Category Archives: Iodine and Selenium

How Much Iodine To Take? Much Iodine To Take?

If you have been recommended to take iodine and have no idea how much iodine to take, or even the best form of iodine, you are not alone, it can be incredibly confusing. With this article I will share some knowledge with you about how and when to supplement with iodine, how much iodine to take, and why you should even consider it.

The Tendency To Hypothyroidism

With our increasingly toxic world, many people tend towards hypothyroidism, that is, insufficient production of thyroid hormones by the thyroid gland.

From a breast cancer perspective, hypothyroidism can occur both before and after breast cancer strikes and can be caused by several things. Sometimes it is due to the low iodine content of the average modern diet, sometimes it occurs as a direct result of having breast cancer, and sometimes it results from an excess of heavy metal contamination in a person’s environment. Chlorinated water in particular is toxic to the thyroid gland. There are a few other factors as well, but because of the fact that the thyroid gland is an important regulator for a good portion of the endocrine system, it is vitally important to know when and how to properly supplement with iodine.

Classic signs of hypothyroidism include reduced energy levels, weight gain, low metabolism, fatigue, fuzzy thinking, and even a little depression. I know – I just described nearly every single woman after breast cancer treatments end!

It’s no wonder that people feel this way when the thyroid isn’t functioning well. An iodine deficiency slows down all of the systems of the body. It has been said that every 17 minutes all of the blood in the body passes through the thyroid gland and if there is an insufficient quantity of iodine to pass along to the cells that need it, there will be repercussions, make no mistake.

Iodine is a good tissue healer, a natural antiseptic and detoxifier, it elevates blood pH, helps the body absorb minerals and vitamins, and assists a broad range of illnesses, breast cancer being just one of them.

Iodine and the P53 Gene

Iodine is critical for a gene known as P53, which is fondly referred to as the “Guardian of the Genetic Code”, it’s that important. Without iodine and selenium, the P53 gene is unable to function properly, and it is critically needed by cancer patients to help eliminate abnormal cells from the body. [1]

Food Sources of Iodine

There are some decent food sources of iodine, but the trouble is that getting a therapeutic dose from food is often difficult to achieve.

These foods include a good amount of iodine:

  • Sea vegetables such as kelp, hiziki, arame, kombu, and wakame (however, you would need to satisfy yourself that the ocean the sea vegetables came from was not polluted with heavy metals, otherwise sea vegetables are not a safe source of iodine)
  • organic yogurt
  • organic cranberries
  • organic strawberries
  • organic goat’s cheese
  • organic navy beans
  • organic kale
  • organic broccoli
  • organic cabbage
  • organic Brussels sprouts
  • organic potatoes
  • organic turnips
  • organic kohlrabi

Yes, I just used the word “organic” that many times because organic produce has way MORE iodine in it than conventionally grown produce and none of the associated pesticides.

Checking the Thyroid

1. Get your thyroid hormone levels checked at your local doctor’s office through a simple blood test. If found to have insufficient levels – or even bordering on low – by all means, supplement.

2. A decent self test is to paint some Lugol’s iodine onto the skin (especially the neck area as the thyroid gland is located at the front of the throat) and allow it to penetrate. Generally speaking, the body will absorb it in an hour or less if you are deficient in iodine. This isn’t always the case, however, so getting blood levels tested is always a preferable method.

Different Types of Iodine

If you are going to supplement you will run across a few different options, but the two main types are something called Lugol’s iodine or nascent iodine. Some natural health experts believe Lugol’s iodine to be quite safe and effective for iodine supplementation, while others vastly prefer nascent iodine. It’s a hotly debated topic so to help you choose, here’s a little more about each one.

Lugol’s Iodine

Lugol’s is not a brand name, rather it is a type of iodine solution in which iodine is combined with potassium (potassium iodide). It is named after the 19th century French physician who developed it, Jean Guillaume Auguste Lugol. It is available in a variety of dilutions, but normally 2 percent or 5 percent. Lugol’s can be a little harder on the stomach and rather bitter to the taste, so the preferable route of applying it is transdermally, through the skin.

Link to Lugol’s 2% solution

Link to Lugol’s 5% solution

One maker of Lugol’s advises:

Lugol’s 5% – Each vertical drop equals about 6.25 mg of iodine/potassium iodide
Lugol’s 2% – Each vertical drop equals about 2.5 mg of iodine/potassium iodide

The Difference Between Vertical and Horizontal Drops

There are two different ways to administer a dosage, vertical and horizontal drops.

Vertical – hold the dropper vertical (straight up and down) and squeeze the rubber top. Each vertical drop of 5% Lugol’s is equal to 6.25 mg of iodine, less than half that amount for the 2%.

Horizontal – with the dropper held horizontally (side to side – like the horizon), you’ll get twice as much per drop, or 12.5 mg of iodine (5%)

Nascent Iodine

Where Lugol’s iodine combines iodine with potassium, nascent iodine has a slightly different configuration, atomically speaking. Without wanting to sound like a chemistry class, the nascent iodine molecule has the diatomic bond broken, with each atom keeping one of the two electrons that made up the covalent bond, and that gives it a high electromagnetic charge. Many iodine gurus believe this makes the nascent variety more absorbable and more effective as a supplement.

Nascent iodine is a 2 percent solution, meaning 2 percent iodine to a base of 98 percent grain alcohol or vegetable glycerine. Nascent iodine is much more palatable and not as hard on the stomach as the Lugol’s so it can be more easily taken orally.

The Difference Between Grain Alcohol and Vegetable Glycerin

When taking nascent iodine with an alcohol base, know that the alcohol is simply ethanol, also known as grain alcohol. Yes, it is the same alcohol used to make alcoholic beverages, so it is an intoxicant. This form may not be appropriate for everyone, particularly children, recovering alcoholics or those fighting cancer. Another factor is that alcohol is often made with GMO corn. See my article We Must Avoid Genetically Modified Organisms.

Nascent iodine made from vegetable glycerine is probably a much safer supplement although you have to be wary here too. Some glycerine is derived from animals, some of it comes from GMO soy. If you can find it made with certified organic or Kosher-certified vegetable glycerine, so much the better. This type of vegetable glycerine is much safer and gentler as a preservative and will not present you with any of the problems associated with alcohol or GMO products. It is better absorbed, does not upset blood sugar levels like alcohol can, is easier on the delicate tissues of the body and is not toxic to the liver. Here’s the one I recommend.

Therapeutic Dosage of Iodine

According to Dr Mark Sircus, one of the world leaders on iodine supplementation, 2% nascent iodine contains around 400 micrograms (mcg) per drop so 10 drops would equal 4 mg of iodine. 100 drops would equal 40 mg. He says it’s safe to take much higher dosages than that suggested on the bottles. The sicker the person, the more iodine they need.

Dr Sircus states “One hundred drops a day is a strong dose, but when treating life threatening diseases it would not be unheard of to use upward of 200 drops a day in divided doses. It is very important to remember though that one should not shoot straight up to these dosage levels. One should start at low dosages and monitor for detox reactions, which will be less if sodium bicarbonate and other substances are used in conjunction.”

You can take it internally and you can take it trans-dermally (through the skin).

For hypothyroid conditions, I recommend using:
25-50 mg per day until condition stabilizes (check with blood test), thereafter 12 mg for maintenance dose

For breast or prostate cancer, up to 300 mg per day is considered by Dr Sircus to be a therapeutic dose, but that dosage is also hotly debated in natural health circles. If you are going to use a high dose, start at low dosages and work up to this dosage, and don’t take it all at once. Divided doses are best. Dr David Brownstein uses 200-300 mg per day for those with breast cancer and prostate cancer or for those who have metastases.

At high dosages, just please be aware of any unusual symptoms such as sweating, oily skin, high blood pressure, heart palpitations, feeling jittery, and bulging eyes as these symptoms can indicate you are taking too much iodine.

Iodine is best taken on an empty stomach 30 minutes before a meal, or at least one hour after meals, other medications and/or supplements. Taking it in early evening is not recommended because it can raise energy levels and keep you awake at night. So the best times to take it are 30 minutes before breakfast, 30 minutes before lunch and/or around 3:30 in the afternoon, no later than that.

Don’t Forget the Selenium

Selenium is also necessary for a properly functioning thyroid and it’s another mineral of which we have all too little in our diet. Selenium is required for the conversion of the thyroid hormone T3 (triiodothyronine, an inactive hormone) to T4 (thyroxine, the active thyroid hormone). For more information on this interplay, see my article Why Iodine and Selenium Are Useful for Breast Cancer

If you have been diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, make sure you are under a health professional’s care and advice before supplementing with iodine.


1. Enzyme’s Cancer-promoting Activities Linked To Inactivation Of ‘Genome Guardian’ –

Christiane Northrup – Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom (Revised Edition)

Dr Mark Sircus – Iodine – Bringing Back The Universal Medicine (e-book)

Charles Walters – Minerals for the Genetic Code (e-book)
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Why Iodine and Selenium Are Useful For Breast Cancer

Photo courtesy of / khuruzero

Why Iodine and Selenium Are Useful For Breast Cancer

One of the things I always recommend for women after they have been through the gamut of treatments for breast cancer is that they go and get their thyroid checked out by their doctor, and the reason I make this recommendation is that there is almost always an issue with the thyroid for breast cancer patients.  It is important to note that having hyperthyroidism (an overactive thyroid) can increase your breast cancer risk.  Interestingly, however, a person who has had breast cancer already can often find themselves with a hypothyroid (underactive thyroid) condition.  How can this be?  Iodine and selenium are part of this equation and play an important role.

Hyperthyroidism Increases Breast Cancer Risk

In 2010, the results of a 20-year study that followed over 2600 women  were reported in Breast Cancer Research.  The women were divided into four groups based on their thyroid hormone levels and the study found that the higher the levels of thyroid hormone, the greater their risk for breast cancer, a nearly 7 times higher risk.  Those with the lowest thyroid hormone levels had the lowest risk.  The women in the intermediate level groups had 3 and 5 times the risk of those with low to normal levels. (Tosovic A, Bondeson AG, Bondeson L, Ericsson UB, Malm J, Manjer J. Prospectively measured triiodothyronine levels are positively associated with breast cancer risk in postmenopausal women. Breast Cancer Res. 2010;12(3):R33. Epub 2010 Jun 11)

Some of the symptoms of an overactive thyroid include sudden weight loss, rapid heartbeat, increased appetite, nervousness and anxiety, tremors, sweating, changes in bowel patterns, fatigue, difficulty sleeping, skin thinning and fine, brittle hair.  If you are experiencing a lot of these symptoms, best to go and get your thyroid checked out.

Those With Breast Cancer Often Have Hypothyroid Condition After Treatments

Conversely, it has been discovered that people who have gone through the treatments for breast cancer often find themselves with a hypothyroid (underactive thyroid) condition and at first it was thought that the actual treatments had caused the problem – radiation was particularly suspected.

In 2008, however, a large study completed by MD Anderson discovered that radiation treatments did not increase rates of hypothyroidism, but just having breast cancer did – those who had breast cancer had a 21% higher risk of being hypothyroid compared to the control group. (Smith GL, Smith BD, Giordano SH, Shih YC, Woodward WA, Strom EA, et al. Risk of hypothyroidism in older breast cancer patients treated with radiation. Cancer. 2008 Mar 15; 112(6): 1371-9)

The naturopath so often quoted in this website, Dr Jacob Schor, says that “… nutritional deficiencies, in particular iodine and possibly selenium deficiency may be to blame.  The second theory getting attention is that the breast cancer triggers an autoimmune reaction leading to hypothyroidism.” 

Dr Schor further stated recently “The immune system may accidentally attack the thyroid gland after being provoked by the cancer.  Perhaps patients with breast cancer experience an immune response to the breast tumor that is also directed against the thyroid gland.  Both breast and thyroid tissue share the same sodium-iodide symporter and the immune system may simply target an antigen the two have in common.”

Interesting observation, is it not?  Dr Schor feels that some patients may be deficient in iodine, while others may have autoimmune thyroid disease triggered by their cancer.  His thinking is that we should be testing breast cancer patients both for iodine deficiency and for thyroid antibodies.  He goes on to say “Iodine is the greatest common denominator linking both breast and thyroid health.”

Iodine’s Role in Breast Health

Your breasts contain one of the highest concentrations of iodine in your body.  Most natural therapists know that an iodine deficiency is associated with cyst formation.  Many women develop fibrocystic breast disease, with cysts turning into small lumps called nodules.  In prolonged iodine deficiency, these nodules become hyperplastic, meaning that cells are multiplying abnormally.  And hyperplasticity is a precursor to cancer.  Thus, long-term iodine deficiency can lead to breast cancer.

Both animal and human studies indicate that iodine suppresses breast cancer development.  Some researchers have felt that iodine should be used for breast cancer therapy because of its antiproliferative properties in the mammary gland. (Aceves C, Anguiano B, Delgado G.  Is iodine a gatekeeper of the integrity of the mammary gland? J Mammary Gland Biol Neoplasia. 2005 Apr;10(2):189-96)

An interesting study done on rats pretreated with iodine demonstrated that the iodine protected them from developing breast cancer after they were exposed to a strong carcinogen normally used to trigger breast cancer (Funahashi H: Wakame seaweed suppresses the proliferation of 7,12-dimethylbenz(a)-anthracene-induced mammary tumours in rats. Jpn J Cancer Res 1999, 90:992-997)

An even more interesting study done on rats by the same researchers found that an iodine-rich solution made from a combination of seaweed and water suppressed carcinogenesis in rats, and in test tubes it induced apoptosis (programmed cell death) more efficiently than the chemotherapy drug fluorouracil. (Funahashi H, Imai T, Mase T, Sekiya M, Yokoi K, Hayashi H, Shibata A, Hayashi T, Nishikawa M, Suda N, Hibi Y, Mizuno Y, Tsukamura K, Hayakawa A, Tanuma S:  Seaweed prevents breast cancer? Jpn J Cancer Res 2001, 92:483-487)

It isn’t just the thyroid and breasts that need iodine, however.  Other tissues that absorb and use large amounts of iodine include salivary glands, pancreas, cerebrospinal fluid, skin, stomach, brain and thymus.

Seaweed To The Rescue

Seaweed has a long history of being a rich source of iodine.  In places like Japan where dietary seaweed intake is high, there is a much lower incidence of breast cancer – only 6.6 people out of 100,000 get breast cancer in Japan.  The rate in the UK is 27 per 100,000 and 22 per 100,000 in the USA.  I read today that it’s much worse in Australia, the rate is closer to 113.5 per 100,000.

Dietary sea vegetables provide 25 times more dietary iodine than is found in the standard American diet and it is thought that this high iodine intake may be part of what accounts for the low risk of breast cancer among Japanese women.  In particular wakame and mekabu seaweed are good sources of iodine  and can generally be purchased from health food shops and purveyors of Asian foods.

Why not iodized salt?  It would initially seem this might be an easier (and possibly more palatable) source of iodine.  The problem is that common table salt is actually toxic and bad for your health!  See my article The Salt That Can Improve Your Health for more information.

Dosage Information

The recommended daily dose for iodine has traditionally been 150 micrograms for adults but it should be noted that this was the dose responsible for decreasing the incidence of goiter.  Researchers are now finding that much higher dosages are required and 12.5 milligrams per day has been well tolerated and considered to be a therapeutic dose. For a more involved discussion, see my article How Much Iodine to Take.

The Selenium Link

Dr Schor taught me way back in 1997 when my mother was seeing him for her breast cancer that selenium is an important nutrient for those with breast cancer.  Selenium deficiency is also considered to be a link between hypothyroid conditions and breast cancer.  The thyroid gland contains more selenium by weight than any other organ in the body.  Recent studies confirm that the lower a person’s selenium levels are, the greater their risk of cancer.

Selenium is a known protective mineral against breast cancer, it alters the genes to make the body less susceptible to getting cancer. (El-Bayoumy K, Sinha R. Molecular chemoprevention by selenium: a genomic approach. Mutat Res. 2005 Dec 11;591(1-2):224-36) . 

In addition, selenium compounds also act as natural aromatase inhibitors (and we are always on the lookout for natural aromatase inhibitors!). (Gao R, Zhao L, Liu X, Rowan BG, Wabitsch M, Edwards DP, Nishi Y, et al. Methylseleninic acid is a novel suppressor of aromatase expression. J Endocrinol. 2012 Feb;212(2):199-205)

A big thank you to Dr Schor for providing me with these last two research studies.

Some forms of selenium are better than others, I have found this Life Extension article to be useful for explaining which forms of selenium are the most protective: Selenium: What Forms Protect Against Cancer?

Other Resources Not Cited Above:

The Thyroid, Iodine and Breast Cancer by Peter PA Smyth, 2003

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