I’ve been receiving a lot of questions from patients and drgangemi.com readers regarding the Japanese nuclear disaster, so I felt like it was time to post my thoughts and actions on the health matter. The amount of radioactivity released into the air and the ocean is said to be very large. Radioactive iodine has been found in rainwater in Massachusetts, California, Washington state, and Pennsylvania. I believe a week or so ago local news reports here in North Carolina were saying that coastal levels in North and South Carolina were higher than normal. To date, the amount of radiation reported has been low. It is hard to know what exactly to believe as some reports may underestimate the levels so not to spread panic, while other may overestimate and not take into account the normal levels that are present every “normal” day.
As you may know, potassium iodine (KI) is recommended by the CDC to prevent injury, (primarily thyroid cancer), from radioactive iodine fallout. If you are iodine deficient, as most people (especially Americans) are, your body will try to absorb iodine from whatever source it can get it from, and that means radioactive particles from Japan included. Many areas are reporting shortages of KI as panic is spreading faster than the radiation itself. However, obviously this does not take into account how much iodine a person already has in their body, how healthy they are overall, and how well they will and can tolerate KI. Too much potassium or sodium iodide can produce toxic reactions such as heart palpitations, skin rashes, stomach distress, swelling of the salivary glands, burning of the mouth and throat, diarrhea, anxiety, elevated blood pressure, and in some cases, iodine induced Graves disease and irreversible hyperthyroidism.
Let me give you a brief history or iodine. Essential trace minerals such as iodine used to have a natural ecosystem supply route to replenish soils of the earth. Iodine came from the ocean and the wind carried iodine over the earth. When it rained trace minerals were deposited and absorbed into the soil. The amount of iodine in the diet varied depending upon the amount of iodine present in the soil in which plants grew or which the animals grazed upon. Even back as far as the 1930’s iodine carried by the wind was depleted when it arrived to the middle of the United States, a region known as the Goiter Belt. This epidemic forced the U.S. Government to promote iodine as an essential nutrient to be added primarily to salt to combat the disease known as goiter. Iodized salt has limitations though and some believe that a person taking it is given a false assurance that adequate iodine is supplied to the body, when it is not. Sea salt tends to be better assimilated by the body due to all the trace minerals that accompany it. However, most sea salt is void of iodine.
It is not just the thyroid gland that is at risk with exposure to radioactive iodine. The breasts, ovaries, uterus, and prostate also rely on adequate levels of iodine. Actually, every cell in your body requires some amount of iodine for optimal functioning.
A healthy person has a range that maintains a minimum of 20-25mg of iodine in the body. Anything less than that make can make one susceptible to low metabolism problems and invites unsuspected airborne radioactive uptake. There are tests such as a urinary iodine metabolism test that can measure iodine status, however I question its accuracy. There are many physicians who prescribe very high amounts of iodine, up to 50mg a day. The RDA for iodine is only 150mcg a day. Clearly this is too low, but 50mg (50,000mcg) appears to be an awful lot. The physicians who treat at these high levels note vast improvements in their patients and although I don’t disagree with some of these claims, my experience shows otherwise. I’ve never needed to give a patient over 10mg a day, and often even that high of a dose is only needed for a short period. Typically I dose my patients at between 2-3mg a day on average, and some much less than 1mg. The majority of my patients do not take any iodine at all in supplemental form. I often recommend kelp added to sea salt to obtain iodine. I do not take iodine, nor do any of my family members; and we are not starting it yet either despite the news. Whenever I have seen a patient take higher doses of iodine, especially those who come to me already taking heavy doses (over 10mg/day), I always find toxicity problems. Sure, one of their initial complaints may have improved, their energy perhaps, but they are still dealing with many other health issues and some of those are being caused by the toxic levels of iodine they are taking. This is why the best results with iodine therapy are when it is combined with a holistic treatment regimen. This means taking into account ALL nutrients that an individual may need, especially antioxidant levels that are important to help the body deal with radiation effects. A healthy diet and exercise regime are also very important. Don’t think you can just take iodine and be fine. Yes it may help, but there’s so much more to it than just iodine. Remember that many toxic substances can block or inhibit iodine utilization in the body – fluoride, bromide, and chlorine. I discuss this here.
So should you take iodine now, or when exactly should you take iodine? And what type? The following is my position and what I’m telling my patients. I’m able to individually treat each one of my patients for their individual needs and health concerns. Many of you are not my patients so I cannot advise you, however you can make your own decisions and discuss options with your doctor.
Due to the toxicity of potassium iodine I do not recommend it to my patients. Here are the CDC recommendations for KI. Please note that I DO NOT agree with or advise these levels to my patients, for reasons discussed, but I thought it would be appropriate to note their position. “Adults and women who are breastfeeding should take 130mg of potassium iodide. Children who are between 3 and 18 years of age should take 65mg of potassium iodide. Children who are adult size should take the adult dose. Infants and children between 1 month and 3 years of age should take 32mg of potassium iodide. Newborns from birth to one month of age should be given 16mg of potassium iodide.”
I most often use a product called Iosol for iodine replacement therapy, and this is the product I recommend my patients have at home. Iosol is a high potency water-soluble iodine made and combined with vegetarian grade glycerine. It has been used as a dietary supplement since 1947. Each single drop contains 1.83 mg of iodine. 1oz of Iosol has about 620 drops and will last an adult a minimum of 10 weeks if they are taking the following doses due to a radiation disaster.
Iodine is cleared out of the body within 24 to 72 hours after taking it, so it is important that iodine status remains at healthy levels throughout your day-to-day life, not just when there is a disaster. However, prior to or upon a disaster, adults should ingest 10 to 15 drops of Iosol 3 times a day. (Yes, this is roughly one-half the recommended dose the CDC recommends for KI.) Take with any volume of water, distilled or purified without chlorine or fluorine is best. Do this for one week. Use half the adult dosage for children. Some physicians recommend using 0.08mg/pound for children (pets too). This is obviously much less than one-half the adult dose, so you need to use your best judgment. Factors such as prior iodine status, health of the individual, and toxic radiation levels all come into play. After one week, 1 to 5 drops a day may be necessary for protection. Again, I am not suggesting that anyone supplement a child or themselves without seeking care from their health care provider.
I hope this article is useful to you. I will update as news emerges. Don’t panic and head to Costco to buy gallons of drinking water and canned foods. Eating healthy, proper exercise, and an overall positive mental outlook on life should be part of your daily routine, not just when disaster strikes. If you’re already very healthy and fit, your chances of suffering the effects of any natural disaster are significantly diminished.