Iodine experiment

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:

  • histamine
  • sinuses
  • joints
  • 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.


A version of this content was originally published on August 28, 2011 and updated on February 5, 2013 and October 10, 2022.

42 thoughts on “Iodine experiment”

  1. Did you ever try ‘supplementing’ with kelp and/or lots of fish and seafood instead of isolated iodine….?

    The difference being of course, that food contains all the supportive elements rather than just one…..

    • I no longer believe in the safety of our food supply, unfortunately. In order to get enough iodine to counteract the bromides and replete, I would have to eat a ton of fish, and the last time I did that, at the beginning of this effing journey, I ate fish almost every day and ended up with high mercury levels. In addition to all that, fish raises my histamine like crazy.

  2. Fascinating article. Will write a feature about it to put on my site. Take iodine myself because of underactive thyroid, am better off with it than without it. Take seaweed,so it is natural.
    But do notice that I can get breathless, blocked nose, sometimes a bit of headache and thirsty.

    • The tinkering never ends, does it? I eventually started having that reaction to selenium, B6, calcium, eggs, and all grains. (That was long after I stopped the iodine.) My latest experiment to address it is silica. Good luck!

    • Those are very likely detox symptoms triggered by the iodine. It is a great detoxer, especially of unwanted halides and heavy metals, and the thirst suggests your lymph needs the extra fluid in order to wash the toxins out…..

    • I mentioned the chlorine/flouride/bromide displacement effects in the fifth paragraph. I had never heard it detoxes metals. That would be handy. Since writing this post I have indeed discovered that I feel better using lymph cleansers.

  3. Just a quick note…check out the MTHFR gene. Your high histamine levels could be due to your methylation system not working correctly. A good site is and Dr. Ben Lynch has some good videos on youtube. I started taking methylfolate with methyl b-12 and felt really good for a while, then when through detox for a while and have felt great since. I did stop taking the methylfolate for a week and started breaking out in hives due to my histamine levels rising. Are you sensitive to sulfites???

    • Korina: I did investigate that several years ago but it doesn’t seem to tbe the issue. I took a ton of methylcobalamin and methylfolate but did not see the results that MTHFR gene people see. I have a feeling that some other long-term deficiency, perhaps Mg in addition to the iodine, caused the histamine to build up, and then once I got rid of it with the iodine, it wasn’t anywhere near as big a problem, as long as I don’t skip meals two days in a row. I was indeed sensitive to sulfites for years — wine and bacon made my sinuses close right up. I can’t remember when that stopped.

  4. I’m disturbed by your comments that iodine lowers iron levels. I cannot find anything from studies or any websites that suggest a connection.

    I know you’re not writing on the blog anymore, but I’m hoping you could make one exception and clarify your statements above. Or, perhaps provide a link that shows a connection? I’d really appreciate it.

    • Kelly: Several Yahoo Iodine Group members had the same question in a 2012 discussion, and the reply from the moderator, Stephanie Buist, ND HC, was “There is nothing formal to back this up. It is just an observation we have seen on the group over the years.” It was definitely my experience, too.

      Perhaps the interaction only occurs at the doses used by the group members. Traditional medicine hasn’t used those doses in 80 years (I think), so that might be why no one’s researched it. Iodine got a dangerous reputation in the 1930s after a series of deaths of people who took thousands of mg of iodine for 6 weeks. The average dose the Yahoo group members are taking is 25 mg. Breast cancer patients occasionally go up to 350 mg.

  5. Just thought I would add this as I have found it quite interesting.

    I have tried this about three times and its been quite reliable. If I happen to be in my car facing the sun around dusk (430-5pm) spending only around 10 minutes in such light will cause me to be very uncontrollably sleepy around 9-10pm. I usually sleep in two shifts and on such days my first shift is so much more deeper than usual. Maybe this is a case for using a light box in the early evening.

  6. forgot to mention earlier..If I eat an ample amount of greens during the day I get sleepy feeling necessary to fall asleep. 6-8 green smoothies a day and I can sleep through the night but cant keep up with that for very long.

    • That’s a lot! I feel better with a lot of vegetables, too, but I doubt I could find enough non-goitrogenic greens to make a smoothie out of. Snap pea smoothie? Green bean smoothie?

    • I just came across someone who said that the danger with white light takes years to take effect, but now I can’t find the URL. It was somewhere on winterbluescoach dot com. They’re selling a guide but they actually have a lot more info in one place than I’ve seen anywhere else. The author there is worried about blue light however and does not use a blue light therapy device. I figure if you need a light therapy device to function, the risk isn’t worth worrying about.

  7. also wanted to ask if you had to have face/body in sunlight while reading or just outside in general. I burn pretty quickly and am trying to figure out how to do even 15 minutes. thanks

    • I try to sit facing the sun, but I don’t actually know if it matters. For the morning exposure I’m walking around, so it probably doesn’t. I wore sunscreen until November. Now I’m wondering if light exposure works through ceiling glass, like the solarium of True Blood’s Vampire Queen. A solarium would make thing easier.

    • thats a great find, thanks for posting the link. So 1/2 hour walk with cloudy or clear skys? I have found that sunlight through car window to be helpful. On a sunny day 1/2 drive without sunglasses works well (three times so far -mid day) I usually drive with sunglasses so it was a surprise for me my side windows have dark tint and there is a tint line of front windshield but it was enough to encourage longer sleep time. I tried to make sure I looked towards the sun plenty of times. Perhaps sungazing would be worth a try too.

    • That is a good idea. I never thought of that. I definitely feel better on sunny days, even if I’m only driving around in my car. It would also explain how during my depressed years sometimes the only thing that made me feel better would be to get in my car and drive for a few hours. One of my good friends said the same thing. I also thought of going to a local museum that has a new million-dollar atrium. The museum website says it blocks 30 percent of visible light, to keep people from frying and to protect the artwork. I wonder if that’s more light than a car window would block?

  8. thanks, what light source have you found to help. I tried blue light with an increase in mood but no help for insomnia. Do you have insomnia where you wake up in the night or hard to get to sleep? Mine is waking during the night or waking too early.
    My insomnia started after moving from southern state to northern one so I assume light is involved but light box didnt work and neither did vitamin D.

    • My insomnia is all three kinds. Very little sleep at all. I too started wondering if it was a northern latitude/weak light thing this August, when I sat outside for two hours a day at high noon for a few days in a row and started sleeping again. Previously I only used light therapy during winter for SAD.

      I started with my blue light (still in summer) for a week. It didn’t affect sleep but after a few days of using it all day on my desk, it MIGHT have curbed my cravings a lot. I was taking manganese at the same time so I can’t be sure which was the cause. Have to revisit that later.

      After that I tried a Litebook. It appears to give me four or five hours of sleep if I do ALL of the following: use it for an hour before 7:30 a.m.; take 4.5 mg melatonin at bedtime, then 1 mg later when I wake up again; sit outside at noon (even now in November) for at least 45 minutes. It took a while to work — a few weeks. If I use it alone, without sitting outside, I don’t sleep well but I do at least get sleepy at around 10 pm like a normal person, instead of at 5:30 in the morning.

      But now it’s too cold to sit outside, so I am trying to find a replacement for that. I tried the Litebook for half an hour at noon for about two weeks but no luck yet. I got an Uplift Technologies Day Light overhead light and will experiment with that for a while.

      I will probably have to try using all these gadgets for at least a month or so. I tend to get impatient and move on to the next one. I also think some people need to use light therapy a lot longer than 1/2 hour or 1 hour a day. One of the Amazon reviewers in Northern Ireland said she had to use the Litebook all day, all year.

    • I was waking up after a few hours of sleep. Discovered eating small snack before bed got me a few more hours before waking again. Eating a small snack again if I wake up will help me get back to sleep sooner. Perhaps this is low blood sugar issues related to lack of sunlight. I did find at one point 3-6mgs of copper to completely eliminate insomnia all together. Then I became pregnant and for some reason it stopped working. I have read that copper helps with iron metabolism and my iron/ferrtin was low at the time.
      When you found sitting outside to help did you have to be in full sun and exposing your eyes to sunlight? Have you tried two hours of blue light in mid day as well?
      You mentioned chapped lips before and I notice if my lips are chapped I wont be sleeping as well that night. Someone else mentioned their chapped lips and insomnia were cured with iron supplementation and I have found iron to help as well for both problems.

    • Very interesting about the copper. (Maybe the bebe was hijacking it.) I tried it and discovered that my Cu is actually too high. I tried B2 for same reason — it helps iron work and I thought maybe iron makes me sleepless because it was lowering B2 too far. But no luck.

      As for sun exposure — I go to a local lunch place and sit on their patio and read a book for 30-60 minutes. It works even if it’s pretty hazy — even if no blue is showing in the sky. If it’s gray and about to rain, then I don’t bother. I think a slightly overcast day is still brighter than a light box. I have not tried the blue light for two hours at midday, yet, no.

      Oh, I forgot to mention — being outside for half an hour early in the a.m. helps, too. About 7:30 – 8 am. I’m in Ohio, at 41 degrees northern latitude. About the same as Boston. Another thing: in the a.m. after I use the Litebook, I have to make sure all the overhead lights are on in the house, or I get really sleepy an hour later.

    • thanks for the tips! If you do go outside like you mentioned do you sleep all the way through the night?
      My lattitude is 48 degrees (normally although temporarily in DC which is 39 degrees.I wonder if this works at the 48 degree level. After my insomnia started I became more inclined to be indoors which probably makes things much worse. After pregnancy copper still helps but didnt eliminate totally like before. Was your ceruloplasmin tested? Blood levels of copper can be high while end levels are not working, like ferritin vs. blood iron levels.
      Interesting about getting sleepy after using litebook, perhaps you need it in the evening hours instead? Have you taken the philips circadium test..?

    • No, I sleep four hours more than I would otherwise, but not through night. I had same experience — fatigue keeps you from going outdoors for activities, which starts cycle of vitamin D deficiency and lack of light causing fatigue. I had blood and hair tests for copper. Cu supplements gave me headaches. I did take the Philips test a few times. That is interesting idea about using light at night. I believe the reaction to morning Litebook use was due to fact that one aspect governing circadian rhythm is the degree of difference between your day’s light and dark — how much darker your dark is than your light. I was using the Litebook in the dark early a.m. and when I turned it off didn’t have enough lights on, so my messed-up body thought it was night again and tried to knock me out.

    • how would you rate the lightbook compared to other lights you’ve tried? I/ve only tried the a large light box (too annoyingly bright and didnt help ) and the philips golight blu which I can tolerate but also cant tell if is does much.

    • I haven’t given all three a good scientific try yet using extended exposure. The blue light worries me a bit as they say it might contribute to macular degeneration. The Litebook is very bright, so using it long periods might be annoying, but it also has a very small area. So far I only see an effect when combined with other measures. The overhead light box seems most promising and isn’t glaring, but it’s clunky and awkward. I will let you know as I figure out more.

  9. also ..I have insomnia too and iron makes it worse. Have discovered that its either magnesium or calcium (sometimes both) that need to be supplemented at a separate time.
    Have you found the cure to your insomnia?

    • Magnesium and calcium don’t help with the insomnia, no, although they did years ago, but that was back before the iron made it worse. Right now it looks like insufficient light exposure could be behind the insomnia. I’m experimenting with different light therapy gadgets and exposure times. I’ve also found that melatonin supplements help a bit, but ONLY with the added light exposure. When I learn more, I’ll post about it. I hope you find a solution soon!

  10. peeling lips–did you take iron to reverse the peeling lips or for some other reason.? What have you found to cause the peeling lips? thanks

    • Cracked lips is one of my low-iron symptoms. It also occurs when my vitamin B2 (riboflavin) levels get low (when I take thiamine, for example, which competes with it). And I want to say that vitamin B6 has also helped.

    • I took a look at your list of health issues and I have almost all of the same issues + some and I have had stage 3 adrenal fatigue for about a decade undiagnosed until last October. Started on a recovery program with a naturopath 10X improvement since then.

    • Yes, three docs have tried to treat me for that over the years, and I’ve read Dr. Wilson’s book on it and incorporated a lot of his suggestions, but not much changed. I’ve tried cortisol, and various supps (B5, C, etc), acupuncture/Chinese herbs, adrenal cortex. (I mentioned a few of these on the page “Non-OTC things I’ve tried.”) The adrenal cortex and the herbs gave me a little more energy, but that’s it. A lot of the burnout symptoms resolved when I realized I had been undereating for years and increased my calorie intake. If I undereat, I can definitely feel my cortisol levels rise at night. Holy Basil helps that some. Nothing helped my sleep, and usually made it worse.

      What does your naturopath have you taking?

    • joe what was your treatment plan for adrenal fatigue? any links? Im pretty sure I have issues with adrenal fatigue but adrenal supplements actually cause me insomnia.

  11. Just wondered if you ever had any digestive problems and if you found that iodine has helped with that at all?

    I also suffer with allergies (post nasal drip) and was hoping it may help with that too.

    I’m currently up to 11 drops a day. Plan to keep going up and up. I just add an extra drop every 4 days.

    Fingers crossed it solves my digestive issues. Namely, SIBO, Candida which causes daily diahrrea and a host of other problems….

    Good luck with it my friend!

    • I did indeed — see this post — and the iodine helped but did not resolve the issue completely. However, in the past two weeks I got rid of the last of the bromide in my diet, and unless I’m imagining things it seems to be helping even more in that area. I felt a lot worse first, though.

      The iodine definitely helped with sinus trouble. Whenever I lower the dose from 100 to 50 mg, the nasal symptoms return.

      Good luck to you, too!

  12. Hi there,
    Great blog! Just wanted to let you know my attention spiked when reading about your high histamine. I am just reading a book called ‘Could it be B12’. Long story short, B12 deficiencies is a known cause of high histamine. Good luck with every thing.

    • Pat: Thank you! I read that book last year and took a truckload of methylcobalamin for several months, but it didn’t do much in terms of histamine that I could tell. But maybe it would work better now that I’ve been supplementing with iodine…

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