The Overlooked Deficiency That Leads to Fibromyalgia, Breast Disease, and Obesity

Dr. Janet Zand
September 23, 2018


There’s a nutrient deficiency that’s much more common than you may think. It’s been associated primarily with thyroid dysfunction, but it causes a lot more harm than that. Insufficient amounts of this essential element contribute to many other health problems, including cancer.

Doctors are seeing very low levels in women with breast cancer. But it causes numerous other conditions. These include subclinical hypothyroidism, Graves’ disease, autoimmune thyroiditis, fibromyalgia, polycystic ovary syndrome, fibrocystic breast disease, obesity, sleep apnea, cardiac arrhythmia, diabetes (both types), hypertension, and hormone resistance syndromes. The problem is, this deficiency is not only common, it’s difficult to diagnose.

It is iodine insufficiency. If you have any of the above conditions and haven’t had your iodine levels checked, you could be missing an important part of the solution to your problem. Just testing your thyroid through blood tests is not enough.

Why Are We Deficient?

One of the main reasons iodine deficiency is so common is because of the amount of fluoride and bromide we consume. Fluoride is in just about everyone’s water. And bromide is in almost all grocery store breads.

In the 1960s, we got more iodine from our bread. Iodine-containing dough conditioners added 150 mcg of iodine to each slice! But over the past 20 years, food processors have substituted this conditioner with bromine/bromide, a substance that opposes iodine and contributes to goiters. So instead of getting a little iodine in every slice of bread you eat, you’re now getting a little bromine that lowers your iodine levels even further.

Both fluoride and bromide interfere with thyroid function and the central nervous system. Their ability to cause problems depends on how much iodide your body contains. When you have sufficient iodine and iodide, they compete with bromide. This means that bromide can't be utilized in the thyroid. Iodide also reduces the toxicity of fluoride.

Our breast tissues need iodine to protect us against breast cancer. When we have too much bromide and not enough iodide, bromide interferes with iodine utilization. And the reverse is true. When you increase your iodine intake to the amount found in the diet of healthy mainland Japanese, your body excretes both fluoride and bromide.

Iodine Regulates the Thyroid

Your thyroid and breast tissues contain high amounts of iodine. Insufficient iodine can lead to hypothyroidism and breast cancer. And most people aren’t getting enough iodine.

In 1940, the typical American diet contained 500-800 mcg of iodine. By 1995, this amount had dropped to 135 mcg.

Iodine is fighting for protecting your breasts against cancer. Here’s how: Low iodine can increase the production of estrogens. And your lifetime exposure to negative estrogens increases your risk for breast cancer. Iodine normalizes the effect of estrogens on breast tissues.

In one study on iodine in the thyroid and breast tissues of rats, Dr. B. Eskin, who has been researching this subject for more than 30 years, found that when rats became deficient in iodine they became hypothyroid. Then when they gave these rats estrogen, their breast cells became pre-cancerous. When they gave them iodine, their abnormal cell growth stopped.

Most doctors believe that 150 mcg of iodine a day is enough. Doctors learn about iodine from The Thyroid (Braverman and Utiger, Editors, Lippincott, 2000) and other textbooks. These books say that excessive iodine is any amount greater than 500 mcg (.5 mg). But this amount is 100 times less iodine than healthy Japanese get. While our RDA for iodine is 150 mcg a day, the average consumption of iodine from seaweed by the mainland Japanese is nearly 14 milligrams. As our intake of iodine has declined, breast cancer has increased. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

Guy E. Abraham, MD, a research gynecologist and endocrinologist, has studied iodine for decades and he disagrees with this dosage. He has found that 50 mg of iodine and iodide is needed to normalize iodine levels. Iodide is necessary because this is the form of iodine that the thyroid gland uses.

That’s 400 times more than the RDA. It sounds like it might be too much. Dr. Abraham has studied iodine for years and published a number of scientific studies on the subject. He found that more than 90% of us are low in iodine. When we take this larger amount, iodine acts as an adaptogen, regulating various body functions. That’s why it affects so many illnesses.

Why Iodine Is an Adaptogen

Iodine is known for its role in thyroid function. But it does much more. It's used throughout the body and helps normalize a number of body functions. With the higher dose Dr. Abraham recommends, iodine acts as an adaptogen, regulating various body functions. Here’s what sufficient iodine can do for you:

Normalizes hormone receptors: Hormones have “parking spaces” called receptors that are reserved for them. These receptors need to have iodine attached to them for optimal function. Without enough iodine, your hormones won’t work at their best.

Regulates the thyroid: Your thyroid gland needs iodine whether it’s working normally, underactive (hypothyroidism), overactive (Graves' disease), or is enlarged (goiter). Enough iodine normalizes all these conditions.

Reduces fibromyalgia in patients with low thyroid function: One doctor observed some improvement in his fibromyalgia patients on iodine supplementation. This could be because excess bromide often displaces iodine. Dr. Abraham has reported that iodine improves fibromyalgia because it removes bromide out of the body.

Protects your breasts: Earlier I mentioned that when bromide gets into breast tissues, it displaces iodine, which is essential for breast health. Some women with fibrocystic breast disease find their cysts and tenderness disappear after iodine supplementation.

Supports the adrenal glands and stress: Our adrenal glands need sufficient iodine to function properly and respond to life's many stresses.

Helps the stomach make HCl: Low hydrochloric acid (HCl) production is frequently caused by iodine insufficiency. We need iodine to pump chloride into stomach cells (hydroCHLORICacid). Without enough HCl, we can't digest protein or utilize calcium, magnesium, or iron efficiently.

Improves immunity: Iodine protects us from two toxic elements, fluoride and bromide, by competing with them for their place in our tissues. These toxins are in our water, hot tubs, non-organic foods, and some soft drinks. Bromide is even used in some asthma drugs. If you don't have enough iodine, chances are you have too much fluoride and bromide. Sufficient iodine pulls these toxins out of your body.

Iodine for Women

Iodine is especially important for women, because it is concentrated in both the thyroid gland and breast tissues. Because women have larger breasts than men, we need more iodine than they do.

Your body needs two forms of iodine. Your breasts need iodine, while your thyroid uses iodide. Textbooks on endocrinology say that iodine by itself is sufficient since it is converted into iodide in the intestines. But a study using both iodine and iodide indicates our thyroid functions better when iodide is included. Taking a supplement containing both is ideal. This is available in a supplement designed by Dr. Abraham. The name of it is Iodoral. And it is the highest quality iodine/iodide tablet available. Many people don’t get the results they expect from other brands because they don’t contain iodide. But Iodoral has an enormous amount of research behind it. It is the gold standard in iodine tablets


Hoption, Cann SA. “Hypothesis: dietary iodine intake in the etiology of cardiovascular disease,” J Am Coll Nutr, 2006.

Abraham, G.E., et al. “Orthoiodosupplementation: Iodine sufficiency of the whole human body,” The Original Internist, 9:30-41, 2002.

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