function and health significantly by supplementing with iodine.

Also, different parts of the body need different kinds of iodine. The thyroid gland apparently can only use the "iodide" form (potassium iodide being the most common). Breast tissue however can only use elemental iodine. This is why Lugols solution and other iodine supplements like Iodoral usually come in a ratio of 2 parts potassium iodine to 1 part elemental iodine. Note: There are other kinds of iodine out there, like "nascent iodine", atomidine, and I believe a couple of others. I've not learned enough about them as of yet to make any knowledgeable comments about them.

Iodine and Brain Function: "Lack of iodine during pregnancy is the leading cause of intellectual impairment in the world." -- A severe iodine deficiency that causes profound neurological damage and mental retardation is called cretinism. I've seen several references to a child's IQ being compromised by as much as 10-15 IQ points just from relatively mild iodine insufficiency during pregnancy.

The fetus,--and especially the fetal brain--undergo rapid (and critical) phases of apoptosis during pregnancy. The iodine levels in the fetus during this time can actually be as much as 5x greater than that of the mother during this time. Also, iodine is highly concentrated in breast milk, as high levels of iodine are also required for the fast growing infant.

Iodine and Improved Energy: The thyroid gland is critical for normal metabolism and energy production in the body. It's also critical for mitochondrial health, and as I recall, quite a few other areas of physiology having to do with energy production. A sense of increased energy and vitality is one of the most commonly noted aspects I've seen in the many online testimonials I've read. It's been one area that I've definitely noticed for myself. Though my overall functionality has improved only modestly so far, I do feel a much greater sense of "resiliency" in my system, and feel optimistic I'm building a foundation for myself as I go forward.

Iodine and Detoxification (incl. Methylation): Iodine supplementation will almost always result in significant halide detoxification (flourines, chlorines, bromines, etc,). These ubiquitous toxins displace iodine in cell receptor sites, and when they in turn are displaced by adequate iodine intake, it can lead to detoxification symptoms. This why it's recommended that iodine supplementation be approached with a degree of caution, especially for people with detoxification problems. Supplemental Vitamin C, salt, and transdermal magnesium chloride are often recommended to greatly support detoxification of these halides.

This comment I found online describes just some of the aspects of detoxification that occur (or can occur) when beginning iodine supplementation:

"Would we like another good reason to have normal iodine levels? How about for proper methylation! In simple terms methylation is a process in which certain chemicals called 'methyl groups' are added to various constituents of proteins, DNA and other molecules. These are needed to keep them in good working condition. And if 'methyl' sounds familiar, it's part of methylcobalamin which is the active form of B12.

So long story short, not enough iodine = underactive thyroid = not enough T4 which is needed to convert vitamin B2 (riboflavin) to its active co-enzyme form "FAD" which is needed for proper methylation. So it doesn't matter how much B2 you have, or how good your B12 level is, without sufficient T4 from a proper functioning thyroid, you won't have normal methylation (even if your MTHFR gene is normal). This will not be on the test."​

Iodine Literate Medical Doctors (ILMDs): There appears to be somewhat of an "iodine revolution" going on these past few years, largely due to the proliferation of knowledge being available and discussed online. This knowledge is stemming from examination of much of the scientific research that's been done, but often misunderstood or downright rejected by mainstream conventional medicine (sound familiar?).

One of the pioneers in this field is Lynne Farrow, who developed breast cancer, researched extensively, and after 8 long years, finally discovered the connection between iodine deficiency and breast cancer. Here's a link to her website: "Breast Cancer Choices". She credits iodine supplementation as being indispensable to her recovery.

She wrote about her experiences in the book, "The Iodine Crisis: What You Don't Know About Iodine Can Wreck Your Life". I think it's an excellent book, with a comprehensive history on how iodine was tragically shoved out of mainstream medicine, and how things are at long last starting to change with long-standing scientific evidence being correctly interpreted by some intrepid health care practitioners. -- Dr. Brownstein and Dr. Sircus are a couple of other pioneers, and have also written extensively on iodine supplementation.

I'll finish by mentioning that what I've written is only a short, broad outline of the whole topic of iodine, its history, and its many critical functions in the body. I tried to focus in on those areas that I feel are most relevant to pw/ME/CFS, but there are even more than I've listed. I thought I'd wait on posting about what I've learned until I could be more comprehensive. But what I'm learning just seems to be never-ending, so decided it's better to get started than to be too obsessive about being comprehensive. :)

From all the research I've done so far, I've learned that most (if not all) ILMDs believe over 90% of the population is iodine deficient, many of them severely so. Given that iodine is critical for areas of health that so many people with ME/CFS struggle with, I've come to believe that any progress we may be able to make by incorporating various health measures will most likely always be limited unless we address any iodine deficiencies we may be dealing with.

All the Best, Wayne
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Well-Known Member
Good write up in combining info. I've been looking into iodine myself. Just yesterday I started Kelp on a daily basis. Going to see if taking it in more natural, whole form with assisting minerals might make it more effective.



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OTOH, I was very happy to find this info by a thyroid doc. I tired numerous times over the past years to take iodine. Each time I broke out in rashes. I eventually labelled them dermatitis herpetiformis, which in turn led me to label my hypothyroid as indeed, Hashimotos. I even had to change from one sort of Himalayan salt to another to avoid the reaction.

As I explained in the book, iodine stimulates the activity of the thyroid peroxidase (TPO) enzyme, which triggers thyroid hormone production. This is why so many thyroid supplements contain iodine, even though the thyroid only needs enough iodine to fit on the head of a pin each day in order to perform its duties.

Supplementing with iodine stimulates the production and activity of TPO. For most people with Hashimoto’s, TPO also happens to be the site of autoimmune attack, and surrounding thyroid tissue is damaged in the process. So everytime TPO production is stimulated, the immune system, which perceives TPO as a foreign invader to be eradicated, responds more aggressively and amps up the attack.

I simply believe, based on my research and clinical experience, that iodine is an unnecessary risk when managing Hashimoto’s, especially since we have safer and more effective ways to work with a improperly functioning immune system.

(please see “The effect of iodine restriction on thyroid function in patients with hypothyroidism due to Hashimoto’s thyroiditis” in the studies post).

In this study subjects with Hashimoto’s were divided into two groups. One group ate a normal diet. The other group was put on a diet that strictly avoided iodine so that they consumed less than 100 mcg per day. Eighty percent of the group who avoided dietary iodine experienced complete remission of their thyroid symptoms!

Therefore I am asking my Hashimoto’s patients to avoid iodine rich foods, such as seafoods, seaweeds and iodized salt in order to see how this affects clinical outcomes.


Well-Known Member
Hi @Veet

Thanks for the link. I have a Hashimoto's diagnosis, so it definitely made me pause when I read how iodine can be contraindicated for it. I checked out Lynne Farrow's book (copyright 2013), and found her following reference to this (followed by two links to check out):

"Originally, practitioners thought there might be a problem with Hashimoto's patients taking iodine. ... After much study by the experienced iodine practitioners, it has become clear that iodine deficiency is often the most direct cause of Hashimoto's, combined with selenium deficiency.

Contact on Iodine Literate Practitioner who is experienced in using iodine for auto immune diseases. If your practitioner has not trained under the supervision of one of the major iodine doctors, he or she may not know the additional protocols for auto-immune disease, including the necessity of the right amount of selenium.

Facts about Iodine and Autoimmune Thyroiditis

Selenium for Hashimoto's Thyroiditis by Jeffrey Dach MD
She also provided this testimonial in her book:

"My daughter has Hashi's. I then started her on Iodoral slowly building up to 150 mg. The antibody numbers kept coming down. I resisted starting her on Iodine at first because of the warnings I had heard about Hasihi's and iodine. I was so nervous, but I'm so grateful we did it."
Veet, from the article you linked to, the last paragraph read, "The antibody tests for Hashimoto’s are affordable and easy. If you have Hashimoto’s and you or your doctor insists on iodine supplementation, do yourself a favor and monitor your antibody levels, your TSH, and your thyroid symptoms, and don’t be too quick to pass off negative effects as a detox.

That sounds like good advice to me. Iodine is such a powerful nutrient, and my best guess is everybody's individual reactions to supplementation are likely going to be highly individualized, perhaps especially if someone has Hashimoto's.


Someone, Izabella Wentz maybe? said that Hashi's was a result of a fungal infection in the thyroid and that taking iodine killed the fungus. The symptoms weren't actually an increased antibody response but die off.

Gosh, I wish I could remember that interview for sure because it was interesting!


Well-Known Member
Someone, Izabella Wentz maybe? said that Hashi's was a result of a fungal infection in the thyroid and that taking iodine killed the fungus. The symptoms weren't actually an increased antibody response but die off.

Well, that's pretty interesting!

I just ran across an article by a doctor who shares some of his perspectives on testing his patients for iodine deficiency. The snippet below is just part of that article...

One simple pill stops breast, prostate, and thyroid cancers

Are you taking iodine? You do if you are my patient. I recommend iodine to all of my patients because I believe it will prevent breast and prostate cancers. Even though there's no direct proof of this, there's a substantial amount of indirect evidence. But one thing is for sure. Taking iodine will prevent the most serious form of the most common cancer there is. I'm talking about thyroid cancer.

Iodine is critical for the formation of thyroid hormones. And thyroid hormones are essential for life. They are the hormones that specifically tell the cells to do what they are supposed to do. So when you're iodine deficient, your cells stop working and things start falling apart. The brain then registers this and sends stimulating signals to the thyroid to produce the hormones the body needs so badly. This causes the thyroid to overwork, and eventually the over stimulation of the thyroid gland can result in the formation of an aggressive thyroid cancer.

The best form of iodine is called Lugol's solution. It was developed way back in 1829 by, you guessed it, Dr. Lugol. It is a mixture of potassium iodide and elemental iodine. You can buy it at in either a liquid or a tablet. The tablet form is the best way to take it. The dose I recommend for all adults is one 12.5 mg tablet per day. But what about testing, you say?

About 15 years ago, a challenge test for optimum iodine levels was developed. I started doing the test on all of my patients. But guess what? Every single one of the hundreds of tests I did indicated that no one had adequate levels of iodine. Absolutely no one. So I called the director of one of the labs and asked him about it. And he confirmed that he had never seen a normal test on someone who was not already taking an iodine supplement.

So naturally I asked him, "Then why should I do the test if everyone is going to end up being low anyway?" His answer was, "It just seems like a reasonable thing to do." So instead of doing an initial test, I simply started giving everyone 12.5 mg of Lugol's every day. Then I did the test after they were on it for a few months. And sure enough, that was all that was needed to establish a normal result.

By the way, 12.5 mg is the average amount of iodine that Japanese men and women get in their diets. And the Japanese have lower risks for both prostate and breast cancer. But here's an interesting statistic. When Japanese men and women move to the U.S. and adopt an American diet, which contains only a fraction of the iodine the traditional Japanese diet has, they have the same cancer risks as Americans have.

Yours for better health,

Frank Shallenberger, MD​
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