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Frequently iodine is met with criticism. For decades it was taught that only certain amounts of the element should be taken up. But how much iodine should we in fact take and how much are we already consuming? In the internet and in professional circles, contradictory statements circulate, and also iodine does not always seem to be the same. The present article is on the lookout for answers and tries to bring a bit of iodine into the dark.
In practice, one is time and again confronted with the question whether additional iodine makes sense or whether it might even be dangerous because “we are all over-iodized, anyway“. I as a nature practitioner am also confronted with special questions in cases of Hashimoto thyroiditis because many of my patients find no concrete answers in their hectic daily routine. For this reason, I started doing research on this and was amazed how contradictory the information was that could be found on the internet. An example: on behalf of iodine criticism, one can find a calculation in which scientists go out from the fact that in the case of a glass of milk (0.2l itres), already approximately 300 μg of iodine are taken up and thus the required daily requirements (to which we shall later once more refer) are already clearly exceeded .
The Association for Independent Health Counselling points out an examination of Prof. Rainer Hampel (Rostock University), in whose investigation led to an iodine intake of approximately 40 to 50 μg in the case of 0.3 litres of milk. For 0.1 litre more = milk, there is almost a whole decimal place less iodine intake compared to the reference mentioned above identified.
The entire research proved to be very difficult because again and again one encountered contradictory statements. The things I occupied myself with were the daily recommended consumption quantities, the daily and de facto consumption quantities, the problems due to undersupply, the question, “are all iodines the same? algae and toxicology / algae and dosification, diagnostics of an iodine deficiency and contraindications.
Daily Recommended Consumption Quantity
Here, it also becomes difficult. The German Nutrition Society (DGE) published the following recommendations , of which I would like to make a rough summary here:
- infants approx. 60 μg
- young children: approx. 100 μg
- children: approx. 150 μg
- adolescents: 200 μg
- grown-ups: 200 μg
- pregnant women: 230 μg
- breast-feeding women: 260 μg
As maximum quantities one can find the information from the Federal Office for Risk Assessment that decades of malnutrition can result in sensitizations, especially in the case of elderly persons so that a daily intake of 500 μg should not be permanently exceeded .
According to the platform Onmeda, the WHO regards 1000 μg as the maximum daily dose . If one looks at the maximum daily doses and reads from which value onwards negative effects can be expected, the meticulous statements of the DGE almost seem ridiculous.
Japan has the most iodine-rich nutrition in the world. According to an article in the Nexus Magazine, the people there on the peninsula take up to 12,000 μg of iodine daily with their nutrition , which includes that it is not only rich in saltwater fish but which also – due to the daily consumption of algae – can possess a tremendous proportion of iodine. The same article is also concerned with the comparison of occurrences of breast cancer, where Japanese people come off really well. Here, iodine seems to be one of the key factors – besides a very strong emphasis on plant nutrition.
One can find the same information on the pages of Dr. Strunz, the renowned doctor, frequently mentioned as bestselling author, specialist for internal medicine, and ‘pope of fitness‘. Here, too, the above mentioned consumption quantities were confirmed and he referred to the coast dwellers of Hokkaido who – due to their extremely high consumption of kelp – even consume up to 200,000 μg of iodine per day . This article is also worth reading because it relates to old iodine therapies in Germany, which can also be rediscovered in a region of milligrams or even grams.
Photo: Bladder wrack is distinguished by a comparatively stable content of iodine.
Source: Thomas Weidner
|Iodine content in microgram (μg) per 100 g resp. ml
|Daily requirements of 200 μg are contained in around
Table 1: Iodine Quantities in Food
If one takes a look at Table 1, one realizes quickly that it is difficult to obtain the recommended iodine quantities at all because iodised salt alone is not the solution (and whether the iodine compound contained therein are optimal is again quite a different matter).
Something which has not been taken into consideration in the table is the question whether and how much iodine was for example mixed into the feed so that one can work out the different stated iodine contents in the milk, and if the baker is baking with iodised salt at all. It does in fact seem to be difficult to make up the balance in the evening as to how much iodine one has now in fact taken up.
Daily Actual Consumption Quantity
Apart from myself there were also other people who were interested how the iodine deficiency sector has developed in Germany. As industry statements are often difficult to interpret, I have been on the lookout for official studies.
First of all, SHIP has to be mentioned. This is one of the largest epidemiological studies in Germany. The “Study of Health in Pomerania” showed for the years from 1997 to 2001 that the population there (around 8,700 persons) ranged in the lower optimal range with regard to iodine consumption . A further study (Study on the Health of Children and Adolescents in Germany), conducted from 2003 to 2006 yielded a similar result .
The latest data can be found on the pages of the Federal Ministry for Nutrition and Agriculture. There, the question regarding the concretely measured figures as to how much iodine was in fact taken up on average can be clarified.
The first wave of surveys of the DEGS (Study regarding the health of grown-up Germans) resulted in the fact that most men took up an average of between 120 and 140 μg per day, women took up between 130 and 140 μg per day, which was regarded as an optimal range. If one looks again at the fact that 200 μg/day is regarded as the optimum (according to WHO and DGE), and given that other countries partly take up 100 to 1,000 times the amount without experiencing problems of overdosages, I have determined for myself 200 μg per day as the lowest tolerable limit. Another question one has to ask oneself is why every third grown-up thyroid gland is pathologically changed  if the iodine supply lies within an optimal range?
Problems Due to Undersupply
The fact that the deficiency of iodine, resp. diseases of the thyroid gland which may not depend on iodine but which are still relevant as a major issue is shown by the following quotation of the Working Group Iodine Deficiency, “Enlarged thyroid glands range amongst the 15 most frequent diagnoses of general practitioners, family doctors and specialists for internal medicine”.
Diagnoses and therapies of iodine deficiencies and its effects cause annual costs in the health sector of more than a billion EUR in Germany. About 60,000 German citizens per year have to undergo radioiodine therapy. In addition there are fewer than 100,000 citizens who have to have a thyroid operation per year and who will then as a rule require life-long drug therapy.”
Obvious problems like the goitre certainly belong into the field of iodine deficiency symptoms; however, the iodination of cooking salt has as a rule taken care so that old people do not run around with gigantic goitres anymore. Whether this is alright like this, might be debated. If the thyroid gland swells accordingly it is obvious that something is not right. Now, where the symptoms do not so clearly come to light anymore, many people do not know that something is not in order with their thyroid gland. Fatigue, reduced performance, depressive moods play a role here just as do infertility, increased sensation of cold, but also the counter regulation of the thyroid, namely the formation of knots or autonomies.
Are All Iodines the Same as Iodine?
Unfortunately, this question cannot yet be satisfactorily settled at present. The fact is that the thyroid gland is able to metabolise iodite and iodate compound as well as the organically bound iodine. In my own practice, however, I have always experienced that iodine therapies via natural iodine compounds (as contained in bladder wrack) work more often even if already a previous iodite therapy had been without success. In principle, it seems to be of no importance for the thyroid gland from where it receives its iodine. The main thing is that there is sufficient amount of it.
If one now looks at other structures of the body which man might not directly see in connection with iodine, the whole thing starts to look a bit different. For example, the iodine deficiency of the breast carcinoma increasingly comes into the attention of research, as one was already able to read in an article in the “Deutschen Ärzte-Zeitung” in 2012.
It was shown there that only elementary iodine as it is organically bound in the algae optimally promotes the formation of iodine lactones. These in turn are inhibiting the proliferation in the cancer cells and which introduce the apoptosis. In the studies, iodites were compared with bladder wrack .
My own practical experience as also the latest scientific research suggest that iodine from natural sources represents the most favourable supply for the body.
Algae and Toxicology / Algae and Dosification
In holistic practices, toxicology moves further and further into the foreground of diagnostics. Never before was the human being confronted with so many foreign substances as it happens today. And due to what we have done to our soils and to the oceans especially since the war, we now take the apparently so easily disposed toxins again by means of our nutrition and this way have to pay our bill after all. Thus, a great study of the Federal Ministry for Environment, Nature Protection and Reactor Security is concerned with the subject of mercury exposure due to consumption of fish meat  and one encounters the following problem that the same mercury which is taken up by the organisms within the aquatic food chain during the covering of the requirements of essential trace substances is already deactivated on low trophic levels by biomethylation.
The thus decreased toxicity, however, turns into its opposite in higher trophic levels. In most consumers of fish, the human being included, ethylated mercury develops by far higher toxicity than the purely inorganic mercury. This therefore means that fish rather have less of a problem with the mercury from the sea, but when we human beings eat these creatures, we will clearly have a greater problem with mercury. Greenpeace, too, are concerned with this subject in a large study in which also the well-known physician, Peter Jennrich, has been engaged .
Now fish – for us certainly the most immediate food with high iodine content (sea fish, not freshwater fish – a fact which many patients do not take into consideration in their consumption of fish) is a subject of its own.
Another subject is the overfishing of the oceans and the problems accrued by catch, thus the death of dolphins and other important sea dwellers due to getting entangled in the dragnets. However, the human being has found a solution for this problem: aquaculture!
If one looks at conventional aquaculture farms, even the poorest creatures in intensive farming have a better life in comparison. And due to the fact that the fish are cramped together in the narrowest of spaces, this of course provides a violent breeding ground for everything possible so that these cultures have to undergo massive treatment with medication in order to prevent the worst.
The algae represent themselves in quite a different way, regarded from the viewpoint of growth and harvest. Many algae species are able to double their size in a day, and in various magazines like Greenpeace, Space & Time, one reads more and more often that algae (e.g., also due to their high contents of protein, vitamins and trace elements) could assume an important status with regard to the nutrition of the world population. We naturopaths know especially the fresh water algae more from their ability to bind toxins. If algae can do this to our digestive system, then they can – and of course do this already in our waters.
Let us at this point retain that iodine from natural sources, no matter whether from animal or vegetable sources, could always entail the risk of heavy metal pollutions. One further problem with regard to the algae is that they possess no standardised iodine content. Various types of algae present per g of dry substance an iodine content of 5 μg to 11,000 μg. Therefore, there is the danger with algae that no effect might be reached in a substitution or that one could partly administer overdoses.
For this reason, the Federal Office for Risk Assessment clearly also advises against the substitution of algae for iodine supplementation , which in 2007 was once again confirmed in an updated statement after a submitted product contained an iodine content of 506 mg/kg which – if consumed – would already have led to an intake of 5050 μg of iodine per 10 grams of the alga .
Danger of Overdosing: Examination of the Preparations
During my research I have thus been on the search for natural iodine preparations. Without any doubt one will always find something in the herb houses of this world where one can simply buy packed, dried algae, – from Icelandic and Irish moss to kelp and dulse all the way to bladder wrack. The problem lies in what I have written above. Let me allow the remark that I myself always have different dried algae in my house and sometimes use them in smoothes.
The danger of overdosages rather seems to originate from the iodite and iodate compounds than from the natural iodine compounds. As far as one does not consume algae in higher grams each day, I have not yet had any negative experiences, or have heard of such. It is difficult with standardised preparations. Quite often, in the case of food supplements, one cannot gather the exact amount of iodine.
It becomes even more difficult to find out from where the algae stem and whether toxicological entry examinations were carried out. As a rule, I never received an answer from the sellers. If I received an answer, it was usually one of the kinds of “I can assure you all our incoming goods were carefully examined.” Asked for the method with which the toxicology was examined, no information was returned to me.
Thus, if you wish to subject a preparation to thorough testing, the receiving inspection should have taken place by means of ICP-MS. Furthermore, the exact iodine content per tablet or capsule should be declared.
Diagnostics of an Iodine Deficiency
Although a deficiency of iodine can be diagnosed rather easily, it is surprisingly little carried out in practice.
The gold standard, according to which also the above mentioned studies for the examination of the iodine supply were carried out, is the examination of the spontaneous urine. This urine can thus be collected at any time of the day and night and then be examined in the laboratory. The costs range at about EUR 30.
The greatest part of the nutritional iodine is excreted via the urine so that the amount of iodine in the urine allows favourable conclusions about the iodine status of the patient.
Counter Indications for Administrations of Iodine
Iodine-related acne, allergies and other symptoms of poisoning dominate the belief of many therapists and frightened patients. Even Hashimoto was presenting a counter indication for iodine.
However, if one looks at the subject free from emotions, one will again and again be surprised. In principal, allergies and iodine-related acne are not triggered by iodine itself but by the large molecules which are attached to the iodine. Thus, one can read from the Federal Office for Risk Assessment, “To be distanced from this is a so-called iodine oversensitivity, respectively an iodine allergy which can occur after the application of iodiferous X-ray contrast agents, iodiferous disinfectants or iodiferous medicaments. Here the large-molecular compounds tied to the iodine take effect as allergens, not as the iodine itself. An allergy against iodine and iodised salt is unknown. “ 
As already mentioned, in the case of iodine medications, an iodite or iodate compound exists. In case of a supply of biologically bound iodine, such allergic reactions are not to be expected. Thus, we can now put the subjects of iodine-related acne and allergy to rest.
Frequently, hyperfunction is triggered off by autonomous (hot) nodes. It is important to understand that these autonomous nodes as a rule were able to form due to a lack of iodine, and in the desperate attempt of the thyroid gland to fish each particle of the rare substance out of the bloodstream. Thus, if a patient has been in a state of iodine deficiency for a long time, this may result in hyperfunctions due to the sensitisations of the cells, especially in the beginning of the therapy. Here, slow phasing-in would be decisive for working with the problem.
|Standard Values of Iodine Quantities in Urine
|150 – 250 μg iodine / g creatinine
|50 – 100 μg iodine / g creatinine
|10 – 50 μg iodine / g creatinine
|< 10 μg iodine / g creatinine
|< 1000 μg iodine / g creatinine
Table 2: Residues of iodine in the urine indicate the iodine status of a patient.
In the case of Hashimoto, it is also a misunderstanding that iodine should be avoided, – to the contrary! Here, too, deficiencies of iodine and selenium (and certainly also a dysfunctional stress axis) had a share in the pathogenesis of this disease. Here are some quotations:
“Is an iodine-deficient diet necessary in case of a Hashimoto thyroiditis?
In case of a Hashimoto thyroiditis, medical societies neither recommend a renouncement of iodine nor an iodine-deficient nutrition.“ 
“Is it true that one should refrain from additional administrations of iodine in case of a Hashimoto thyroiditis?“
Only larger amounts of iodine (for example in the form of iodine tablets or X-ray contrast agents) are able to reinforce Hashimoto thyroiditis and should therefore be avoided. In individual cases, however, Hashimoto patients are warned to take up iodine at all: this is medicinally not right. A supply of up to 200 micrograms per day is harmless as a rule – a normal amount, which is for example taken up with the nutrition. Depending how strong the disease is already pronounced, it could even make sense for a pregnant woman to take up small amounts of iodine.“ 
Also an information letter of the BDI of 2004 comes to the conclusion that the nutrition-typical amounts of iodine (that is around 200 μg) is also harmless for Hashimoto patients and should be kept in their nutrition. Furthermore, it says that a parallel administration of selenium can inhibit the inflammatory reactions in the thyroid gland .
Thus, after all these statements, one can by far not go out from an over iodisation of the population because validated testing methods via spontaneous urine rather show that a large part of the population has an iodine deficiency or ranges within the lowest optimal range. Furthermore, we have dealt with the recommended quantities, which fairly consistently recommend 200 μg per day and place the upper limit, depending on the organisation, at 500 to 1,000 μg. These amounts can, as a rule, not be accomplished via nutrition as the Germans neither consume the necessary amounts of seafish nor of iodiferous algae.
Iodine sources and toxicology were another larger subject which we worked on, and what one should observe when buying algae products. It is safest to rely on pharmaceutical standards because this has the advantage of the natural iodine compounds as well as also the standardisation of the (main) active ingredient content and is also on the safe side with regard to toxicology. We have dedicated ourselves to the alleged contraindication where a lot of uncertainty prevails and even more semi-truths, which can as such not be found in an official source.
Even if still now praises could be sung about the bladder wrack due to its high contents of vital substances and secondary plant substances, this paper should suffice for reconsidering one’s own view of the world with regard to the subject of iodine and for critically questioning the partly not comprehensible criticism of iodine.
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 Umweltforschungsplan des Bundesministeriums für Umwelt, Naturschutz und Reaktorsicherheit – Exposition mit Methylquecksilber durch Fischverzehr; Forschungskennzahl:70561416
 Greenpeace; Quecksilber – Die unterschätzte Gefahr;Erstellt durch: Forschungs- und Beratungsinstitut Gefahrstoffe GmbH, April 2015
 BfR: Fragen und Antworten zur Jodversorgung und zur Jodmangelvorsorge; FAQ des BfR vom 07.02.2012
 BfR: Gesundheitliche Risiken durch zu hohen Jodgehalt in getrockneten Algen; Aktualisierte Stellungnahme Nr.26/2007 des BfR vom 22.06.2014
 BfR: Jodsalzprophylaxe birgt kein gesundheitliches Risiko für Schilddrüsenpatienten und Allergiker vom07.12.2001; Veröffentlichung 39/2001
 BfR: Fragen und Antworten zur Jodversorgung und zur Jodmangelvorsorge; FAQ des BfR vom 07.02.2012
 BDI aktuell; R.Gärtner, P.C.Scriba, Klinikum der Universität München, 02/2004