Iodine “The Most Misunderstood Nutrient”
For more than 35 years, the Schachter Center for Complementary Medicine, located in Suffern, New York, have treated numerous patients with complementary, alternative, and integrative medical approaches (CAIM). Dr. Michael B. Schachter is a recognized leader in orthomolecular psychiatry, nutritional medicine, chelation therapy for cardiovascular disease, and alternative cancer therapies.
By Dr. Jacques Doueck – An exclusive HealthWatchRadio interview with Dr. Michael Schachter
Dr. Doueck: What is the function of the thyroid?
Dr. Schachter: Your thyroid regulates metabolism of the entire body. It helps everything to work properly. It helps to generate heat and keep you warm, helps the brain to function, helps the heart to work properly and helps the immune system.
Dr. Doueck: What is hypothyroidism and what are the signs and symptoms?
Dr. Schachter: Hypothyroidism is one of the most under-diagnosed and important conditions in the United States. A low functioning thyroid has been called the “unsuspected illness” and accounts for a great number of complaints in children, adolescents, and adults.
- Low energy and fatigue or tiredness, especially in the morning, is frequent in these patients.
- Difficulty losing weight, a sensation of coldness–especially of the hands and feet.
- Depression, slowness of thought processes, headaches.
- Swelling of the face or fluid retention in general.
- Dry coarse skin, brittle nails, and chronic constipation are also common.
- In women, menstrual problems–such as PMS and menstrual irregularities including heavy periods and fertility problems are further signs and symptoms.
- People with an underactive thyroid may also have stiffness of joints, muscular cramps, shortness of breath on exertion, and chest pain. Be aware that a person with a low functioning thyroid doesn’t have to have all of these symptoms; he or she may have only a few.
Dr. Doueck: What does Iodine have to do with the thyroid?
Dr. Schachter: Iodine is the key ingredient in your thyroids hormone. T4 or thyroxine, which is the main hormone produced by the thyroid contains 4 iodine atoms and T3, which is the more active thyroid hormone, contains 3 iodine atoms.
Dr. Doueck: Is this the only organ in the body that needs Iodine?
Dr. Schachter: The answer to this question is crucial in understanding the role of iodine in health. The answer is “NO”, the thyroid is not the only organ in the body that needs iodine. In fact, every cell in the body needs iodine. It is particularly important for organs like the breast, ovary and uterus in women and the prostate in men. It helps to keep these organs healthy and to prevent cancer in these organs. Iodine is also necessary for the immune system. It is antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal and antiparasitic. No micro-organism has ever been shown to be resistant to iodine.
Dr. Doueck: Why can’t I just eat a normal diet – doesn’t the food we eat have naturally occurring Iodine?
Dr. Schachter: Iodine is not normally part of your diet, unless you eat kelp – which is a type of seaweed. This is why we need to have iodine added as a supplement. It is so important that the government has added it to our salt.
Dr. Doueck: Doesn’t table salt have the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of Iodine to prevent problems?
Dr. Schachter: The RDA of iodine is 150 micrograms (NOT MILLIGRAMS) a day and a little higher for certain special groups like pregnant women. In reality, for many people, this RDA is really too low. The average American intake of iodine at present is less than 100 mcg of iodine a day. So, many of us even take less than the RDA. In the 1960’s our flour had iodine added for two reasons to prevent clumping of the flour and as a nutrient supplement. At that time the average woman had an iodine intake of about 750 mcg a day. The incidence of breast cancer was 5%. Then due to misinterpretation of some studies, the government removed the iodine and replaced it with bromine to prevent the clumping. This resulted in a drop in iodine intake to around 100 mcg daily. The breast cancer rate increased to our present 17% a great increase, which has been shown to be associated with the low iodine intake. Salt became the only source of iodine for most people. These microgram quantities are INSUFFICIENT for helping to protect us against cancer and many other conditions.
Dr. Doueck: I had always been taught that iodine in high doses is toxic. Why is that accepted as fact?
Dr. Schachter: This is due to the results of a misinterpretation of an animal experiment that took place in the 1940s by famous endocrinologists at universities. They interpreted iodine at more than 2 mg daily suppressed the thyroid and were toxic. This interpretation was INCORRECT, but is accepted as fact by conventional medicine. In addition, before world war II, when super high doses to treat infections some patients became hyperthyroid and this also resulted in many physicians being afraid of it.
Dr. Doueck: What is wrong with the conventional way of measuring thyroid health?
Dr. Schachter: The problem is that the thyroid blood tests are not an accurate way of measuring thyroid health. A patient may have many symptoms of low thyroid and still have normal blood tests
We can compare conventional testing with the warning lights on your automobile dashboard. When a red light appears on your dashboard that is what happens with conventional testing. If you have a problem with the way your car engine is running there may be no red warning lights on your dashboard – but the car is still not functioning properly. A “complete diagnostic testing” is similar to when they hook your car to the diagnostic center at the dealer. Now the medical doctor or in our analogy the master mechanic – has more accurate information for a more accurate diagnosis. Many, if not most low thyroid cases, have normal thyroid hormone tests. So conventional testing – like the red lights on your dashboard – are useful in a very limited number of cases.
Dr. Doueck: If most hypothyroid cases cannot be diagnosed by the usual blood tests, how can they be diagnosed?
Dr. Schachter: In our practice we look for three things low thyroid symptoms, low basal temperatures, and a response to a therapeutic trial of thyroid hormone. We have found that many difficult to diagnose complaints are actually undiagnosed hypothyroidism. So if you or someone you know has symptoms that sound like it may fit in to this description you may want to look into hypothyroidism as a cause.
Michael B. Schachter M. D., CNS