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Tuesday, April 19, 2011


With the nuclear disaster in Japan in the news, you may have been hearing more about iodine. One of the nasty radioactive particles common in nuclear disasters are two radioactive forms of iodine (iodine-131 and iodine-132) They are selectively taken up by the thyroid gland causing cases of thyroid cancer. If your thyroid is getting plenty of iodine that is not radioactive, the thyroid is protected from the radioactive forms. Thus there’s recently been a run of dietary iodine supplements.

But there’s another factor in the iodine/thyroid story. The thyroid hormones (T3 and T4) are named because they have 3 or 4 iodine molecules attached. Without enough iodine, the thyroid molecules will be in short supply. Why does that matter? Well, many of the symptoms generally associated with getting older, are also symptoms of a low thyroid. For instance: weight gain, fatigue, low mood/depression, dry skin, dry hair, constipation, sensitivity to cold and cold hands and feet. The thyroid is the master hormone of all metabolic processes, so when it is low, everything is less than optimal.

More to the point, if you find yourself needing an afternoon nap, you might need some thyroid help. Falling asleep in the afternoon is NOT normal aging. It is pathology. If you think this might be an issue for you, email me for a comprehensive list of thyroid symptoms. (

In keeping with my health philosophy, (try cheap, non-toxic, might-help-strategies first) you might want to try supplementing with some iodine supplements first. Dr. John Briffa (from Britain) does a nutrition blog and a recent article reported here that 70% of teenage girls in the UK are deficient in iodine. You might be as well. And it probably is a good idea to supplement anyway, with all the ambient radiation in the world from our second Chernobyl.

I recently ran out of my iodine supplement (potassium iodide) and while waiting for a new supply I found that even in a week without it, I was colder—needing a jacket more—and falling asleep while reading in the afternoon. Those are not my normal states, and they disappeared when I took the supplement again. My recent supply came from a source found on and the brand is “Now.”
I mention that because it’s been hard to find.

One more point about thyroid hormones. T4 is the hormone made by the thyroid gland but T3 is the one that is biologically active within cells. The conversion of T4 to T3 requires an enzyme working within your liver. That enzyme requires adequate levels of selenium to do its job. So a low selenium levels can also make you hypo-thyroid.

If your hypothyroid symptoms do not abate with more iodine and/or selenium, getting your thyroid function checked by a doctor might be a good idea. Before you do however, read the following two articles for a better understanding of WHAT tests to ask for and what medication to demand if medication is needed. Getting an Rx of T4 is the normal treatment but if the conversion to T3 isn’t happening, your symptoms will not change.

I would like to hear your experiences. My own were pretty dramatic!


  1. Hi Ellie. I ended up with a kelp brand of iodine and two tabs daily do seem to up my energy.

    I'm wondering if here's also a correlation between SAAD or whatever the lack of sunlight depression connection is called and thyroid.

    I notice on overcast days I just want to nap regardless of energy.

  2. Good question, Anne...I have heard from some that lowering overall inflammation eliminates seasonal adaptive disorder...but since thyroid hormone is so intimately involveedd in brain function, I bet it's involved, too! BTW, what thyroid hormone does in the brain is transport the neurotransmitters from where they are produced to where they have receptors! No wonder low thyroid can mean low mood!