Doctors have long touted iodine as vital for healthy thyroid function, but researchers have recently discovered that not all forms of iodine are created equal. Here, a medical doctor and an analytic chemist explain how the mineral works to heal and speed a sluggish thyroid and why supplementing with sea kelp iodine is particularly effective in speeding metabolism, boosting mood and regrowing thinning hair.
The connection between iodine and thyroid health
Approximately 1 in 8 American women have a poorly functioning thyroid, according to the Office on Women’s Health (OWH). And for 90 percent of them, a lack of iodine may be the cause. “Iodine deficiency is occurring at epidemic rates,” says David Brownstein, M.D., Medical Director of the Center for Holistic Medicine in West Bloomfield, Michigan. “They’re tired and foggy. They know they don’t feel well. They just don’t know why.”
Doctors are increasingly prescribing thyroid medication, but in many cases, patients could be instead be cured by consuming more iodine, maintains Purnendu K. Dasgupta, Ph.D., a Professor in Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Texas at Arlington. He explains that iodine prods the thyroid to make hormones that are necessary for healthy cells and metabolism, which explains why a deficiency can cause sluggish-thyroid symptoms like tiredness, depression, unexplained weight gain, thinning hair and feeling cold. “Women experiencing menopause may be at particular risk if they’re consuming soy to offset hot flashes since soy contains an ingredient that blocks iodine absorption,” cautions Dasgupta.
Note: Thyroid issues can affect your nails, too. Click through to learn how treating your thyroid can improve dents in nails and nail clubbing.
Sea kelp: gentler form of iodine
Although supplementing with the recommended amounts of iodine (Dr. Brownstein suggests getting 6 to 25 mg a day, starting with one pill a day and gradually increasing if symptoms don’t improve) works wonders for most women, some report experiencing digestive issues, heart palpitations and even exacerbated hypothyroid symptoms.
But iodine sourced from sea kelp, a type of seaweed, appears to exhibit different effects on the body, says Dr. Dasgupta. Unlike some synthetic iodine supplements, kelp-derived iodine, which contains the mineral in its organic form, is believed to be absorbed by the thyroid gland more gradually, which dramatically lessens the unwanted side effects. Sea kelp iodine also contains other beneficial compounds, such as antioxidants, minerals and trace elements that can contribute to a more balanced interaction with the body’s systems.
How sea kelp revived one woman’s thyroid
Vivian Nosti, 56, was hopeful after finally being diagnosed with a hypothyroidism, which had caused debilitating fatigue, depression and weight gain for years. But that relief quickly vanished when she was told medication for life was her only solution. Unable to accept taking prescription meds indefinitely, she took matters into her own hands and searched for a more natural solution.
Vivian first tried synthetic iodine supplements, but they caused a host of new side effects and didn’t help her hypothyroidism symptoms. But then she opted for sea kelp iodine — and finally found her cure! Here, Vivian shares her story of healing:
Every morning upon waking, as Vivian Nosti lay in bed gazing at the sunlight reflected in the Cerulean blue of her bedroom walls, the same thought would echo in her mind, How will I manage to get up today?
For years, Vivian had been experiencing debilitating symptoms — hair loss, constipation, depression, severe cold in her extremities and the type of fatigue that settled into her bones. She also had gained 60 pounds despite eating healthy meals and working out.
“Every doctor I consulted dismissed me, insisting, ‘It’s your age. You’re in perimenopause and there is nothing you can do about it.’” Vivian says. “I was in my 40s.”
Frustrated, Vivian turned to a functional endocrinologist who finally diagnosed her with hypothyroidism or an under-active thyroid, where the thyroid doesn’t make enough thyroid hormone, nodules on her thyroid and a goiter. While she was relieved she finally had answers, but to Vivian’s shock, her doctor explained that she would have to be on medication for life to stabilize her condition.
“Medication for life…is this what the future holds for me? Is there any other option?” she asked in a panic. Her doctor’s solution was to put her on an iodine supplement to see if that may help.
“The body needs iodine to produce thyroid hormones, which play an important role in regulating energy levels, metabolism, body temperature among other things,” her doctor explained. But, after taking only 2 mg. a day, Vivian developed rapid heartbeat and palpitations, along with dizziness, weakness and nausea and her hypothyroid symptoms didn’t improve.
Disappointed, Vivian stopped taking the supplement. She tried a personal trainer and a nutritionist next, but neither were successful in relieving her symptoms. “After seven years, I was at my wits end, physically and emotionally. It was time I take things into my own hands,” Vivian decided.
Vivian’s natural healer: Sea kelp iodine
Always an excellent researcher, Vivian put her skills to work. Online, she found forums full of women who said they had reversed their thyroid dysfunction with kelp supplements. Kelp, she learned, is part of the seaweed family and naturally rich in iodine as well as other nutrients, which make it easier on the body and less likely to cause side effects than iodine supplements which are devoid of nutrients.
Vivian decided to try an inexpensive kelp supplement from a brand she trusted (Solgar North Atlantic Sea Kelp, $25 for 250 tablets, with other brands that cost as low as $6 on Amazon) and started with a low dose of 150 micrograms a day.
When she didn’t experience any side effects and because her symptoms were so severe, she increased her dosage to 250 daily, which was what most women in the forums said they took. Vivian also added iodine-rich foods such as shrimp, tuna and iodized salt to her diet.
How sea kelp iodine worked for Vivian
“In just a few weeks, I noticed some of my symptoms becoming better,” Vivian beams. “My energy and drive returned, and my depression was lifting. My goiter was shrinking. And over the course of six months, my doctor confirmed the nodules disappeared.”
Inspired by all the positive changes, Vivian decided to incorporate more healing modalities into her journey to regain my health. Through her research, she had learned that studies showed a link between hypothyroidism and elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol. To help reduce her stress, she began taking meditation classes at her local yoga center.
“A year after incorporating these changes in diet and lifestyle, I had no goiter, the extra pounds had disappeared and my thyroid was back to normal,” Vivian says. “Now I get yearly blood work and exams to be certain it stays that way, but today, at 56, I am grateful to have found a natural way to reverse my condition and regain my health!”
Other natural ways to speed-heal your thyroid
Sip this before coffee: Drinking 2 oz. of food-grade aloe vera juice after you wake up speeds thyroid function and heals a slow thyroid in three months. So say Italian scientists, who explain that aloe’s compounds convert thyroid hormone into its active form. (Click through for more on how Aloe Vera Juice Can Speed a Slow Thyroid and Much More)
Swap your water: Fluoride is added to most U.S. drinking water, but research shows it stops the absorption of iodine — a mineral crucial for thyroid function. Instead, keep a gallon of cheap, fluoride-free distilled water in your fridge for sipping.
Get an e-receipt: Store receipts contain the thyroid-blocking chemical bisphenol A (BPA), which rubs off onto your hands, where it soaks into skin and gets into the bloodstream. But an e-receipt can help you avoid the thyroid sapper. Find out more easy lifestyle changes that will supercharge your thyroid.
For more thyroid healing tips, keep reading!
This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.