In July 2011 I began taking iodine in yet another attempt to conquer insomnia and a decade-long fatigue, which was not officially “Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.”
Dosages involved were between 80 and 1000 times the US RDA of 150 mcg, but only between 1 and 10 times what the average Japanese person consumes every day (about 13 mg).
Brief rundown of benefits I noticed
During the experiment, I had significant improvement in mental concentration, joint stiffness, skin weirdness, abdominal pain, and sinus comfort, and a cough I’d had for three years disappeared. It also seems that certain supplements now work that did not work prior to the experiment, but I’m not sure to what extent. Iodine did nothing for my sleep and in fact made it worse for a while. It did little for my energy level. Some of the improvements reversed if I reduced the dosage below 100 mg a day, but the following have been maintained 18 months later:
- cough? It came back eventually, but not as bad.
Don’t forget the selenium
I belatedly concluded that a major element was missing in this experiment — adequate selenium. I was going by the Yahoo Iodine Group’s guidelines that state that no one needs more than 400 mcg a day, and that more can be dangerous. I now think that is wrong. Several months after I stopped the iodine, after reading Stop the Thyroid Madness’ page on selenium, I started experimenting with selenium alone. I found that several days of 800 (or maybe 1200 mcg?) a day did incredible things for my energy, and eliminated the jittery, wired feeling iodine had left me with. However, after six weeks or so it started worsening my breathing problems — not good. I’m assuming that I once again upset the iodine-selenium balance. Some day I shall revisit the experiment.
Treatment protocol I followed
The treatment protocol I followed during the iodine experiment is based on the research of Drs. Brownstein and Abrahams. I also relied heavily on Yahoo’s Iodine Group guidelines (which I still recommend heartily except for the selenium bit, but boy does their search function suck). Side effects are attributed to iodine’s tendency to lower iron levels and to displace the chemicals chlorine, flouride, and bromine from the body. The usual minimum treatment time is three months.
Why we might be deficient in iodine
Theories as to why an American might be iodine deficient despite the iodization of salt and other food products in the 1920s:
- dramatically lowered salt intake
- replacement of iodine with bromine in baked goods in the 1960s
- household/industrial/food chemicals compete with iodine:
— flouride: tap water, Rx drugs, pesticides, dental products
— chlorine: tap water, swimming pools, packaged foods
— bromine: baked goods, pesticides, fire retardants, chocolate
- iodine-deficient soil in Midwest
- limited seafood in average American diet
The iodine supplements I used
After the first month of the experiment I switched brands from Terry Naturally Tri-Iodine (5 mg molecular iodine, 5 mg sodium iodide, 2.5 mg potassium iodide = 12.5 mg total per capsule) to Iodoral (5 mg iodine, 7.5 mg potassium iodide = 12.5 mg total per capsule).
Diary of observations
Below is a diary of my observations during the seven months of the experiment, in reverse chronological order. Note: ADTT = accelerated digestive transit time, by which I think I meant accelerated elimination time — as in, running to the loo. So you might want to start an experiment like this on the weekend, rather than during the work week.
Month 7: 100mg
Finally eliminated last source of bromide from diet: replaced chocolate with organic version that’s about six times as expensive. Interesting results. More about it in this post.
Day 168-? : 100mg
After went back up to this dose, had two days of the usual side effects — constant dripping nose, headaches, weird acne — although not quite so bad. Concentration improved again after three days. I’m now experimenting with the idea that iron’s side effects are caused by low riboflavin (vitamin B2) levels. I found a more bioavailable form, riboflavin 5-phosphate, to try. (FYI don’t try the sublingual co-enzymated version: it’s like sucking on very small swimming-pool chlorine pellets.) Desire to watch Japanese-language movies has not returned.
Day 105-167: 50 mg
Because it was so hard to fight my lowered iron status on the higher 100 mg dose, I went down to 50 mg for two months and every few weeks I’d quit entirely to see what happened. After a few days without I’d definitely feel the lack. While on this dose I also started benfotiamine, which for a month gave me tons of energy but then petered out. I’m wondering if it was because it ran out of iodine to play around with. I don’t know. Finally I became so non-productive I went back to 100 mg — no wimp-ass gradual titration for me — and improved very quickly, even with a head cold.
Day 78-104: 100 mg
Can now say conclusively that iodine has had no effect on my sleep, but the brain fog is definitely less, and even more improved when combined with vitamin K. Annoying having to alternate between taking iron to get physical work done and stopping iron to prevent complete insomnia. Not sure what adding vitamin B6 accomplished.
Day 74-77: 100 mg
Upped dose to try to return to better concentration experienced on higher dose. Thinking improved for several days, then worsened again. No detox symptoms. Added vitamin B6 after reading a few iodine experimenters observations that this seemed to help. Low-iron fatigue symptom returned after a few days so added 25 mg of iron.
Day 67-73: 50 mg
Two days of headaches, the usual ADTT. Sinuses improved. No real improvement in brain fog at this dose.
Day 61-66….no dose
Two days of headaches so far. Sinuses seemed to get worse. Possible sleep improvement.
Day 48-60: 50 mg
After second day back on iodine, histamine back under control. Have now watched 17 Japanese-language movies. On day 48 struck by urge to eat 15 pieces of supermarket sushi in one sitting. Two more repetitions of this scientific binge testing indicate that my body is no longer reacting in a nasty way to soy. (Soy is a goitrogen and interferes with the absorption of iodine levels in the body.) However, the rice definitely still affects my histamine levels. Histamine levels in general seem to be climbing slowly again.
Day 43-47: no dose
Two days of headaches, controlled with salt water. According to Yahoo Iodine group, in terms of ridding body of bromide/chloride/flouride some people do better with pulse-dosing — a few days on, a few days off — so that might explain the side effects. After about three days without iodine, felt high histamine-zombieness returning so decided to go back on, but on more modest dose. (Ha. Relatively speaking). Also realized recently that persistent cough have had for three years is gone, as is the worst of the abdominal pain have had for two years.
Day 38-42: 150 mg
Two days of mild headaches and dry eyes. On second day concentration improved after a bit of a lag, but then almost in mid-sentence I turned useless. Then after an hour brainpower was back.
By day 43 the iron is once again making insomnia even worse, so am going to stop everything for a while.
Days 31-37: 125 mg
One day of mild ADTT, bad leg pain, constant sneezing and running nose, mild nausea. Several days of burning and itching skin. On second and third day, desire to eat a decaslice (10 slices) of garlic bread. Strange combination of improved concentration and increased loopiness: got more work done on second day than in past two weeks, but lost my wallet twice. Have now watched 13 Japanese movies.
Concentration noticeably better starting day 31. Like a dumbass, I got so excited I worked on projects for 8 hours on Saturday and Sunday and 12 on Monday. On Tuesday afternoon hit the wall and was tired, jittery and anxious again.
Switched to Iadoral on day 35 (see info above). Three-hour headache first day and alarming ADTT for two days. NOT for the faint of heart. Low-iron symptoms are worse — difficulty breathing, thinning hair, cracked lips — so I’m up to 75 mg iron.
Felt terrible by day 37 due to working 12 days straight trying to catch up on work. Concentration still better, but fatigue is worse due to working too much and sleeping even less than normal. Insomnia is worse because have to take more iron to counteract iodine’s depletion of it, and iron for some reason stops me sleeping.
Has become easier to see what part of the brain fog is due to lack of sleep, food reactions/histamine, and whatever mechanism the iodine is now affecting.
Days 27-30: 100 mg
Two days of constant headache, ADTT, twitchiness, jitteriness, muscle spasms, worse insomnia, mild nausea. First two symptoms relieved with salt water, but only for about an hour at a time. On first night, bizarre sensation of glowing spine, like hot rock therapy at the spa, along with helmet-like hot and then cold sensation in head. Increased to 50 mg iron at some point.
Days 21-26: 87.5 mg
Sorry, I lost the text of this entry.
Days 16-20: 75 mg
Fatigue. Fixed with 25 mg of iron. Insomnia worse.
Days 9-15: 50 mg
Neck stiffness is back.
Days 6-8: 25 mg
One day of brief headaches and AADP; two days of constant running nose. (I think I meant ADTT.)
Days 1-5: 12.5 mg
One day of headaches and alarming ADTT; constant nose running; insomnia worse; congestion better; neck pain gone; strange desire to watch old Japanese movies.
History of updates to this page
A version of this content was originally published on August 28, 2011 and updated on February 5, 2013 and October 10, 2022.