Dear Pharmacist: I have Hashimoto thyroiditis, can I take thyroid supplements that contain iodine? — K.S., Seattle, Wash.
A: Hashimoto’s (Hashi’s) is an autoimmune condition that affects the thyroid gland, causing clinical symptoms of hypothyroidism. I know there’s controversy regarding iodine supplementation. I am aware that a sudden increase in iodine can cause a bad reaction, but I don’t think Hashi sufferers should avoid iodine altogether. Iodine levels have fallen more than 50 percent during the last 40 years. During that same time, Hashi’s has increased at epidemic rates. Common sense will tell you iodine is not the cause for this rise in Hashimoto’s.
This next statement is huge: Hashimoto’s disease is far impacted more by your selenium status, than iodine. If you take iodine in the presence of selenium deficiency, it’s bad news (and the same can be said for excessive selenium). That’s the key, selenium deficiency causes an intolerance of iodine, especially high dose iodine.
When I hear of a Hashi sufferer having a bad experience with iodine, all that says to me is that they were selenium deficient, or they took a bad form of iodine or too high of a dose.
You can’t give iodine to a selenium deficient person, you have to “prime the pump” by giving selenium beforehand, or right along with it. The opposite is true too — giving selenium to Hashi patients without some iodine will cause huge problems. Like everything else in life, it is about balance.
I’ve read studies suggesting iodine to be bad for Hashi sufferers, but the participants in the study lived in geographic areas known to be severely deficient in selenium. Studies like this frame iodine as the bad guy but remember what I said about priming the pump before giving iodine?
I don’t recommend high dose iodine (6 mg or more) unless your overnight urinalysis proves you are deficient. You only need a few milligrams or less, but to avoid it at all costs makes me worry about your reproductive organs.
You see, natural iodine supports breast health, as well as the prostate, testicular, endometrial, ovarian and cervical. It’s extremely protective. I lost my mother-in-law to breast cancer, which is tied to iodine deficiency.
Drug mugging is huge in the Hashi community. Many folks take fluorinated drugs, causing more depletions of iodine because fluorine is a drug mugger of iodine. Shocker! Here’s a few: Flurazepam (Dalmane), atorvastatin (Lipitor), celecoxib (Celebrex), levofloxacin (Levaquin) and lansoprazole (Prevacid).
I’m not bent on high dose iodine, but low doses may be necessary to getting well, and it needs to be in combination with selenium. Generally speaking, I disagree with supplements that make more and more thyroid hormone. Most of you cannot even use what you have! I think we need to focus on two other more important things. One, getting thyroid hormone activated to T3, and two, getting the T3 into the cell. Only then do you see symptoms clear up, such as cold sensitivity, hair loss, fatigue and slow metabolism.
This information is not intended treat, cure or diagnose your condition.
Suzy Cohen, author of “The 24-Hour Pharmacist,” can be reached at www.DearPharmacist.com.