Iodine plays a unique role in women’s health.
Have you heard that iodine can protect your breasts?
Japanese women have the lowest rates of breast cancer in the world and consume the highest amounts of iodine. When Japanese women immigrate to the US and start consuming a Western diet (low in iodine), their rates of breast health concerns soon match those of resident Americans.4
Many studies have looked at the benefits iodine may offer for breast health and have found that iodine deficiency may increase risk of breast concerns, fibrocystic issues, and thyroid concerns.3,4
Iodine deficiency is a major worldwide concern and still a problem in America. According to the 2004 World Health Organization (WHO) report, 36% of healthy adults worldwide are iodine deficient and 10%-36% of American adults are deficient.1,7
Iodine’s Unique Role in Women + Infants
More iodine is stored in the breast tissue than the thyroid during pregnancy and lactation. Research suggests the reason may be that iodine, which is rare, is essential for brain development in infancy. Storing iodine in the breast may be an evolutionary safeguard, ensuring iodine delivery to the infant through breast milk, securing proper brain development.5
Today, studies show adequate iodine is essential for breast health, whether a woman plans on breastfeeding or not. Lack of iodine may increase risk of breast issues, as well as issues related to cognitive function, heart health, and mental health.2 Iodine supplementation has also been found to increase breast milk production in lactating women.5
Iodine + Breast Health
Numerous studies link iodine to optimal breast health:
- Iodine offers powerful antioxidant support for breast tissue as well as supporting healthy timed cell death (apoptosis).2,4,6,13
- Iodine-deficient breast tissue is linked to elevated lipid peroxidation, one of the earliest factors in breast health issues.2
- Iodine-deficient breast tissue has been linked to DNA oxidation.2
- Low iodine levels have been shown to increase circulating estrogens in the breast. Consequently, iodine-deficient breast tissue has shown an increase of estrogen receptor proteins, making iodine-deficient breasts a target for toxic estrogens, increasing risk of breast health issues.7
- Environmental toxins are more likely to absorb into iodine-deficient breast tissue.7
- Stress is a big contributor to breasts and thyroid issues. Excess cortisol (a stress hormone) has been linked to a weakened immune system and breast health issues. Iodine supports healthy cortisol levels.11
- In animal studies, iodine was shown to support protective breast health by 2.5 times.12
- Iodine deficiencies in pregnant women have been linked to high blood pressure and low antioxidant levels compared to women with adequate iodine levels.13
The Japanese / American Iodine Contrast
Because of the high availability of iodine-rich sea vegetables, the traditional Japanese diet is naturally rich in iodine. In fact, iodine consumption in Japan is 25 times the amount of Western consumption, perhaps resulting in Japan having the lowest breast-related health concerns in the world.2-5,7
The Japanese consume food-based iodine at approximately 5-14x the upper safety limit in the US (1mg). Their urinary levels of iodine are approximately twice the levels found in the US. Yet these high levels of iodine appear to have no suppressive effect on thyroid function.7
While our RDA is just 15% of 1mg, or 150mcg, reports on iodine intake for the average Japanese person are as high as 15mgs per day. Early studies estimate their daily iodine intake at 14-15mg,9 while others suggest their daily intake is just 336mcg.10 The highest iodine consumption was found in the older population, who generally eat a more traditional, non-Westernized diet.8
After reviewing much of the current science available on iodine levels for breast health, I have found the optimal intake ranges from 1-3mg (1000-3000mcg) per day.7,9
Iodine + Hormonal Balance
It is well known that increased exposure to estrogens from plastics, a toxic environment, and synthetic hormone replacement therapy can have increased breast health risks.
Optimal iodine levels have been shown to decrease cellular responsiveness to estrogen. Iodine may also balance the concentration of estrogens in the body by building the amount of good estrogen (estriol) and decreasing the less beneficial estrogen (estrone).2,13-15
There may be two major reasons why iodine has become so deficient in the West. First, there has been about a 50% reduction of salt intake since the 1970s.3 While iodine is not a significant component of sea salt, it has been added to salt since 1924 to combat an iodine deficiency epidemic that was causing goiters and thyroid issues countrywide, especially in land-locked areas. This was extremely effective and has been a major source of iodine in America. However, refined salt has been linked to increased risk of cardiovascular concerns, and many health-conscious folks have cut this iodized product out of their diet, opting for sea salt instead.
A second major source of iodine since the 1960s has been commercial breads: in 1960, iodine was added to bread as a dough conditioner. One slice of bread offered 150mcg, 100% of the DRI (now called the Recommended Daily Allowance or RDA). In 1980, iodine in bread was replaced with bromine, which competes with iodine receptors. As a result of these two factors, iodine levels have plummeted by more than 50% over the last 30 years.3
We RecommendThe Complete Guide to Iodine Deficiency
8 Food Sources of Iodine: Iodine-Rich Foods8
- Cod, sardines, salmon, shrimp
- Yogurt, plain
- Salt (iodized), not exposed to air for more than 4 weeks
- Milk (cow’s)
- Fish sticks
- Eggs, boiled
Diets at risk for iodine deficiency include those void of ocean fish and sea vegetables, reduced salt diets (or consuming sea salt replacements instead), and vegetarian or vegan diets.
Vegetarians, who get their nutrition from iodine-depleted soils, generally have significantly low levels of iodine. In one study, iodine deficiency was noted in 25% of vegetarians and a whopping 80% of vegans.16
Detox Toxic Bromide + Fluoride that Compete with Iodine Receptors
In numerous studies, iodine supplementation was found to significantly increase urinary detoxification of both fluoride and bromide.18
In one study, only one day after supplementing with 50mg of iodine, urinary excretion of bromide increased by nearly 50% and fluoride excretions increased by 78%!19 This is a significant toxic load off the thyroid and pineal gland!
In another study, when fluoride levels were high in drinking water, there was a significant reduction in thyroid function, and the effect was worsened when there was an iodine deficiency.
In fact, when iodine levels were normal, there was minimal effect from fluoridated water.17,18
We RecommendHow to Detox Pineal Gland of Fluoride
To achieve optimal breast health and thyroid support from iodine supplementation, I suggest one capsule of Iodine HP (12mg) once every two weeks, which delivers about 1mg a day over time, which has been shown to support breast health.7,9
One large dose of iodine mimics a large sea vegetable meal, which helps flush toxic halogens (bromide and fluoride) from the pineal, thyroid, and iodine storing tissues through the urine.15
Unfortunately, iodine is not available in sufficient quantities in most foods. Sea vegetables, such as kombu (also called kelp), may be the most reliable dietary source, although, radiation contamination must be considered.
Experts believe an effective iodine supplement should contain both iodine and iodide. Iodine is concentrated in different forms by different tissues of the body. The thyroid and skin concentrate the iodide form, while the breast and prostate concentrate the iodine form. If you choose to supplement, look for a product with both iodine and iodide (such as LifeSpa’s Iodine HP). (15)
Studies suggest optimal iodine levels support breast health. Whether you choose to supplement or to make sea vegetables a mainstay in your diet, make sure you are getting enough of this rare, essential mineral.