Iodine: Essential Trace Element for the Mind and Body

Iodine was identified as essential for humans back in the 1920s. I believe that everyone who has studied nutrition knows that a deficiency of iodine will cause an underactive thyroid. But now there is a plethora of scientific evidence showing us what else iodine does for us. And if I hadn’t seen the studies with my own eyes I would have found it hard to believe.

Every cell in our body needs iodine to function properly. The white blood cells of our immune system cannot function properly without adequate amounts of iodine. Even our sweat glands need iodine and will not function properly when we are deficient. This leads to dry skin. Neither will our salivary glands function properly. That means we would experience dry eyes and a dry mouth.

Iodine deficiency affects approximately two billion people around the world and is the number one preventable cause of intellectual disability.[1] It is crucial that both the fetus and the infant get enough in the first three years of existence or the central nervous system will not develop properly.  According to Jorge D. Flechas, MD, adding a good iodine supplement to a pregnant woman’s diet will produce a child with an IQ 20 to 30 points higher than the parents’ IQ.[2]

A good iodine supplement will contain both iodine and iodide. Like other minerals, iodine comes in several forms. Potassium Iodide and sodium iodide are the salt forms of iodine. Some organs only absorb iodine and other organs only absorb iodide. For example, only iodine will absorb in the prostate and stomach while iodide will absorb in the salivary glands, skin and the thyroid.[2]

This is why we should not take a supplement that contains only iodine or iodide but instead we should consume a supplement that contains both. One example of a supplement that contains both iodine and iodide is Lugol’s iodine.

Surveys conclude that numerous pregnant women in the United States, while not showing signs of iodine deficiency, obtain insufficient amounts of iodine.[3]  Dr. Flechas also states that a mild deficiency in the early years of life will manifest as attention deficit disorder.[2]

The World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and the International Council for the Control of Iodine Deficiency Disorders (ICCIDD) recommend an iodine intake for pregnant women of 250 mcg per day.[4] However, the average intake is much greater in in some parts of the world. For example, the average intake of iodine in Japan is considerable greater at 13.8 mg per day.

Many clinical nutritionists agree that we need considerably more iodine than the minimal amount that the WHO and other organizations are suggesting. These nutritionists also agree that the RDA was set to prevent goiter and does not take into consideration all the other bodily functions that require iodine.

The absence of iodine in a cell may allow cancer to form. The protective effect of iodine against breast cancer has been well documented in Japanese women who consume iodine-rich seaweed and have a low rate of breast cancer.[5][6] Iodine is known to induce apoptosis (programmed cell death) in breast cancer cells.[7]

A decrease in the incidence of death rate from stomach cancer after supplementation with iodine has also been reported.[8] Researchers have found a correlation between iodine deficiency and gastric cancer.[9][10]

And the list goes on; the lack of iodine can also lead to hearing loss and deafness according to Mayo Clinic.[11] Research suggests that iodine supplementation might be helpful for the treatment of fibrocystic breast disease.[12]  After a nuclear accident iodine supplementation may save your life.[13] PCOS (poly cystic ovaries) may benefit from iodine supplementation.[14]

Iodine is required for synthesizing thyroid hormones and is an integral component of them. When a person is deficient in iodine, hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) occurs. Symptoms may include mental slowing, depression, fatigue, goiter, weight gain and low body temperature.[15] Estrogen inhibits the absorption of iodine. That is why more woman have underactive thyroids than men.

According to the National Institutes for Health (NIH) the best food sources of iodide and iodine are sea vegetables.[16] I eat sea veggies from the Atlantic Ocean such as dulse and kelp on a daily basis and also consume a number of other ocean plants such as arame, hiziki, kombu, and wakame on occasion.

I suggest that everyone find a source of iodine that feels right for them and be conscious of your intake. But since iodine is a brain stimulant, it is not advised to take it before going to sleep.

[1] McNeil, Donald G. Jr (2006-12-16). “In Raising the World’s I.Q., the Secret’s in the Salt”. New York Times. Retrieved 2008-12-04.


[3] Perrine CG, Herrick K, Serdula MK, Sullivan KM. Some subgroups of reproductive age women in the United States may be at risk for iodine deficiency. J Nutr. 2010 Aug;140(8):1489-1494.

[4] World Health Organization. United Nations Children’s Fund & International Council for the Control of Iodine Deficiency Disorders. Assessment of iodine deficiency disorders and monitoring their elimination. 3rd ed. Geneva, Switzerland: WHO, 2007.

[5] Smyth PP (July 2003). “The thyroid, iodine and breast cancer”. Breast Cancer Research: BCR (review) 5 (5): 235–8. doi:10.1186/bcr638PMC 314438PMID 12927031.

[6] Smyth PP (2003). “Role of iodine in antioxidant defence in thyroid and breast disease” .BioFactors (Oxford, England) (review) 19 (3–4): 121–30. doi:10.1002/biof.5520190304.PMID 14757962.

[7] Shrivastava, A. (2006). “Molecular Iodine Induces Caspase-independent Apoptosis in Human Breast Carcinoma Cells Involving the Mitochondria-mediated Pathway”. Journal of Biological Chemistry 281 (28): 19762–19771. doi:10.1074/jbc.M600746200ISSN 0021-9258.PMID 16679319.

[8] Golkowski, F.; Szybinski, Z.; Rachtan, J.; Sokolowski, A.; Buziak-Bereza, M.; Trofimiuk, M.; Hubalewska-Dydejczyk, A.; Przybylik-Mazurek, E.; Huszno, B. (2007). “Iodine prophylaxis—the protective factor against stomach cancer in iodine deficient areas”. Eur J Nutr. 46 (5): 251–6.doi:10.1007/s00394-007-0657-8PMID 17497074.

[9] Abnet, C. C.; Fan, J. H.; Kamangar, F; Sun, X. D.; Taylor, P. R.; Ren, J. S.; Mark, S. D.; Zhao, P. et al. (2006). “Self-reported goiter is associated with a significantly increased risk of gastric noncardia adenocarcinoma in a large population-based Chinese cohort”. International Journal of Cancer 119 (6): 1508–1510. doi:10.1002/ijc.21993PMID 16642482.

[10] Behrouzian, R.; Aghdami, N. (2004). “Urinary iodine/creatinine ratio in patients with stomach cancer in Urmia, Islamic Republic of Iran”. East Mediterr Health J. 10 (6): 921–924.PMID 16335780.


[12] Kessler JH. The effect of supraphysiologic levels of iodine on patients with cyclic mastalgia. Breast J. 2004 Jul-Aug;10(4):328-336.



[15] Felig, Philip; Frohman, Lawrence A. (2001). “Endemic Goiter”. Endocrinology & metabolism. McGraw-Hill Professional. ISBN 978-0-07-022001-0.



The Truth about Calcium Supplements

A study was published in October 2016 on the cardiovascular effects of taking calcium supplements. It was a multi-ethnic study.

The ten year study had 5448 adults between the ages of 45 and 85 years old. The participants were free of cardio vascular disease at the start of the study. Fifty two percent of them were female.

The researchers concluded that people consuming calcium supplements had a higher risk of coronary artery calcification and its progression.(1) Note that when arteries become calcified it leads to high blood pressure and can eventually lead to a heart attack or stroke.

The form of calcium that one consumes is very important. Many calcium supplements are made from calcium carbonate which is the same material as blackboard chalk. The body cannot use this form of calcium and thus deposits of it form on the walls of the circulatory system.

However the form of calcium found in plants, especially green plants, is highly useable by the body. Dietary calcium has been linked to a lower risk of coronary artery calcification.(1)

Magnesium lays down the bone density and is of vital importance to having strong bones. However, the majority of the population is deficient in magnesium and has an overabundance of calcium. This ratio leads to weak bones.  Magnesium supplements have also been shown to reduce blood pressure. (2)

My own mother developed coronary artery calcification and suffered from clogged arteries as a result of taking calcium carbonate supplements. The calcium supplement also made her osteoporosis worsen.

When she stopped taking the calcium supplement and replaced it with a magnesium supplement, her bone density eventually returned to what the doctor called perfect for her age. She was 72 then and now she is 84 and has good bones.

A little known hidden source of dangerous forms of calcium is fortified food, especially nut milks, soy milk, rice milk and other calcium fortified foods. Check the ingredient list. If you see the word calcium on the INGREDIENT list I suggest that you avoid that product.

Craig B Sommers ND, CN


The Vitamin Game

My goal in writing this article is to share what you might not know about vitamins in the area of natural vs. synthetic and to touch on the subject of how vitamin supplements are produced. Keeping it short and to the point was no easy task.

Vitamin A

What we call vitamin A is actually a group of compounds. Some called retinoids and others called carotenoids. Carotenoids are known as provitamin A because they can be converted into vitamin A. However, conversion of carotene to retinol varies from person to person and bioavailability of carotene in food also varies. Only the carotenoids alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, gamma-carotene and beta-cryptoxanthin can function as provitamin A.

Because vitamin A is fat soluble, a low fat diet can result in poor absorption of vitamin A. Fats increase the uptake of both carotenoids and retinoids.

A zinc deficiency can impair absorption, transport, and metabolism of vitamin A because zinc is essential for the synthesis of vitamin A transport proteins and as the cofactor in conversion of retinol.

Retinyl palmitate is the synthetically manufactured form of the vitamin.  It can usually be converted to retinol, and ultimately to retinoic acid. However, acetone and other unhealthy chemicals are used in the process of making it.

Taking carotenoid supplements is the preferred form because the body will only convert them to retinoids as needed. However, taking retinoids in excess can be very dangerous because acute retinol toxicity could occur.

Vitamin B1, Thiamine

Vitamin B1 supplements can be made in three different ways:

Making synthetic vitamin B1 looks something like this: Hydrochloric acid is added to coal tar. Then fermentation, heating, cooling, and other steps are completed until the synthetic vitamin is created. It has a similar molecular structure but is not the same as the naturally occurring vitamin. This is currently the least expensive way to make the vitamin.

Food extracted vitamin B1 is made in a logical and natural way. The plant containing the vitamin is harvested, cleaned, and then put into a vat of water. After the vitamin has moved into the water, the fluid is filtered and the fiber is removed. The plant extract will contain the nutrients found in the original plant. This is the most expensive way to obtain the vitamin and also the form that our body uses best.

Another way so called ‘’natural’ vitamins are created is by growing yeast and then feeding the yeast synthetic vitamins. The yeast is then harvested and made into vitamin supplements. The theory is that the yeast will contain the vitamin it has been fed in a whole food complex. However, I tested this theory on myself. Every day for one year I consumed a B-Complex containing yeast that had been fed the synthetic form of vitamin B12, called cyanocobalamin. Then I took a test to see my B12 status. My white blood cells showed a deficiency of Vitamin B12. I am not sold on this method of vitamin production.

Vitamin B2, Riboflavin

Several biotechnological processes have been developed for manufacturing riboflavin. Different microorganisms are used including filamentous fungi (Ashbya gossypii, Candida famata and Candida flaveri) and bacteria (Corynebacteriumammoniagenes and Bacillus subtilis [1])

The bacteria bacillus subtilis has been genetically modified to increase its production of riboflavin and also to make it resistant to the antibiotic ampicillin. This form of manufactured riboflavin made from GMO bacteria treated with an antibiotic is now used for both animal feed and human food fortification.  Natural food extracted B2 is obviously best with this vitamin.

Vitamin B3, Niacin

Nicotinic acid, the synthetic form of niacin, is created using coal tar, ammonia, and formaldehyde. It is less absorbable and has a greater risk of side effects than the natural form of the vitamin. However, nicotinic acid has been used for over 50 years to reduce low density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL), very low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (VLDL-C), and triglycerides (TG), and to increase high density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL).[2]  It has also been used to reduce the risk of cardiovascular events. [3]

Niaspan, available only by prescription, is an extended release form of nicotinic acid. It has a film coating that delays the release over a period of 8 – 12 hours. This can reduce the side effect of flushing but it increases the risk of liver toxicity.

Niacinamide, the flush free form of niacin found in food, does not dramatically reduce bad cholesterol or raise the good cholesterol, but can be synthesized in the human body from the amino acid tryptophan. Vitamin B6 is also required for the conversion of tryptophan to niacin, so low vitamin B6 status will impair this conversion. Niacin can also be extracted from plants for making supplements.

Vitamin B5, Pantothenic acid

Synthetic pantothenic acid is made with formaldehyde and isobutyraldehyde to form a calcium or sodium salt. Panthenol is the alcohol analog and acts as a provitamin for B5. I don’t recommend consuming any other form but food extracted B5.

Pantothenic acid derives its name from the Greek word pantothen, meaning “from everywhere”. Small amounts of pantothenic acid are found in almost every kind of food.

Vitamin B6, Pyridoxine

Synthetic Vitamin B6 – Pyridoxine hydrochloride is made from petroleum esters, hydrochloric acid, and formaldehyde. It may actually inhibit the action of natural B6 in the body. It also has side effects not normally found with natural food sources of this vitamin. Food extracted B6 is certainly best.

Pyridoxal-phosphate also known as PLP is the biologically active form of B6.

PLP is needed for almost all amino-acid-metabolism inside of our body, from synthesis to breakdown

Vitamin B7, Biotin

The process for making synthetic biotin was developed in the 1940s and uses fumaric acid as a starting material.[4] Fumaric acid may be toxic with long term use. [5]

In humans, healthy intestinal bacteria produce biotin in excess of the body’s daily requirements. However, healthy intestinal bacteria is becoming rare as antibiotic use is on the rise.

Biotin is available in a wide range of food sources but few are particularly rich sources.

Vitamin B9, Folate

Folate is the naturally occurring form of vitamin B9 found in food. Folic acid is synthetically produced and needs to be converted to a human active form in order to be used. People with the MTHFR-677 genetic mutation have trouble making the conversion and making folic acid useable. If you have this mutation and supplement your diet with folic acid, you may be doing yourself a disservice. Un-metabolized folic acid can depress the immune system and lead to cancer or other kinds of disease that thrive in a body with a weak immune system.

There are also many manufactured forms of folate that are available, some are good and some are not. They are prescribed for raising folate levels in people with the MTHFR-677 mutation.  Methylfolate is one of the better manufactured supplements for people with the MTHFR mutation.

Vitamin B12, Cobalamin

Vitamin B12 refers to a group of compounds called cobalamins that are found in the human body in different forms.

Naturally occurring B12, cobalamin, is a product of bacterial activity. Natural B12 is created by micro-organisms like the bacteria that grow in soil and in the intestines.

Cyanocobalamin is manufactured using the mineral cobalt and the toxin cyanide. They are fermented to make cyanocobalamin. People with the MTHFR mutation, (about 1 out of every 5 people) have great difficulty using this unmethylated form. What’s even worse, overuse can cause cyanide build up and become dangerous.

Hydroxocobalamin is not a form found in the human body, but can be converted in the body to a usable form of B12.  This form is not yet methylated and needs to be in order to be useful.

Methylcobalamin is the type os vitamin B12 found in the human body and can be used to prevent or treat a vitamin B12 deficiency. Methylcobalamin is produced by certain bacteria or manufactured in a laboratory. This is the best human active form to use as a supplement because it is already methylated.

People with low stomach acid may have difficulty absorbing B12 from animal food because it comes bound to protein. Hydrochloric acid is needed in order to be able to remove the B12 from the protein.


Natural Choline can be extracted from sunflower seeds and is found in lecithin. Synthetic choline called choline chloride or choline bitartrate is made using ammonia, ethylene and hydrochloric acid or tartaric acid. I certainly opt for the food extracted form here.

Vitamin C

Natural Vitamin C is found in nature in combination with bioflavonoids and phytonutrients that are important in its absorption and use. Synthetic Vitamin C, called ascorbic acid is isolated from genetically modified corn sugar that has been hydrogenated and processed with acetone. It does not include the bioflavonoids and phytonutrients that help it work.

Good sources for supplemental Vitamin C include camu camu, amla berry and acerola cherry.

Vitamin D

The human body produces vitamin D3 when exposed to the sun. D3 is the most effective form of the vitamin.

Mushrooms produce the inferior form, D2. Synthetic vitamin D2 is made using ergosterol, a type of plant sterol derived from fungal cell membranes. Ergosterol is turned into viosterol by ultraviolet light, and then converted into ergocalciferol.

To make D3, the waxy secretion from sheep skin called lanolin is processed.

If you decide to supplement with vitamin D, I suggest lichen extracted D3. Lichens produce the same D3 that comes from human skin when exposed to the sun.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is made up of 8 different compounds: Alpha, beta, gamma and delta tocopherol and alpha, beta, gamma and delta tocotrienol. In synthetic vitamin E, they are only reproducing one part. It is called dl-alpha tocopherol. This analog is created using refined oils, trimethylhydroquinone, and isophytol. It is not as easily absorbed, doesn’t stay as long in tissues, and is quickly excreted like an unknown chemical.

Rice bran and annatto are excellent sources of the entire E complex.

Vitamin K

There is K1 and K2. Natural Vitamin K1 is readily available in dark green leafy vegetables. Vitamin K2 is found in fermented food such as sauerkraut.

The synthetic vitamin K known as menadione comes from coal tar derivatives and genetically modified and hydrogenated soybean oil. They use hydrochloric acid and nickel in its production. It may actually damage the immune system among other unwanted side effects. In the United States, menadione supplements have been banned by the FDA because of their potential toxicity.

Once again, food extracted vitamin K is best.

Shockingly, the raw materials used for making synthetic vitamins can range from coal tar to petroleum and a long list of chemicals that one would never think of consuming. Synthetic supplements are made using chemical manipulations that duplicate the structure of isolated vitamins. Even worse, some supplements are produced by genetically altered bacteria because GMO bacteria can be made to produce vitamins. Unfortunately, formulas for these processes are not made available to the public. If they were, I am sure that it would reduce sales of synthetic vitamins and people would switch to food extracted vitamins.

[1] Stahmann KP, Revuelta JL and Seulberger H. Three biotechnical processes using Ashbya gossypii, Candida famata, or Bacillus subtilis compete with chemical riboflavin production. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol. 2000;53(5):509–516. doi:10.1007/s002530051649PMID 10855708

[2] Villines, TC; Kim, AS; Gore, RS; Taylor, AJ (2012). "Niacin: The evidence, clinical use, and future directions".Current atherosclerosis reports 14(1): 49–59. doi:10.1007/s11883-011-0212-1. PMID 22037771

[3] Bruckert, E; Labreuche, J; Amarenco, P (June 2010). "Meta-analysis of the effect of nicotinic acid alone or in combination on cardiovascular events and atherosclerosis". Atherosclerosis210 (2): 353–61.doi:10.1016/j.atherosclerosis.2009.12.023. PMID 20079494

[4] "Biotin" 2014-03-19. Retrieved 2014-03-19.

[8] European Commission: "European Commission Report of the Scientific Committee on Animal Nutrition on the Safety of Fumaric Acid". Retrieved 2014-03-07