Wellness

Why We Shouldn’t Dismiss Iodine

Medical Medium Anthony William’s take on medical mysteries and complex, even controversial, health issues has changed the way we live, think, and eat. William famously gets to the bottom of his patients’ misunderstood illnesses and helps them heal using wisdom passed on to him from a divine voice he calls Spirit. The healing power of food almost always plays a central role—William’s second book is titled Medical Medium Life-Changing Foods; and here, William shares his insight on iodine—not just in terms of supplements, but also in terms of food. Iodine is a mineral that can be overlooked in conventional medicine and in our diets; Williams outlines why iodine is so absolutely critical for the health of our immune systems and essential in warding off diseases of nearly every kind.

A Q&A with Anthony William

Q

Why does the body need iodine?

A

We’re up against enormous challenges in our daily lives. One common challenge is a weakened immune system in the face of the bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens we encounter in our environments. Iodine is essential for two main reasons: (1) your immune system relies on this mineral to function, and (2) iodine is a natural antiseptic.

So at the same time iodine supports your immune system in fending off invaders and improves your immunity so you’re less susceptible to symptoms and illness, the iodine itself repels viruses and bacteria. Someone who’s getting iodine has a lower chance of catching something like MRSA in a hospital, because this superbug can’t thrive in a body with enough iodine. Similarly, the virus responsible for Hashimoto’s thyroiditis—the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)—does not like iodine, because it gets in the way of the virus’s advancement.

While iodine does also help with thyroid hormone production, that’s one small aspect of why iodine is important for your health. As far as how much iodine you need, this isn’t a case where you want to go overboard. A moderate amount of the right supplement can be helpful, though it’s also possible to get enough iodine with the right foods.

Q

Is iodine deficiency common today?

A

Iodine deficiency is not as common as it once was, back in the early-to-mid-1900’s, though it’s still common enough to cause trouble—even more trouble than it once did. In this day and age, our immune systems are our crutches for survival. It’s not only the pathogens we just talked about that bombard us. Our immune systems also keep us going through environmental toxin exposure, an overabundance of stress, emotional challenges, struggles, losses, and hardships.

Because we’re up against so much now—dealing with more demands than ever before—our bodies use up iodine faster than ever. It’s not enough that, for the most part, we have a little more iodine in our systems than we once did. Due to those increased demands and their physical effects, an iodine deficiency of today has more serious health implications than an iodine deficiency did in the 1950’s, ’60s, or even ’70s. It’s more important than ever that we give our immune systems the support they need.

Q

What are the symptoms? How is iodine deficiency diagnosed?

A

A severe iodine deficiency can lead to a very weakened thyroid as well as possible fluid retention and swelling around the thyroid (also known as goiter). We don’t see as many real, serious goiters as we did in the past, though. What we see are other real signs of iodine deficiency: chronic urinary tract infections (UTIs), chronic sinus infections, acne, H. pylori infection, ulcers, boils, easily catching colds and flus, bronchitis, pneumonia, tonsillitis, and laryngitis. These are examples of when an iodine deficiency really showcases itself. There are also many subtle symptoms of a lowered immune system caused by iodine deficiency, such as cold sores, canker sores, styes, itchy eyes, itchy ears, allergies, postnasal drip, sore throat, chronic cough, hemorrhoids, ingrown toenail swelling, toenail and fingernail fungus, and cuts or scratches that get infected.

As for diagnosis, if you show up at the doctor’s office with a goiter, chances are she or he will suspect you’re iodine-deficient. If you don’t have that swelling around your thyroid to clue your doctor into a diagnosis, on the other hand, it’s not so easy to pinpoint. Although blood tests can sometimes detect trace amounts of iodine in the blood, it’s very elusive, so testing is not entirely reliable. One quick clue is coloration of the fingernails. If your fingernails don’t have healthy color to them, chances are you’re lacking enough iodine.

Q

Do we need to be concerned about getting too much iodine?

A

If your doctor prescribes iodine pills and you take them all at once, you may get flushed and nauseated, with a racing heart, and your body will be forced to discard it. Outside of that rare circumstance, it’s pretty uncommon to get too much iodine. The real concern is whether you’re getting enough of it. Are you eating enough iodine-rich foods? Are you supplementing with a little high-quality iodine once in a while? That’s where you want to focus.

As I wrote about in my goop article “The Truth about Hashimoto’s, the Autoimmune Confusion, and How to Reclaim Your Thyroid,” there’s a trend focused on the idea that iodine creates inflammation of the thyroid. That theory isn’t how it works. What’s really going on is that iodine’s potent disinfectant properties can create a die-off reaction in the body for anyone with a bacterial or viral infection. If you have an advanced case of thyroiditis, then you want to take it slowly with introducing iodine into your life so that you don’t become overwhelmed by viral die-off symptoms—though it’s also key to avoid being completely iodine-deficient.

Q

Can you explain the iodine-thyroid connection? What effect does iodine have on thyroid dysfunction?

A

The Epstein-Barr virus causes 95 percent of all thyroid conditions, including hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, Graves’ disease, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, and thyroid nodules, tumors, and cysts. The other 5 percent of thyroid dysfunction is due to radiation exposure from sources such as dental X-rays, other X-rays and exams, plane travel, and the radiation that’s around us in our atmosphere. Iodine is critical in both of these cases, because it is an antiviral agent that reduces any sort of viral load in the thyroid and the rest of the body, plus it protects the thyroid from radiation.

Whether you get your iodine from food or supplementation, it’s a valuable tool in slowing down and killing off EBV so that your body has the opportunity to heal, bringing your thyroid back to better functioning. A thyroid with little to no iodine is more likely to become infected and inflamed by EBV, causing symptoms such as Hashimoto’s. So the relationship between iodine and the thyroid is really about protecting you from EBV so your thyroid can return to homeostasis—that is, iodine is part of your armor in protecting your thyroid. Again, it’s not about overdoing it. All you need is a moderate amount in your diet or supplementation protocol.

Q

Does iodine play a role in the body’s cancer defense?

A

Iodine is a critical cancer preventative, helping to stave off thyroid cancer, breast cancer, brain cancer, lung cancer, liver cancer, stomach cancer, pancreatic cancer, and cancers of the mouth and jaw, among others. Since most cancers are pathogen-caused, iodine is your ally, because it is an antiseptic to those pathogens.

It’s not uncommon to have an iodine deficiency passed along at birth. As a result, a person can have a lifelong iodine deficiency that contributes to a susceptibility to cancer. This fact slips through the cracks of modern medicine. It’s imperative that you know this truth, so you can protect yourself and your loved ones. Bringing iodine into your life can help you fight cancer.

Q

Which iodine-rich foods do you recommend? Is it possible for most people to get a sufficient amount of iodine from diet alone?

A

Some of the best foods to focus on are ones I highlight in my book Medical Medium Life-Changing Foods: Save Yourself and the Ones You Love with the Hidden Healing Powers of Fruits & Vegetables for their iodine content: leafy greens (including mâche; arugula; spinach; and romaine, red leaf, and butter lettuces), onions, sprouts, microgreens, parsley, dandelion, and Atlantic sea vegetables (dulse and kelp are some of my favorites). Much of the time, if you’re eating enough of these iodine-rich foods—particularly dulse and kelp—you can get all of the iodine you need. Don’t let this list overwhelm you. Just try bringing in one or two of these foods a day.

Q

What kind of iodine supplement do you recommend?

A

If it’s too difficult to get those foods into your diet, you may want to consider an iodine supplement. Look for spirulina, bladderwrack, or kelp capsules, or a high-quality nascent iodine designed for oral/internal use.

Q

Are there other common mineral imbalances we should be aware of?

A

Yes—zinc deficiency is rampant. It’s the missing mineral deficiency that deserves far more attention. For one, zinc brings iodine to life. Zinc synergistically ignites the mineral, turning iodine “on” and making it more bioactive and bioavailable so that your body can use it. Without zinc—when you’re zinc-deficient—you can’t hold onto iodine, and it leaves your body very quickly, so you lose out on iodine’s healing benefits even when you’re getting plenty of it. When you’re getting enough zinc, though, it allows the body to take in that iodine, hold onto it, and get it to work for you.

Further, zinc itself plays an even more important role than iodine in supporting the thyroid, the rest of the endocrine system, and the immune system. It’s critical for protecting us against cancer, other disease, and pathogens such as viruses and bacteria.

Look for a high-quality, preservative-free, liquid zinc sulfate, and add in some zinc-rich foods, too. Berries, cherries, asparagus, cruciferous vegetables (particularly radishes and collard greens), artichokes, nettle leaf, onions, sprouts, microgreens, parsley, and raw honey are all great sources of zinc. As you can read about in Medical Medium Life-Changing Foods, eating collard greens and pumpkin seeds together takes their individual zinc content’s bioavailability to a new level. For a fun way to combine them, try making wraps with collard greens and pumpkin seed pâté.

Q

Are prebiotics important?

A

The reality is that a prebiotic is any food that feeds good bacteria and other beneficial microorganisms in the intestinal tract while it starves bad bacteria and other unproductive microorganisms there. All raw fruits and vegetables—and only raw fruits and vegetables, whether they’re wild, organic, or even grown conventionally—have that prebiotic effect of feeding the healthy microorganisms in your gut. Frozen wild blueberries, either thawed or blended into smoothies, provide the most profound support in this area. Whatever diet you subscribe to (or don’t subscribe to), just incorporate more raw fruits and vegetables into what you normally eat for that prebiotic boost.

Another very important part of gut health is the special type of microorganism that no one talks about, which is found on certain foods. These foods encourage proper balance from the beginning of the intestinal tract all the way to the end of the colon. They’re foods that you eat raw and fresh from the garden, orchard, or farmers’ market—think kale, spinach, radishes, sprouts, microgreens, cucumbers, tomatoes, apples, and berries, among others. Their leaves and skins are coated with powerful microorganisms called elevated biotics—the microorganisms that keep us the healthiest. One benefit of these elevated biotics is that they go deep into your intestinal tract, most notably reaching the ileum, your body’s main center of B12 production and absorption—and the location where methylation occurs.

These elements are some of the most powerful weapons against disease. With your gut in good order and your iodine and zinc needs met, you’ll gain access to that foundational support system we all need—so that you and your family can look forward to a good life and a healthy future.

For over twenty-five years, Anthony William has devoted his life to helping people overcome and prevent illness—and discover the lives they were meant to live. What he does is several decades ahead of scientific discovery. His compassionate approach has time and again given relief and results to those who seek him out. He is the host of the weekly radio show “Medical Medium” and the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Medical Medium Thyroid Healing: The Truth behind Hashimoto’s, Graves’, Insomnia, Hypothyroidism, Thyroid Nodules & Epstein Barr; Medical Medium Life-Changing Foods: Save Yourself and the Ones You Love with the Hidden Healing Powers of Fruits & Vegetables; and Medical Medium: Secrets Behind Chronic and Mystery Illness and How to Finally Heal.

The views expressed in this article intend to highlight alternative studies and induce conversation. They are the views of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of goop, and are for informational purposes only, even if and to the extent that this article features the advice of physicians and medical practitioners. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.

You may also like