Patient Mysteries: Are You Thyroid Deficient?
Iodine and the Thyroid – Part 1
Iodine, a trace mineral naturally found in the human body, is an essential element necessary for production of thyroid hormone to meet metabolic needs. (1)
It comes from the diet, as the body does not make iodine. Most of the world’s iodine resides in the ocean; hence seafood, and especially seaweed, are good sources of iodine. It is added to salt as a rule.
The pituitary gland produces a “detector” hormone, thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), which determines the amount of circulating hormone in the body. (Remember, thyroid hormone acts as the body’s “gas pedal. Too much and our involuntary systems, heartbeat, breathing, reflexes digestion etc., run too hot. Too little and we are tired, cold, weak, constipated, overweight and lethargic. We need our thyroids to be ‘Goldilocks’ – not too much, not too little.) When circulating thyroid levels are low, TSH signals the thyroid gland to increase production. When levels of thyroid are high, the message sent is “slow your roll, Nellie.”
Iodine is an essential element necessary for the adequate production of thyroid hormone – specifically T4. T4 is the dominant circulating hormone acting as a “storehouse,” or reserve the body can rely on to supply the functioning thyroid hormone T3. (For this reason, when evaluating circulating thyroid levels we always measure free, unbound or usable T3).
The key, but not only, building block, or nutrient, necessary for the production of T4 is iodine. (Selenium, zinc, protein, Vitamin A, Vitamin D, fish oil and tyrosine are also necessary for the successful production and smooth operation of the entire thyroid cascade. These will be covered in May, in Part IX Patient Mysteries Nutritional Necessities for a Healthy Thyroid.) T4 must convert, again via adequate nutrients into T3, the working portion of the thyroid complex.
Nutrient deficiencies, stress, chemical exposure, gluten and various infectious diseases, lead to reduced production of T3. Iodine deficiency presents an additional challenge as it can convert T4 to a false or inert T3, known as reverse T3. Measurements of total T3 without taking into account reverse T3 can appear normal. Traditional laboratory tests cannot distinguish between normal and reverse T3. For this reason, our protocol always looks at reverse T3.
T3 is the molecule that attaches to our cell’s nucleus, increasing our body’s metabolism appropriately. Without adequate iodine the entire production slows to a crawl and, in the extreme, can stop completely.
As we have seen with previous root causes of thyroid disease, gluten, heavy metals and toxins, infectious diseases, and adrenal insufficiency, iodine deficiency leads to autoimmune activity via molecular mimicry, the bottom line common denominator root cause of Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.
Molecular mimics are abnormal, or “foreign” proteins that evolve when our body mistakenly incorporates similar but abnormal compounds into normal tissue. Our body eventually recognizes its “error” and sends in the “cavalry,” the immune system, to destroy the “foreign” invader, resulting in the destruction of the host – in this instance the thyroid gland. It typically takes 5-10 years of suffering before autoimmune disease is discovered.
The Autoimmune-Iodine-Thyroid Connection
Iodine is a member of the halogen family, which includes fluorine, chlorine, and bromine. All halogens are chemically similar and can be molecularly “mistaken” for one another. In the case of iodine, incorporating sufficient quantities of the various other halogens in the metabolic process eventually leads to hypothyroidism via the molecular mimicry pathway, and eventual autoimmune disease as the body attempts to correct its error.
The most prominent and most problematic molecular mimic of iodine is fluoride. Fluoride is found in toothpaste, infant formula, processed cereals, wine, beer, soda, tea (higher in decaf), insecticide anesthetics, antibiotics, SSRI inhibitors (Prozac, Zoloft, etc.), and antiviral medications. In an attempt to combat tooth decay, fluoride was added to the water supply of most major American cities 1940s and ‘50s. While the decline in tooth decay was uneven, the incidence of hypothyroidism skyrocketed.
A second, near simultaneous, event, was the “discovery” in 1948 by two UC,
Berkeley professors, Jan Wolff and Israel Lyon Chaikoff, that the use of iodine created, rather alleviated, hypothyroidism. Labeling iodine as a poison, the “Wolff-Chaikoff
Effect,” set off a dizzying alarm of “iodophobia” that lingers to this day in the medical community. Prior to this report, iodine was used extensively, with a 90% success rate, to treat hypo and hyperthyroidism. (2)
Wolff and Chaikoff injected rats with radioactive iodine, which indeed kills thyroid tissue. They reported symptoms, sore teeth and gums, burning mouth, burning throat, stomach cramps, diarrhea, muscle wasting, acne and depression – indeed effects of radioactive thyroid, as a consequence of food derived iodine. They failed to distinguish between radioactive, poisonous iodine with natural, everyday garden-variety iodine from foodstuffs.
Their experiments, though repeated many times, with physiologic, food grade iodine were never duplicated. The type of the iodine made all the difference. A brief “look back at how foolish we were” scenerio speculates that the creation of synthetic thyroid hormone as drug also occurred in this same time frame, and hence the belief. L-thyroxine quickly became the number one selling drug in the United States.
For whatever reason, Wolff and Chaikoff were believed.
(Incidentally, the rats refused to become hypothyroid when fed food grade iodine. They followed the normal course of events when iodine loaded. Wolff and Chaikoff publically accused the rats of escaping from the new “normal,” of (4-6) the Wolff-Chaikoff effect. They declared the poor innocent rats rodents non grata.) (7)
This installment of the Autoimmune-Iodine-Thyroid Connection will be continued in the April issue of Healthy Beginnings.
(1) Mathur, R. Thyroid and Iodine, Part 1, What You Should Know,” http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=18119 ; accessed February 2, 2016
(2) Abraham GE. “The safe and effective implementation of orthoiodosupplementation in medical practice.” The Original
Internist, 2004; 11(1):1736.
(3) Abraham, GE, “ Crying Wolff,” https://www.optimox.com/pics/Iodine/IOD04/IOD_04.html#1 , accessed February 2, 2016
(4) Abraham GE, Flechas JD, Hakala JC. ” Othoiodosupplementation: Iodine sufficiency of the whole human body.” The
Original Internist, 2002; 9(4):3041.
(5) Abraham GE. “The safe and effective implementation of orthoiodosupplementation in medical practice.” The Original
Internist, 2004; 11(1):1736.
(6) Abraham GE. ” The concept of orthoiodosupplementation and its clinical implications.” The Original Internist, 2004;
(7) Abraham, GE, “ Crying Wolff,” https://www.optimox.com/pics/Iodine/IOD04/IOD_04.html#1 , accessed February 2, 2016