Iodine and Breast Health

Did you know that unrefined salt not only flavors your food, but can also help your breasts remain healthy?  Optimizing our iodine levels helps our thyroid function well and assists in detoxification of chemicals and breast cancer prevention. This article discusses how getting the right amount of iodine is now a challenge and what to do about it.

Historically, iodine was discovered in reversing and preventing goiter, a form of low thyroid function.  In 1923-1924 a study of 66,000 schoolchildren were examined in the Midwest and nearly 40% of them had enlargement of the thyroid.  Iodized salt was introduced and by 1928 there was a 75% reduction in goiter and in 1951 less than 0.5% had goiter.  These children were receiving 9 mg a day of sodium iodide for 2.5 years.  This dose of iodide is nearly 100X the recommended dose by the present RDA standards.  A Nutrition Exam Survey conducted by NHANES in 2000 compared our iodine levels to 1971-1974 and they have dropped by 50% in the U.S.A.  In fact thyroid deficiency has raised 10X between 1971-1994 to 15.1% of women and 8.1% of men.

Traditionally, most medical doctors are taught that iodine is needed to make thyroid hormone.  However, less than 30% of the body’s total iodine load goes to the thyroid.  Between 60-80% of total iodine is non-hormonal and concentrated in extra-thyroidal tissues.  According to one of the bibles of endocrinology, Braverman’s The Thyroid, iodine is important for the eyes, prostate, breast and ovaries. Iodine deficient children have mean IQ scores of 10-15 points lower than iodine-replete kids.   

Dr. Carmen Aceves, M.D. of Institutio de neurobiologic Universidade nacional Autonoma de Mexico is one of many international researchers studying iodine for breast cancer due to its anti-proliferative, anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant effects in breasts.  Iodine can cause tumors to shrink and necrose from the center.  According to Dr. Brownstein, author of Iodine:  Why You Need It, breasts are the largest consumers of extra-thyroidal iodine. The medical community has known for more than 60 years that iodine is concentrated and secreted by the mammary gland.   Thyroid glands need about 6 mg a day of iodine for sufficient function.  Your breasts need 5mg of iodine and the rest of the body needs about 2 mg a day.  Total body need for iodine is approximately 12 mg. 

Healthy iodine levels in the body can help increase cancer cell death.  The iodine gets incorporated into iodo-lipids, which help stabilize cell membranes and help the body maintain a normal life cycle. Dr. Wright, a specialist of natural hormone balancing, reported compelling data that iodine in the form of Lugol’s solution (which is a combination of iodine and iodide) can help maintain the balance of the three estrogens in favor or Estriol, also known as E3.  Estriol helps balance and ensures a strong bones and prevention of cardiovascular disease.   

Unfortunately, the challenge is in the lack of acceptance of the importance of iodine in the medical community and a full understanding of how we absorb iodine.

Why don’t we get plenty of iodine from the salt we use? The average iodine consumption of the American people based on salt intake is 770 micrograms a day this is based on the idea that the average American gets 10 grams of salt in a day (6 grams are in 1 tsp) and there are 77 micrograms of iodine per gram salt in iodized salt.  However based on a 24 hour urine test iodine levels are 10Xs lower. Dr. Brownstein and Dr. Nusbaum have tested more than 4,000 patients and 96% are low for iodine. In fact thyroid deficiency rose 10x between 1971 and 1994.  15.1% of women are deficient and 8.1% of men. 

Salt consumption has diminished 65% as well as a decrease in iodine rich egg yolks. The iodine in salt that has been refined is only 10% bioavailable.  Unrefined salt, which comes is labeled as “unrefined” and commonly is grey or pink in color, has higher bioavailability of iodine. French Atlantic unrefined salt, Celtic sea salt and Himalayan pink salt are two excellent forms of unrefined salt, and furthermore, the body utilizes both iodine and iodide.  Iodide is used by the thyroid gland.  Iodine in salt is converted to iodide in the intestinal tract, but with difficulty.  Both breasts and the prostate concentrate iodine, whereas thyroid and skin concentrate iodide.  Therefore, it’s important to consume both forms as iodine and iodide. 

Halide chemicals in our environment displace iodine in our bodies thereby also reducing the levels of bio-available iodine regardless of how much unrefined salt we are taking in.  The main culprits are bromine, fluoride, and chlorine.  Bromine intoxication causes delirium, psychomotor retardation, schizophrenia and hallucinations.  At non-toxic but moderate levels bromine causes feelings of dullness, apathy and difficulty concentrating.  Bromine was substituted for iodine as a preservative in our flour in the U.S.A about 30 years ago and it is also in Mountain Dew, and AMP energy drink.  So for those of you, who start the day with a croissant at the local bakery that’s not made with organic flour, have dinner rolls at the restaurant and pasta for dinner bromine levels can be expected to be high.  Fluoride will flood the iodine receptor sites and push iodine off.  Fluoride exposure is due to dental fluoride rinses, fluoride on our vegetables and in certain medications:  Paxil, Prozac, Flonase and Flovent.  Chlorine is absorbed most easily through the skin.  More toxic than drinking chlorinated water one has to be careful of showering and bathing in chlorinated water.  Swimming pools and hot tubs also contain large amounts of chlorine or bromide. In a study performed by Dr. Brownstein women with breast cancer were found to have larger amounts of toxic halides, bromine and fluoride, compared to those without breast cancer.

How do we address these challenges of getting enough iodine in the diet maximizing iodine levels to help fully functioning thyroid, breast cancer prevention and unburden the body from the other toxic halide chemicals?  

  1. Avoid the intake and exposure to halide chemicals by using a shower filter to take the chlorine out or a full house water filter. My favorite shower filter or bath ball to take chlorine out of bath water is by Rainshow’R: https://www.rainshower.com/new/index.html
  2.  Avoid fluoride dental rinses and fluorinated toothpaste.
  3.  Eat organic vegetables that haven’t been sprayed with these chemicals.
  4. Eat unrefined salt.
  5. Check your body’s iodine levels.  You can do this through an iodine skin patch test. 
  6. Consider taking a combination form of iodide and iodine of at least 12.5 mg a day.  A detox reaction can occur in 5% of the time.  The detox reaction occurs when the iodine is pushing off the other halide chemicals at too rapid a rate and symptoms such as a metallic taste in the mouth, increased salivation and sneezing, headache and acne occur.  If you have a low thyroid or high thyroid then your doctor prior to taking iodine as well as after should monitor your thyroid lab results.
  7.  If you’d like to really maximize your body’s functioning, and help prevent breast cancer consider making an appointment with Dr. Chan to have your risk factors reviewed, hormones balanced and your breast health optimized!