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. 
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 goat’s cheese
organic navy beans
organic Brussels sprouts
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 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.
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%)
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.
 Iodine induces apoptosis via regulating MAPKs-related p53, p21, and Bcl-xL in thyroid cancer cells – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20138958
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Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net / 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 the journal, 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 seven times higher risk. Those with the lowest thyroid hormone levels had the lowest risk. The women in the intermediate level groups had three and five times the risk of those with low to normal levels.
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, it would be a good idea to go and get your thyroid checked.
Those With Breast Cancer Often Have Hypothyroid Condition After Treatments
On the other hand, it has been discovered that people who have gone through the treatments for breast cancer often find themselves with a hypothyroid (underactive thyroid) condition. At first it was thought that the treatments for breast cancer – chemotherapy and radiation – had caused the problem – radiation was particularly suspected.
In 2008, however, a large study found 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. 
The oncology naturopath 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 “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. 
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. 
An even more interesting 2001 study done on rats by the same researchers found that an iodine-rich solution made from a combination of seaweed and water suppressed carcinogenesis (the development of cancer) in rats, and in test tubes it induced apoptosis (programmed cell death) more efficiently than the chemotherapy drug fluorouracil. 
A more recent 2013 study performed by Malaysian scientists found that seaweed was more effective than Tamoxifen in suppressing tumor growth, with little to no toxicity. 
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. It’s much higher here in Australia, the rate is closer to 113.5 per 100,000.
What are the best kinds of SAFE seaweed to consume if you want to prevent breast cancer?
Dietary seaweed provides 25 times more dietary iodine than is found in the standard diet. The best source of iodine in seaweed, according to the research I have read, are from brown and red seaweeds such as dulse, kelp, hijiki, sagassum, gracillaia, and Irish moss. Nori is okay – it’s certainly well known, but it does not contain that much iodine. There’s another factor to consider as well – since Fukushima, finding a safe source of seaweed is more difficult. Scientists are discovering that though the highest concentrations of radiation are being found higher up the food chain (in fish, shrimp, prawns, lobsters etc) trace amounts of polonium and other radioactive elements have been detected in Pacific Ocean seaweeds as well.
I have found a company that has USDA certified organic seaweed products available. Family-owned and operated, the seaweed is grown in a protected region off the coast of South Korea. Here’s a link to their product on Amazon.
What about Iodized Salt?
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.
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 on types of iodine and how to get a therapeutic dose, 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 also 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. 
In addition, selenium compounds also act as natural aromatase inhibitors (and we are always on the lookout for natural aromatase inhibitors!). 
Importantly, selenium also seems to inhibit the formation of cancer stem cells. ,  And selenium has been shown to inhibit estrogen receptor alpha (ER-a) signaling in ER+/PR+ breast cancer cells , . ER-a is associated with promotion of proliferation of breast cells.
 Prospectively measured triiodothyronine levels are positively associated with breast cancer risk in postmenopausal women — https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2917028/
 Risk of hypothyroidism in older breast cancer patients treated with radiation — https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18213620
 Is iodine a gatekeeper of the integrity of the mammary gland? — https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16025225
 Wakame seaweed suppresses the proliferation of 7,12-dimethylbenz(a)-anthracene-induced mammary tumours in rats — https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5926170/
 Seaweed prevents breast cancer? — https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5926746/
 Comparison of tamoxifen with edible seaweed (Eucheuma cottonii L.) extract in suppressing breast tumor — https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23441613
 Molecular chemoprevention by selenium: a genomic approach — https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16099479
 Methylseleninic acid is a novel suppressor of aromatase expression — https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22128327
 The Regulation of Pathways of Inflammation and Resolution in Immune Cells and Cancer Stem Cells by Selenium – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29054417
 Selenium and Cancer Stem Cells – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29054420
 Selenium disrupts estrogen receptor A signaling and potentiates tamoxifen antagonism in endometrial cancer cells and tamoxifen-resistant breast cancer cells – https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/f73e/ead8da52f9696ccb226e9d405c947a8e0c73.pdf
 Attenuation of estrogen receptor alpha (ERalpha) signaling by selenium in breast cancer cells via downregulation of ERalpha gene expression – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16155795
The Thyroid, Iodine and Breast Cancer — https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC314438/
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About Marnie Clark
Hi I'm Marnie Clark, breast cancer survivor, and breast cancer coach. I have 20+ years of experience in natural medicine. In 2004/05 I battled breast cancer myself. You can see more about my journey on my page Breast Cancer Diary.
I've been healthy and recurrence-free since 2004 and in 2012 I became a Breast Cancer Coach because I became aware of the fact that whilst there is now a wealth of information on the Internet, much of it is confusing, conflicting, and sometimes just wrong!
Why should you work with me? Because:
(1) You don't want to go through this journey alone, feeling unempowered, frightened or just plain
clueless about what to do to help yourself.
(2) You will have someone working tirelessly on your behalf, putting together a healing plan for
you so you don’t have to lose your precious energy researching what food you should eat,
what supplements you should take, and what other things you can do that will give you the
best chances for survival. Instead you can spend that time resting, meditating, healing.
(3) You will learn what questions to ask your doctor (and have someone to turn to for the
questions they can't or won't answer).
(4) You will be armed with the tools and strategies you will need to get through the therapies you
choose so you can make your body hostile terrain for cancer.
You can also “like” me on Facebook (Marnie Clark, Breast Health Coach) to get my inspirational snippets, news and updates. I promise to do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.