Iodine is a building block of thyroid hormone. Without iodine, your thyroid can’t produce hormone. Sufficient iodine is necessary for optimal thyroid function. In fact, the reason we all eat ‘iodized’ salt is because of the importance of iodine in preventing thyroid dysfunction. There is controversy over whether Hashimoto’s patients should take supplemental iodine. Conventional physicians argue against Hashimoto’s patients taking iodine because they believe that in Hashimoto’s, the system has too much iodine & adding more will make your condition worse. However, in modern times with our current dietary habits, we aren’t getting as much iodine as we think we are.
Your body is efficient at absorbing & storing iodine. Unfortunately, the thyroid isn’t good at telling the difference between iodine & other substances with similar chemical structures. Iodine is part of a family, which also includes fluorine, chlorine, and bromine. They all have very similar properties. Fluorine, chlorine & bromine are similar enough to iodine that your thyroid will suck them up and store them in place of iodine. If fluorine, chlorine & bromine displace iodine, your thyroid won’t have enough iodine to produce thyroid hormones. Unfortunately, these three chemicals are frequently added to our water, foods & household products. This is one of the main reasons thyroid disease is now at an epidemic level.
Fluorine, in the form of fluoride, is added to public water systems in the U.S. Fluoride is an endocrine disruptor that affects thyroid function & other hormone-producing glands. In fact, fluoride was previously used as treatment for overactive thyroid because of its ability to reduce thyroid hormone production.
Chlorine, like fluoride, is added to our water supply for as a disinfectant. Chlorine is a powerful disinfectant because it works as an oxidizing agent to kill organic molecules. It is the primary ingredient in bleach, and it is used in industrial processes to create plastics, dyes, insecticides, paper products & other goods.
Bromine is not as well known as chlorine and fluoride, but it is also highly prevalent as an additive in our foods and household products. Bromine is commonly used in pesticides, plastics, baked goods and flour (commonly labeled as ‘enriched flour’), citrus-flavored soft drinks, as a sanitizer in hot tubs (where high temperatures make chlorine ineffective), and as a flame retardant in furniture and upholstery.
While a deficiency of iodine creates hypothyroidism due to a lack of building materials for thyroid hormone, an excess of it also created hypothyroidism, but through a different mechanism. Today, iodine excess is recognized as a risk factor for developing autoimmune thyroid disease. This has to do with the way that iodine is processed in the body. Iodine from foods and supplements is processed by the thyroid gland so that the body can properly use it. During this process, hydrogen peroxide, a free radical, is released. In cases when the body has adequate levels of selenium and it is used properly, the selenium neutralizes the hydrogen peroxide. However, in cases of iodine excess, excess hydrogen peroxide can cause oxidative damage to the thyroid gland. Excess iodine causes thyroid injury by generating reactive oxygen species, which lead to premature damage and programmed cell death in thyroid tissues. These iodine-overloaded cells turn on the autoimmune process in a person with the right genetic predisposition and intestinal permeability. When we think about this from an evolutionary, adaptive, or even innate body wisdom stance, this makes sense that the body would want to stop the production of excess thyroid hormones that would result from too much iodine.