How Low Iodine Levels Can Cause Hashimoto’s Disease

We all know that iodine is essential for the thyroid and breast health. However, excessive consumption of iodine through the diet can trigger and significantly aggravate autoimmune thyroid condition called Hashimoto’s disease and should be avoided for life.

But what about those Hashimoto’s patients who have low iodine levels? In the following article Dr. Alexander Haskell, ND explains how low iodine levels can also trigger Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and talks about his treatment approach in reducing thyroid inflammation and restoring healthy iodine levels.

Hashimotos: The Iodine-Iodide Issue

Guest article by Dr. Alexander Haskell, ND the Author of the book Hope for Hashimoto’s

Hashimotos is known as an autoimmune condition which is accompanied by  thyroid inflammation. What most people don’t realize is that thyroid  inflammation happened long before their development of Hashimotos. This fact is  different from the conventional point of view which believes that a person’s  thyroid antibodies are the cause of thyroid inflammation.

Therefore if we can step back and understand the origin of thyroid  inflammation we then have a much better idea about how to reverse Hasimotos.

The Role of Iodine and Iodide

From my clinical experience iodide and iodine play a role in the cause or  etiology of thyroid inflammation and the perpetuation of Hashimotos.

To understand this I need to briefly review a little thyroid physiology.

There are two primary thyroid hormones. One is Thyroxine or T4 and the other  is Tri-iodothyronine or T3.  The 4 and the 3 refer to the number of iodine atoms  attached to each hormone.

Yet iodine does not enter thyroid cells.  It’s iodide which is absorbed and  enter thyroid cells through what are called ‘Iodine Traps.’  I have no idea why  they’ve been given this term when they actually absorb iodide.

Yet iodide is absorbed, waiting to be converted into iodine which is then  used to make thyroid hormones.  And when the time comes to these hormones  thyroid cells produce hydrogen peroxide to pull off one atom from the iodide to  make iodine.

When thyroid cells are stimulated to make their hormones, their production of  hydrogen peroxide increases, converting iodide into iodine, and the assembly  line of making thyroid hormones advances.

What stimulates thyroid cells to make hydrogen peroxide is the hormone TSH or  Thyroid Stimulating Hormone.  This fact is very important because of its  connection with thyroid inflammation.

TSH and Thyroid Inflammation

When levels of thyroid hormones decline in the blood the gland which produces  TSH increases its production in an attempt to stimulate thyroid cells to make  more hormones. So when thyroid hormones decline, TSH goes up.

Then what will happen when a person has a deficiency of iodide?

When there’s a lack of iodide there will be a lack of iodine inside thyroid  cells, so thyroid hormone production goes down. And when thyroid hormone  production goes down, TSH goes up.

This TSH stimulates thyroid cells to produce more and more hydrogen peroxide,  and if levels of hydrogen peroxide remain high, which they will if thyroid  hormone levels remain low, hydrogen peroxide will eventually lead to irritation  and eventually inflammation.

Lab Testing

Both TSH and the thyroid hormones T4 can be checked through lab testing. As  in our previous example of an iodide deficiency, when TSH is high and T4 is  below the lab’s reference range then the person is diagnosed with  Hypothyroidism.

If the TSH is high and T4 is low but still within the lab’s reference range  then the person will likely be diagnosed with Subclinical Hypothyroidism.  Research has shown that about half the people with Subclinical Hypothyroidism  will eventually develop Hashimotos.  Why is this?

Elevated TSH leads to increased hydrogen production within thyroid cells  leading to inflammation. Inflammation speeds up the metabolism of cells leading  to their aging prematurely.  This means that inflamed thyroid cells have a  shortened life expectancy and when they die they release their contents   including Thyroperoxidase and Thyroglobulin.  This enzyme and protein trigger an  immune response with the development of antibodies.

Therefore an iodide deficiency will lead to thyroid inflammation. The means  of helping thyroid inflammation is through the use of iodide. This will improve  thyroid hormone production which will lower TSH.

But is this same approach true for Hashimotos?

Iodide for Hashimotos?

Here’s the double edge of the iodide sword.

As far as the body’s intelligence is concerned iodide and iodine are  absolutely essential for health and are considered precious commodities. And  over hundreds, maybe thousands, of generations we developed an ability to store  these trace elements in case of a shortage, similar to how our livers store  vitamin B12 for years.

When we ingest iodide and iodine they are readily absorbed into those same  Iodine Traps which exist in the thyroid as well as other tissues throughout the  body. These traps are also known as Sodium Iodine Symports. Storage in these  symports allows us to use iodine and iodine later on as needed.

These symports don’t have the intelligence to automatically know when iodine  and iodide are available. They must be stimulated by the same hormone that  stimulates those traps in thyroid cells, TSH.

So when iodine and iodide are ingested this triggers an increase in the  production of TSH. This TSH will stimulate the symports in the thyroid and  throughout the body to absorb iodide and iodine respectively.  Yet remember,  with Hashimotos we do not want elevated TSH since it also stimulates thyroid  cells to produce hydrogen peroxide.

The Danger of Iodine & Iodine

Here’s a story from before I knew better than to use high doses of iodine and  iodide.  A 53 year old woman had symptoms of Hypothyroidism.  She had a TSH of  3.65 (slightly high) and a T4 thyroid hormone level of 6.5 (very much on the low  side of the lab’s normal reference range). So I put her on a high dose of iodine  and iodide, about 12 mg of each.  We repeated her labs after six months to find  a TSH of 107. I was shocked to say the least.

For this reason, and because it is vital to get TSH below 1.0 for people with  Hashimotos, I avoid using iodine and iodide completely in the first phase of  treatment which is to lower thyroid inflammation.

As you can see, a deficiency of iodide is the primary cause of thyroid  inflammation. Yet once this inflammation has progressed, causing thyroid cell  destruction, the release of Thyroglobulin and Thyroperoxidase and the activation  of antibodies, iodide and iodine must be avoided.

Steps to Reducing Thyroid Inflammation

Here are the steps in the first phase of reducing thyroid inflammation.

  • Avoid supplements with iodine and iodide.
  • Reduce TSH by providing thyroid hormones. This is done primarily through a  thyroid prescription.  There is no other way of increasing thyroid hormone  levels in order to reduce TSH to at least 1.0.
  • Provide selenium in the methionine form which has proven to reduce thyroid  inflammation.
  • Improve glutathione levels to also quench inflammation. Selenium helps to  improve glutathione levels. Glutathione can also be applied topically over the  thyroid using pharmaceutical grade DMSO.
  • Improve the ecology of the gut. Any gut inflammation for some reason  parallels thyroid inflammation.  Maybe one reason for this is that both the  intestines and the thyroid have the same embryonic origin, the endoderm.

If you are interested to learn more about Hashimotos we have produced a series of videos on its origin, effective ways to reduce  thyroid inflammation and thyroid antibodies, and why a broad, holistic approach  is essential.

Dr. Haskell is a practicing, licensed physician in Salt Lake City and  specializes in Hashimotos and other thyroid issues. Please be sure to visit our  site for more educational materials and services. Our site is located at

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Hope for Hashimoto’s by Dr. A. Haskell, CreateSpace, 2011

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