With a historical backdrop that sounds very similar to sulfur, iodine is an essential element that our body needs to stay healthy but is lacking in a vast segment of the general population due to modern food processing practices, the mindset of the mainstream medical community that considers iodine to be a toxin, and environmental exposure to bromine and bromide products that inhibit the metabolism of this vital nutrient.


Burnt seaweed has been used for thousands of years to treat swollen glands caused by a common thyroid condition called goiter. After the discovery of iodine in the early 19th century, British and European doctors began to make the connection that it was the iodine in the seaweed that helped goiter patients recover.

In 1829, a French doctor by the name of Jean Lugol developed his initial mixture of Lugol’s Solution that contained 5% iodine and 10% potassium iodide dissolved in distilled water. Today, nearly two centuries later, various manufacturers continue to produce and sell variants of Lugol’s Solution in different concentrated forms. However, because iodine can be used as a catalyst to illegally produce methamphetamine, drug stores in the United States are prohibited from carrying Lugol’s Solution, while individual Americans are restricted to purchasing just one ounce of the 5% mixture on a daily basis when used without a doctor’s prescription. In contrast, the 2% low potency Lugol’s carries no such restriction and unlimited quantities can be purchased over the Internet.

From 1820 until the turn of the century, iodine was looked upon as the medical practitioner’s ‘Swiss Army Knife’ for treating a variety of infectious diseases and ailments such as asthma, bronchitis, tuberculosis, syphilis, and leprosy. Until the introduction of penicillin in 1929, iodine compounds were commonly prescribed to treat syphilitic lesions. Goiter was a common problem in a region like Akron, Ohio, where the soil is notoriously deficient in iodine. In 1924, Dr. David Marine led efforts to iodize salt in the United States as an effective and inexpensive way to radically reduce the incidences of goiter.

Iodine is a powerful disinfectant and anti-microbial agent that kills bacteria and viruses upon contact. During the U.S. Civil War of 1861-65, some soldiers carried canteens of iodine to purify water and treat infections caused by unsanitary conditions. Prior to World War II, countless Americans kept tincture of iodine in their medicine cabinets.


Despite its long and verifiable history as a medical aid, iodine began to lose some of its appeal in 1948 when Dr. Jan Wolff and Dr. Israel Chaikoff at the University of California issued a report that claimed that ingestion of a large amount of iodine by humans would severely inhibit thyroid hormone levels – a conclusion that they extrapolated from their study of rats. According to retired UCLA professor Dr. Guy Abraham, the most quoted reference for the validation of the so-called Wolff-Chaikoff (W-C) Effect in humans is not the original 1948 publication, but rather a review by Dr. Wolff in 1969 that was titled, “Iodide goiter and the pharmacologic effects of excess iodide”, that was published in the American Journal of Medicine. Given the blessing of the National Institute of Health, the 1969 article was viewed with strong credibility among the clinician community.

Repercussions from the W-C report followed swiftly. Around 1972, food manufacturers began to change their bread recipes, substituting bromated flour as their dough conditioner of choice instead of potassium iodate. Dozens of new food products (e.g., sports drinks) that contain bromated vegetable oil (BVO) have been brought into the marketplace. At the same time, the public has become increasingly exposed to bromine at the environmental level in the form of pesticides that contain methylbromide as well as common household products such as children’s toys, clothing, rugs, and upholstery that use a bromine compound as a flame retardant.

As described on pp. 67-68 of Lynne Farrow’s book, The Iodine Crisis:

The symporters are the tissues used by the body to trap iodine from the bloodstream so it can be absorbed by the body.

Competition for the receptors that absorb iodine is fierce. The halogen group of elements is controlled by a mechanism called “competitive inhibition.” Bromine usually wins this competition because of its prevalence as an environmental toxin. But chlorine, fluorine, and the lesser known astatine can knock iodine off this very appealing receptor.

Our white blood cells use a combination of enzymes, hydrogen peroxide, chlorine, and iodine to kill micro-organisms that are inside the body. While chlorine is more readily available to the body than iodine, it may fail to kill all pathogens and simply encapsulate them into granulomas that could become a future source of infection.

Despite these facts, you might still be wondering why I should raise a health concern over iodine if table salt is iodized? For one thing, iodine immediately begins to evaporate as soon as your salt box or container is opened. While alternatives such as Celtic and Himalayan salt have gained in popularity in recent years, neither contain iodine. In recent decades, there has been a movement to reduce our dietary intake of salt. The Recommended Daily Allowance for iodine in the United States has been set at a minuscule 0.15 mg per day. This level is the bare minimum to avoid goiter. The thyroid gland can use up to 8 mg of iodine daily; any excess can be used to saturate and protect the mucus glands. While he was alive, Dr. Abraham advocated a minimum of 12.5 mg of iodine daily, or nearly 100 times the RDA. In addition, pharmaceutical companies have became extremely successful in supplanting the medical use of iodine with their patented antibiotics. Is it any wonder that iodine deficiencies abound?

Modern nuclear catastrophes highlight the need to have access to potassium iodide to protect against cancer of the thyroid. Iodine-131, the radioactive isotope associated with Chernobyl and Fukushima, has a half-life of 8 days. Interestingly, iodine is the one element of the periodic table that cannot be neutralized and turned into a harmless sulfate by taking organic sulfur, while chlorine blocks the body’s uptake of sulfur.

According to Ms. Farrow and her book, iodine consumption in the U.S. has decreased by 50 percent since the 1970s, while the decline in iodine consumption can be linked to a dramatic increase in breast cancer and disease, prostate cancer, and thyroid diseases such as hypothyroidism. Before Fukushima changed Japan’s landscape and living environment, the average Japanese consumed about 13.8 mg of iodine a day which helped them achieve the lowest incidence of cancer in the world.

I close with a final comment from Dr. Abraham from his paper entitled, “The Wolff Chaikof Effect: Crying Wolf?

The W-C Effect, combined with medical stupidity, may have caused more human misery and death than both world wars combined by preventing meaningful clinical investigations of optimal levels of iodine on physical and mental health. Today, the optimal requirement of iodine for whole body sufficiency is still unknown. We have attempted to calculate this amount based on a review of the literature and it turns out to be 100 times the RDA.


The Iodine Crisis: What You Don’t Know About Iodine Can Wreck Your Life
by Lynne Farrow

The Wolff Chaikof Effect: Crying Wolf?
Guy E Abraham, M.D.

The Lost Knowledge of Iodine

Wolff–Chaikoff effect
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Brominated Vegetable Oil Q&A

Breast Cancer Choices

Iodine Research

Who Stole Iodine from Our Medicine Cabinet and Food?
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3 thoughts on “Who Stole Iodine from Our Medicine Cabinet and Food?

  • 2014-11-25 at 12:32 pm

    Iodine and organic sulfur supplements have changed my life more than the thousands of dollars worth of other supplements I have tried.

    My question is this: If there weren’t any iodine supplements available to us anymore, what natural substitutions could we use?

    Seaweed seems like the next best thing, but hasn’t that become contaminated with radiation from Japan? Where do we go from here?

    • 2014-11-28 at 5:22 pm

      While I have never tried this brand myself, you might check your favorite grocer to see if they carry seaweed from Power Super Foods, which sources their products from the Atlantic, rather than the Pacific. http://bit.ly/1tzgryx


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