The Hidden Benefit of the SAD: Iodine?

(SAD = Standard American Diet)

This is merely a preliminary weekend blurb and I’ll have much more to write later. Since my very well-received post on Paleo Problems the other day, I’ve had some interesting reports, mostly from women who’ve been doing their own n=1 self experimentation with iodine (Iodoral can be purchased from Amazon and has a combo of iodine and iodide at 12.5mg, equalling the average — HUGE — daily iodine consumption of the seaweed eating-Japanese).

The stories are strikingly similar. They go on paleo, lose weight & feel great for 8-12 months, then crash. Weight loss stalls, they feel bad & depressed, are hungry, cold, and stop having their period. Could it be that eliminating processed food high in sodium (and iodized salt, since 70% of industrial salt is iodized) starts a process where the substrate for thyroid hormone, iodine, is depleted over time? I don’t know, but that’s my working hypothesis until somebody calls me an idiot.

Well, the second part to the story is that I have in the last few days received emails from three women — one suffering amenorrhrea for many months — who have essentially fixed all problems in days by supplementing iodine. I don’t know all the levels being taken, but I think it’s upwards of 12.5mg per day. One emailer lost 5 pounds in a week. Two others got their periods back.

On the other side of the issue, I have an email from a man who has gone from a TSH level of 6 to 38 (!!!) in a year or so. He’s been taking 50mg of iodine for eight months. In my quick research on the issue, I note a number of sources that indicate iodine is a U-shaped curve, i.e., too little or too much can cause hypothyroid conditions. On the other hand, he reports feeling really great all the time. Again, I just wonder: what are the normal thyroid levels for true hunter gatherers? That said, no way that any natural diet would get you that much iodine chronically.

For myself, I have been hypo-t since way before going paleo. Now I take 120mg of desiccated thyroid per day. My numbers are now fine, within standard range, but I have cold hands and feet every morning, especially feet. It actually helps to just take off my shoes and go with just socks. The shoes, loose as they are, probably inhibit blood circulation. As soon as I eat, I get warm, and very quickly. The problem is that I find it very hard to eat before I’m hungry, which typically happens sometime between 10 and noon.

So, thinking caps on, everyone. We’ve got to drill this down.

Richard Nikoley

I'm Richard Nikoley. Free The Animal began in 2003 and as of 2021, contains 5,000 posts. I blog what I wish...from health, diet, and food to travel and lifestyle; to politics, social antagonism, expat-living location and time independent—while you sleep—income. I celebrate the audacity and hubris to live by your own exclusive authority and take your own chances. Read More


  1. Byron on January 16, 2010 at 22:36

    With hashimoto you should never take iodine extra. It makes things worse. But selenium is a good thing to regulate antibodies. Selenium seems to help also with T4/T3 conversion.
    (scrowl down for english)

    • Don Matesz on January 17, 2010 at 08:18

      Hashimoto’s is most likely caused by iodide deficiency combined with exposure to goitrogens; supplementing iodide helps:

    • Whitney613 on January 17, 2010 at 13:27

      This isn’t necessarily true and a lot more research should be done.

      One “might” not be able to tolerate iodine, orally, if they have Hashimotos, but you can get a Lugol’s solution
      and place 2-3 drops on each foot before bedtime.

      Often, because of gut-stress, Iodoral causes more problems–whether you have Hashis or not.
      If you have a stressed-out gut– Vitamin D, Iodoral and other supps. may exacerbate your issues.

      PLEASE don’t discourage people with Hashis from taking Iodine. It is an essential element.

    • Whitney613 on January 17, 2010 at 13:28

      I was replying to Byron….I agree with you Don! 🙂

  2. Mario on January 17, 2010 at 05:24

    It’s not only SAD diet that are high in bromine. Bromine is all over the place, in flame retardants in your home, in you car, in your office…

    Iodine, in right amounts (over 20mg/day), helps us to chelate bromine, fluor, mercury and aluminum.

    Finally, iodine does not neither cause or flare Hashi. Dr. Brownstein has writen a very good book on this very subject:

    Since I started a lacto-paleo diet, took off all my amalgams (mercury), 50mg of iodine every day, kefir (to help my gut flora) and LDN ( my hashi is becoming history. No more cold hands and feet…

    • Ed on January 17, 2010 at 08:08

      Hot tub treatments used to contain bromine. Does anyone know if they still do?

  3. Ryon Day on January 16, 2010 at 17:39


    I have been supplementing with kelp tablets (2/day) on my own suspicion that this would be a problem, as well as some research into the history of goitre in the United States. I got Kelp tablets dirt cheap on Amazon, and it seems to be a good, natural form of iodine.


  4. Melissa on January 16, 2010 at 17:41

    I don’t know why people aren’t eating seaweed. It’s paleo and a great source of everything.

    • Richard Nikoley on January 16, 2010 at 17:48

      I agree that’s the optimal way. But some don’t like it (I do — some — having live in Japan for 5 years in the 80s), or it’s hard to source, like probably in the goiter belt. Not a lot of Japanese markets, I’d guess. Here in the Bay Area, not a problem.

      I’ve got Iodoral on order, as I want to see what it does for the cold hands & feet. i suspect that one can replenish iodine in about 3 months of supplementation and if that does the trick, I’ll migrate to seastuff.

    • Melissa on January 17, 2010 at 11:55

      There are ways to get it in your diet without actually eating it. I always throw some into the stock pot with the bones.

      It’s funny because before I read this post I was worried about getting to much iodine, because I really eat lots of seaweed and one of my Japanese friends has hyperthyroid and warned me about it. But it appears from reading the comments that if I’m not eating processed food at all, I should probably hold onto the habit.

      This jives quite nicely with my theory that humans are coastal, esp given this evidence that our predecessor Homo Erectus was eating plenty of fish

    • Richard Nikoley on January 17, 2010 at 12:01

      Beautiful blog, Melissa. Just added it to the roll (though it was probably on the list I’m working through to add).

    • Lucy on January 17, 2010 at 05:44

      I started Lugol’s iodine supplementation last year. I built up to 50mg (8 drops), stayed at 8 drops for 3 months, then slowly lowered the dose to 2 drops (12.5 mg) maintenance dose. I take it in the morning. If taken later it may contribute to insomnia. Note that while building up to 8 drops there were various unpleasant detox symptoms….as it rids the body of heavy metals and toxins. It it gets too unpleasant I was advised to cut the dose for a day or two.

  5. Grok on January 16, 2010 at 17:52

    One of the few supps I take but I need to order at the moment.

    Unless you get Iodoral or Lugols you have to dose huge & spend $. Everything I’ve found in local stores is in mcg doses.

  6. Jim Purdy on January 16, 2010 at 18:17

    “The shoes, loose as they are, probably inhibit blood circulation.”

    Probably so, and even socks probably have some effect. But I have diabetic neuropathy, and I don’t dare to go barefoot.

  7. Chas on January 16, 2010 at 18:39

    Dr. Eades’ Six Week Cure book discusses iodine deficiency and believes that many Americans are too low. There is a urine based test to see if your body can absorb.

    Both of the Dr. Eades were not able to absorb 100% of the iodine they ingested when the tested themselves.

    It is discussed on pages 42-43 and 92-93.

  8. Meeses on January 16, 2010 at 19:19

    It took me just about a month on 50 mg of iodine/iodide a day (as recommended by a naturopathic doctor). In a freakish coincidence, my return to the population of possible gene donors happened today.

    One thing: the iodine loading test measures who much iodine you excrete. The less you absorb and the more you excrete, the better (more sufficient) your iodine levels are. If you excrete only a little of the iodine and absorb most of it, it means your body is deficient and is holding on to all it can get. I took this test and actually excreted 87% of the iodine in the dose, indicating that my levels were actually pretty good.

    But, long story short, a few weeks of supplementing with iodine, I developed symptoms of bromide “detox.” I backed off on the iodine supplements for a week and then gradually increased the dose back to 50 mg/day. And 2 weeks later, it looks like I’m going to be fine.

    So an excess of bromides in the body might cause an iodine deficiency even if your iodine loading test results look good. I’m still looking into this and am still not entirely sold on the idea, but there might be something to it.

  9. Don Matesz on January 16, 2010 at 19:56

    I did the iodine/iodide loading urine collection test a few years ago. My body retained about 12.5 mg of the 50 mg loading dose, despite my having used seaweeds as a regular part of my diet for years. I took Iodoral for a few months but never repeated the excretion test.

    Meeses has a good point about bromide excretion. SAD provides plenty of bromides, flouride, and chloride that through mass action can interfere with usage of iodide. Loading with iodide can stimulate a removal of bromides.

    H-Gs ate everything, including thyroid tissue, absolutely critical for inland tribes as a source of iodide in many iodide deficient regions. But we don’t have access to these, the USDA prohibits the sale (just protecting drug companies).

    Agricultural diets also contain many goitrogens (millet, soy, peanuts….) that increase iodide requirements, as well as wheat, the probable initiator of Hashimoto’s autoimmune thyroiditis. the main cause of hypothyroid. The Japanese intake may actually be optimal for someone eating a diet full of grains. For a paleodieter I think the requirement is still higher than RDA. Eskimos had a very high iodide intake from seafoods, much higher than usually claimed “toxic” by undereducated physicians.

    In the 1980s I actually did a season of wild seaweed harvesting for Maine Seaweed Company, from whom I still get my seaweed. It is IMO still the best on the market.

    The high human requirement for iodide strongly suggests that humans evolved in a relatively iodide rich environment. Somewhere where either soils had plenty of iodide, or sea coastal. Crawford and Marsh make a case for a coastal origin in Nutrition and Evolution.

    In my practice I treat this condition with Chinese herbal medicines, iodide, and special glandular extracts, with some success. I have had some people avoid use of hormone replacement by using glandulars and producing improvements in thyroid hormone levels, and some who have dramatically reduced exogenous hormone use (more than 50%) by supplementing with Iodoral.

    • Bonnie on January 17, 2010 at 13:49

      There are many places you can purchase whole animals (or hunt them yourself), though, complete with their thyroids (and liver, kidneys, first stomach lining, other historically valuable foods). I haven’t tried it yet, but might fry up some thyroid in the future…

  10. Ross on January 16, 2010 at 20:24

    This story started with a tested TSH of 8.0 and low morning temps.

    I bought iodine and potassium iodide on eBay (60g I2 for $10 and 120g KI for $16) and made myself some Lugol’s iodine (5gI2, 10gKI, water to 100g). I didn’t want to wait for all of the iodine to dissolve, so I diluted it down to half strength by weight (additional 100g water). 50% Lugol’s iodine is 3.25mg total iodine (I or I-) per drop. I have enough elemental iodine and potassium iodide left over for my kid’s chemistry kit.

    I started taking two drops or 6.5mg/day in milk to hide the flavor. For the first three or four weeks of this dose, I could feel my thyroid in my throat for most of the day. This feeling gradually went away.

    TSH is now 1.5. I’m staying on one drop/day for the time being.

    • Lucy on January 17, 2010 at 05:57

      I bought Potassium Iodide and Iodine Crystals separately and made my own 5% Lugol’s mixing it with 85% distilled water ….since Lugol’s at 5% strength is now regulated. (I had Iodoral too which we used mostly when we traveled)

  11. Chris G on January 16, 2010 at 20:34

    I saw info about iodine deficency on Dr. Davis’ site early in my paleo journey & have been supplementing consistently. I suspect this is why I’ve so far managed to avoid serious plateaus or thyroid problems.

  12. Colton on January 16, 2010 at 20:37

    What is the best iodine supplement to take?

    I’m curious and I’m pretty sure I need to begin taking one.

    • Todd on January 16, 2010 at 21:02

      After not seeing much benefit from kelp, I’ve had excellent results with IOSOL.

    • Elizabeth @ The Nourished Life on January 17, 2010 at 05:41

      We take Lugol’s here, because the drops have no additives and are very easy to take.

    • Don Matesz on January 17, 2010 at 08:12

      I would say Iodoral.

  13. scott miller on January 17, 2010 at 11:45

    A few links about Iodine:

    • scott miller on January 17, 2010 at 11:46

      BTW, iodine is too important NOT to supplement — in the same league as vit D.

    • Richard Nikoley on January 17, 2010 at 11:52

      Exactly where my speculation has been leading, that recommended levels for both, D & iodine are merely enough to prevent rickets and goiter, respectively, but not necessarily optimal. We should be pretty well convinced of that for vitamin D. Is iodine next?

      Of course, I put K2 MK-4 into the same category. Hell there isn’t even an RDA for that, yet human mammary glands make it from K1.

    • Kurt G Harris MD on January 17, 2010 at 13:16

      I don’t think an analogy to D is appropriate. Tolerated levels of micronutrients are parametric. Iodide is something required at a given level to make the hormone and the gland will adjust within that parametric range to its availability.

      In particular, someone concluding they are iodine deficient without imaging evidence of a goiter or laboratory evidence of deficiency seems unwise.

    • Grok on January 17, 2010 at 17:51

      Looking forward to reading what you put out on this subject Doc. I’ve suspected having a thyroid issue for a while now, but have done zero testing.

    • Richard Nikoley on January 17, 2010 at 18:17


      OK, but haven’t we all learned over the last year or so (me, anyway) that D is actually a proto-hormone, not a vitamin?

    • Richard Nikoley on January 17, 2010 at 18:19

      Of course, there is a distinction to make, which is that you get iodine from food and D is a whole different animal, giving us some measure of relation with the plant community.

      Or, we’re all children of the sun, which of course only makes sense.

    • Kurt G Harris MD on January 17, 2010 at 20:30

      I’ve some evidence of hypothyroidism myself that definitely antedates my paleo diet, and in fact many of the symptoms are better now on 5-10% carbs without wheat, etc.

      Suffice to say I’m deep into primary references and endocrinology texts as the issue is now personal

      No question that negative energy balance causes efforts to conserve energy that can lower thyroid function. Makes perfect sense.

      T3 levels may drop below some level of CHO intake. (There seems to be an effect from protein intake as well.) This is measured T3, though, and may or may not indicate deficiency at the receptor or intracellular level. That is where you may be correct about reference levels being relative to the SAD Richard. As far as TSH, it is likely just the opposite. HGs may have lower free T3 but likely also lower TSH as well because TSH in reference populations on the SAD may be skewed by the high prevalence of Hashimoto’s. I agree with those who propose a normal upper limit of 3.0 for TSH.

      Haven’t found evidence of HG measurements yet, but doubtful if modern sophisticated stuff like fT3 and fT4 would be available for them, maybe just TSH. I’ll keep looking.

      My skepticism of supplementation comes partly from evidence that supplementation decreases goiter prevalence and at the same time is associated with increases in autoimmune thyroiditis, mostly Grave’s but perhaps Hashimoto’s as well.

      Also, iodine is sometimes used therapeutically to suppress thyroid function in those who are hyperthyroid.

      Confusing, huh?

      The whole thing is complicated by lots of nonsense I see in the “holistic”and alternative medicine blogosphere where symptoms are listed that could literally diagnose anyone with a pulse with thyroid disease. What disturbs me the most is the meme that trained clinical endocrinologists and academic researchers are all totally ignorant of thyroid physiology.

      I plan to post in the future when I know more.

    • anand srivastava on January 18, 2010 at 03:38

      “Also, iodine is sometimes used therapeutically to suppress thyroid function in those who are hyperthyroid.”

      I thought that was radioactive iodine to kill off badly behaving thyroid cells.

    • Kurt G Harris MD on January 18, 2010 at 08:19

      That’s ablation – separate concept.

    • Richard Nikoley on January 18, 2010 at 10:22

      I’m really looking forward to that, Kurt.

    • Future Primitive on January 17, 2010 at 12:11

      Scott, I’ve read some of Abraham’s stuff in the past. Thanks for the url, looking forward to going through it.

      This is a rebuttal from an ongoing argument between “Abraham & Brownstein” and a “Dr. Gaby”…

      “Validation of the Orthiodosupplementation Program: A Rebuttal of Dr. Gaby’s Editorial on Iodine”
      by Guy E. Abraham, MD and David Brownstein, MD

      On page 4 of 11, “THE ORIGINAL INTERNIST, Winter 2005” (pp 187)

      “The theory of evolution does not offer an intellectually
      satisfying answer to this paradox. However, the Biblical
      account of the origin of the world through creation 6000
      years ago followed by the fall of man and the flood fits
      very well the current situation.

  14. Aaron M Fraser on January 16, 2010 at 21:52

    This is possibly enlightening, Richard.

    When I was younger – 15, 16 or so – my hands were literally heaters. I once had a girlfriend remark that I was “burning” them.

    Since leaving highschool, though, I have had icicles for fingers and permafrost for toes. I can’t pinpoint an exact time that this occurred, but I used to have an extremely poor diet through and post-highschool.

    Perhaps I fucked up my thyroid… ?

  15. Pam Maltzman on January 16, 2010 at 22:53

    Maybe eating sea salt rather than refined NaCl would help? Some of the coarse crystal sea salt (for example, the gray moist stuff from France, or the pink Himalayan stuff) is reputed to contain over 80 trace minerals, including iodine. The brand called RealSalt is advertised to contain over 50 trace minerals. I’ve been using the coarse gray French sea salt, which is supposedly a good source of magnesium.

    • Ross on January 17, 2010 at 00:57

      Iodine will quickly sublimate out of salt. Within 90 days, about 50-90% of the iodine has left sea salt. Given that most of us buy the 1lb cylinder of Morton’s Iodized and slowly use it up over years, it’s not likely that much is still in there.

      And in order to correct iodine deficiency, we’re going to need more than trace quantities. The Japanese get about 50 times the US RDA from nori and other seaweeds. That’s about the right amount, and you’re not going to get that from most salt products.

    • Ed on January 17, 2010 at 08:24

      I don’t know what kind of iodine is in sea salt, but table salt is supplemented with potassium iodide (KI), which is very stable and does not sublimate significantly. The Morton’s salt in your kitchen will essentially last forever–unless it gets wet. Molecular iodine (I2), on the other hand, will sublimate readily.

  16. Matthias on January 17, 2010 at 05:09

    Question on lugol’s:
    As long as the ingredients are right, it doesn’t matter which brand I’m getting does it? It’s almost impossible to find lugol’s or other supplements with a lot of iodine in Germany, but they sell this stuff for the aquarium and chemistry lab etc.
    Would it matter as long as the concentration/ingerdients are right?
    I stumpled upon a solution with potassium-iodide in it and one with I think it was natrium-iodide. From what I’ve read so far potassium-iodide is the standard, isn’t it?

  17. Alex Thorn on January 17, 2010 at 05:28

    From a reply, by Loren Cordain, to a letter to the editor of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition by a Dr Cunnane in response to an article by Dr Cordain:

    “With respect to iodine and the brain’s development and function, it should be pointed out that a wide variety of staple foods domesticated during the Neolithic period and later (ie, millet, maize, soy, cassava, sweet potatoes, lima beans, turnips, cabbage, cauliflower, rapeseed, mustard, onion, garlic, bamboo shoots, and palm tree fruit) contain a variety of goitrogens (7, 8) that may elicit symptoms of iodine deficiency despite adequate iodine intakes (7, 9). Hence, plant food– dominated diets containing goitrogens, which were adopted by humanity after the agricultural revolution, may play a significant
    role in impairing thyroid function and thereby adversely influencing human brain development (10). In contrast, iodine deficiency is rare among traditional societies that consume animal-based diets (11).”

    I would say that there is no real reason to be iodine deficient on an animal foods-based diet if you are not consuming these ‘goitrogenic’ plant-foods as well! It is thought that as little as 150 mcg of iodine per day is all that is needed to keep iodine levels optimally topped up and you can get that in ~6 eggs!

  18. Elizabeth @ The Nourished Life on January 17, 2010 at 05:45

    I agree with the other commentors who mentioned common toxic chemicals in our modern world like bromide and fluoride. These can essentially drain the body of iodine in ways that primitive man would have never encountered. So I think this is one of those cases where we need to address modern health issues in a way that may not be strictly “paleo”.

  19. PaleoDoc on January 17, 2010 at 07:04

    Richard, excellent idea to highlight the problem. If it is a problem, that is.

    All low carb diets are likely to decrease thyroid function either by less insulin and hence less stimulation the thyroid gland (enabling TSH) or on the liver, where insulin converts T4 to T3. Higher gluagon is likely to have the same effect.

    During caloric restriction even HGH can depress T3; cortisol can have similar impact. Besides, caloric restriction is a signal that metabolism should slow down.

    Allan and Lutz in their Life without bread draw a simple diagram to illustrate the compensatory balance of anabolic and catabolic hormones. While mechanisms can be quite complicated, the message, if indeed true, remarkably is simple: lower insulin and you will increase the level of other anabolic hormones (HGH, testosterone) and/or decrease the level of catabolic hormones, such as T4 and T3.

    And the already mentioned goitrogens, they may be more relevant in Paleo than in agricultural diet. They are plentiful in crucifers: cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, brussels sprouts, mustard… I eat a lot of them, which is why I am monitoring T4 and T3. Cooking is thought to inactivate goitrogens but it also inactivates other good things, such as natural anti-estrogens.

    • PaleoDoc on January 17, 2010 at 09:42

      Another thought: Very low carb can lead to amenorrhea, it can also cause low lestosterone and decreased libido. Wouldn’t it make sense if our H-G ancestors were to reproduce when carbs are more available, also helping to put on a bit extra fat as insurance against possible lean months during pregnancy and lactation? Seasonality is not inherent in our reproduction, but may have impacted on hormone levels. If so, it would be interesting to examine when the modern H-G children were born: if more in spring/summer than in the autumn/winter, then there may be a reason. Even Eskimos should be more likely to find berries in summer/autumn, but who knows if their hormone levels followed the seasons. In other people exposure to sun and vit D could also play a role (low vit D can inhibit conversion of T3 to T3).

    • Bonnie on January 17, 2010 at 13:57

      I just don’t understand how a low or even no-carb diet could disrupt hormone levels. Low carb and low calorie, certainly. But as long as you are eating enough, and enough fat, I would consider it a fertility diet if anything.

      I am very conscious of this, though, since I have a BMI of 17 and would like to put on weight. I don’t count calories on a regular basis but when I do am I always well over 2000 per day (which might be more than most women who weigh 100 lbs eat) . I drink a pint of cream and eat at least 1/4 lb of butter daily, for instance. My former menstrual issues have disappeared as well as my oversleeping and cold hands and feet.

    • Nicole on January 18, 2010 at 04:20

      Regarding seasonality: TS Wiley’s “Light’s Out: Sleep, Sugar and Survival” is chock full of information on hormones and seasonality. It’s 10 years old, but it’s recommended all the time for a reason. I do wonder if people with any kind of hormone issues are 1)sleeping enough and 2)sleeping in darkness.

      And about goitrogens: isn’t soy protein isolate loaded with it? I thought unfermented soy was one of the worst things you could eat in terms of the thyroid? A lot of people on low-carb diets use soy shakes, bars, all manner of soy substitutes for carb-o-rific foods. I can’t help but wonder if the thyroid issues and inability to lose the last part of the weight (a common issue among Atkins dieters) has a part in that.

    • Richard Nikoley on January 17, 2010 at 09:56

      Thanks for the input, Doc. Nice blog, which I’ve added to the blogroll.

    • PaleoDoc on January 17, 2010 at 10:31

      Many thanks Richard, my blog is much less professional than yours, I am doing it mostly to organise my own thinking around these issues. And your blog has been very inspiring for me!

      This post is about thyroid, but it made me think about fertility. I searched some more and discovered that, indeed, our ancestral mothers likely conceived mostly in late summer/autumn when food was aplenty:

      Interestingly, and contrary to this pattern, sperm count and quality seems to be the best in the spring. Also ovulation is most likely in this season; this may have to do with daylight/melatonin (nowadays there is a larger peak in births in autumn and smaller in spring, both in America and Europe, which might also have to do with artificial light).

      I am going to write a post on fetrility soon, but for now it seems that reproductive hormones may be responding to aboundance or scarcity of food. More carbohydrates would probably have the same effect as mega protein, since excess aminoacids would be converted to glucose and fat anyways. Makes sense to me and thyroid may be a small piece in this puzzle.

  20. Beth on January 17, 2010 at 07:54

    Quote — find it very hard to eat before I’m hungry, which typically happens sometime between 10 and noon.

    My experience is that if I eat at some certain time each day for enough days (don’t know how many “enough” is), I start getting hungry at that time. I think one can train one’s body to be ready for food when one is ready to give it food.


    • Aaron Blaisdell on January 17, 2010 at 10:45

      Yep, it’s called Pavlovian conditioning and this phenomenon is well documented.

  21. Richard Nikoley on January 17, 2010 at 09:34

    Yep, Matt, and that is why my increasing interest is in highlighting people’s individual stories and the vastly different results, problems, benefits and so on to:

    1. Highlight the complexity.
    2. Provide insight into what a person might do in self experimentation.

    More than anything else I want to help establish foundation based on principles, but everybody ultimately has to build their own house. So, for example, I never preach “low carb.” It’s perfectly appropriate r essential for fat loss and for diabetics, but I don’t think it’s a big deal for most others and in fact could be detrimental or at least, non-optimal.

    So some degree of starchy roots tubers in the diet is going to be beneficial for a lot, I suspect.

    On the other hand, I no longer tolerate well the ginormous servings of meat. Now, I make sure to get lots of fat via the sauces I make, and a much smaller portion of meat. Interestingly, I now almost never finish a serving of meat on my plate. I think protein is way overemphasized and fat still gets short shrift, even amongst paleos. I see plate after plate of dishes people make and so many look lean, too much protein and way deficient in fat. Anf that half avocado I see all over the place? Doesn’t cut it. Fat should primarily come from animals. I’d rather see a half stick of butter than that avocado.

    For me, I’m pretty certain I do best on about 70/10/20 f/p/c, carbs coming from mostly starch (potatoes), the rest a little fruit a little nuts.

    • Grok on January 17, 2010 at 17:33

      “For me, I’m pretty certain I do best on about 70/10/20 f/p/c, carbs coming from mostly starch (potatoes), the rest a little fruit a little nuts.”

      I’m sitting in the same place right now, but all my carbs are green. The venison I’ve been eating is too lean. Been dipping it in butter.

    • Richard Nikoley on January 17, 2010 at 18:26

      My old motto: everything is better with bacon. And it’s not bad.

      Better new motto: everything is better with butter (by the cube).

    • Grok on January 17, 2010 at 21:22

      Bacon is delicious, but I’m a butter man too.

      Night before last for dinner I ate a stick & 1/2 (12 Tbsp), then ate a few Tbsp of coconut oil, then proceeded to cook my dinner in coconut oil.

      Fatty portion of desert was… a quart of yogurt mixed with with 3 cups of dried coconut, heavy cream and nuts.

      I enjoyed every second of it 🙂

    • Grok on January 18, 2010 at 12:11

      Wow “banning butter and replacing it with a healthy spread”

      Wonder how much thicker his wallet got for that statement? There has been a huge influx in “spread” commercials lately. Smart Balance especially has really been hamming hard.

      “The folks in Denmark thought it was downright illegal”

      Click on the TV Commercial tab in the yellow bottom part of the main text area.

      Maybe because it is? LOL

  22. Future Primitive on January 17, 2010 at 10:34

    Fellow hypervigilant metabolism tuners,

    There’s a “U” shaped response involved here. Too little iodine, and TSH goes up. Too much, and TSH goes up.

    What is good for an individual raised and living on the North coast of Japan may not be so good for the average American mid-Westerner. And vice ce versa.

    Here in CA, the soil is relatively abundant in iodine compared to other regions of the country – that and CA garlic and broccoli for instance assimilate a good amount of selenium as well.

    I’m really hoping one of the doctor-bloggers out there can elaborate on the iodine issue (Dr. Davis says he intends to at some point for instance), as it is pretty fascinating … That, and I want to know if the “escape phenomenon” described by Wolff–Chaikoff is a real thing or not.

    For what it’s worth, my Japanese friends say, “Yes, seaweed is very good for you, but don’t eat too much.”

    • Future Primitive on January 17, 2010 at 11:16

      duh. Richard already said there’s a “U” shaped response. Must’ve sped right over that bit -I’ll read more carefully next time!
      Also, I meant to be more clear about this before, but my understanding is that the thyroid adapts to ambient dietary iodine intake, where goiter is an example of it adapting to extreme iodine deficiency. So, too little or too much can be relative as well as absolute. I have no idea what the relative range is, or the absolute endpoints. I’m really curious to know more.

    • Kurt G Harris MD on January 17, 2010 at 13:08

      “I’m really hoping one of the doctor-bloggers out there can elaborate on the iodine issue”

      Working on it.

      Be careful with supplementation.

      There is no area health area subject to more wild speculation and self -diagnosis than thyroid function, although “adrenal fatigue” seems to come close.

  23. Alex K on January 17, 2010 at 10:37

    No need to supplement with pills. Shellfish, mozzarella cheese (the real kind), strawberries, seaweed, and eggs are all great sources of iodine. In fact, one of the most concentrated sources of iodine is milk and yogurt. All of these are primal-compatible foods. Given the increasing amount of research into supplements that show that the body doesn’t really absorb them out of pills very well, I try to get all of my nutrients from real, whole foods.

  24. Hans on January 18, 2010 at 02:31

    I get some extra iodine from my table salt and seaweed. My TSH levels are at 2.8

  25. allan on January 17, 2010 at 13:33

    What is the best form of iodine? There are several compounds available to use to supplement: potassium iodide, elemental iodine, iodine trichloride, and povidone iodine.

  26. Vaughan on January 17, 2010 at 17:12

    The Thyroid Sourcebook, by M.Sara Rosenthal, Ph.D., says (p.172) “In countries where iodine has been made plentiful in the food supply, such as in the United States, hypothyroidism from iodine deficiency has disappeared. However, hypothyroidism from autoimmune disease has skyrocketed.” Things that make you go “hmmmm…..”.

    I’ve had hypothyroid symptoms for years, but have always tested ok, by any and all standards. I’m looking forward to continued discussion on this topic.

  27. Ned Kock on January 17, 2010 at 17:52

    Calorie restriction leads to a decrease in circulating thyroid hormones. This is an effect that is separate from the possible effect of iodine. Weight loss is common in low carb and paleo diets. If one is losing weight, and especially if losing weight fast, he or she may be under severe calorie restriction.

    Using thyroid hormone supplementation may have a similar effect to other types of hormone supplementation – they often suppress the ability of the body to produce those hormones, if used over a long period of time. Tweaking the diet a bit, to up the calorie intake (even if from carbs) may be a better alternative. This may be done periodically.

    • Richard Nikoley on January 17, 2010 at 18:38

      That’s good thinking, Ned, and I’ve been torn about it myself. See, other than D and perhaps K2, I really want to get nutrients from food. I tried super supplementing for a while (I’ll not say what brand), but that’s about when I began feeling like crap and since I can’t know the real cause I don’t want to say more. But now I’m back to my old self, save for the perpetually cold feet, which, incidentally, began in earnest when I began correcting my TSH of 11 (down from 16 in the previous test) by taking first 90mg and now 120 mg of Armor.

      I’m going to ask it again, cause I never get an answer. has anyone really done thyroid panels (TSH, free T4, 3, R3) on true HGs? I am a bit concerned that “norms” have been established by examining a lot of people who don;t eat like I do, at all. Not even close. I mean, most of us have gotten to where we dismiss lipid panels that in no way conform to SAD norms. What do we really know about thyroid, and I’ll admit my confused ignorance right off the bat.

      Now my supplementation regime is very simple. 2g fish oil, 6K IU D, and in Carson’s new deal of putting it in CLO. 5mg of K2, but I’ll probably son reduce to 1mg.

    • Nicole on January 18, 2010 at 05:13

      Regarding “norms.”

      I heard Dr. Nora Gedgaudas mention this on a recent podcast she did for Jimmy Moore. She says to imagine the people in front of and behind you in line to get blood pulled – it’s really a sick population. Over time, she thinks that what’s a “normal” lab value has drifted.

      It’s a good podcast and worth listening to.

    • Richard Nikoley on January 17, 2010 at 18:42

      I’m also thinking that sups with iodine perhaps ought to be intermittent, like food.

    • felix on January 17, 2010 at 20:31

      Richerd, I have also been with fish oil, vit D when i dont go outside and for K2 I have been taking Butter Oil from Green Pastures (X Factor Gold). not sure if this does the job or not.
      would you be kind enough to tell me what supplement you use for K2? i might need to tinker with it myself. thanks.

    • Richard Nikoley on January 18, 2010 at 10:18

      I began with the Green Pastures, went to the Thorne, and now my wife and I have been using the Carlson for quite a while. That’s 5mg but I know a few people who’ve been taking that much and quite a bit more for years with no ill effects. However, I’m considering changing to the Life Extension K complex, which has 1mg of the mk-4 and 100mcg mk-7, plus some amount of k1.

  28. Troy on January 17, 2010 at 21:49

    damn this is getting good!!


  29. 1/18/10 – Circuit WOD on January 17, 2010 at 22:05

    […] There might be some benefits to the typical american diet. MIGHT! Sean demonstrates a "Chest to Bar" Pull up […]

  30. pa25 on January 18, 2010 at 01:47

    A simple solution is to simply test Iodine ( has a good iodine loading test. And do the correct hormone panel: GOal get Free t3 near top range and RT3 lower part of range.

  31. pa25 on January 18, 2010 at 03:01

    TSH of 2.8 is definitely a red flag in my opinion. look into other testing (Free t4,t3, Reverse t3, thyroid antibodies, even total t3, total t4 are worth testing)

  32. zach on January 18, 2010 at 05:19

    Using real sea salt and grass fed dairy should give a normal person enough iodine.

  33. H.Facts on January 18, 2010 at 06:42

    good article the best way of having iodine is salt i think but in rite quantity i think it gives the rite amount required by the body.

  34. Aaron on January 18, 2010 at 13:07

    I’ve had positive effects from iodine drops 1-2x per week (1830mcg in a dose).

    Also, the potassium iodide in kelp never worked well for me, I would breakout from it.

    I’d suggest people try to the IOSOL IODINE from wellness resources. So far on the internet, they seem to be the only ones making a water soluble form of iodine to take.

    I can’t verify everything he said about the product — but he does make a conjecture that potassium iodide might be more likely to lead to Hashimoto’s disease symptoms than his water soluble product.

    So far, I’m impressed by it. I’d like more research on this!

  35. Mallory on January 19, 2010 at 10:21

    Wow this post has got my head spinning. some of you put iodine on your skin and some take it orally. What is the difference?

    I hope Kurt blogs on his iodine views soon

  36. Michelle on January 19, 2010 at 15:24

    FWIW, I will add my own thyroid saga to the mix. (29 year old female)

    I first improved my diet back in 2003 by cutting out processed foods and reducing calories. I lost some weight (maybe 20 lbs?) and maintained that for quite some time.

    In 2005, I noticed a nodule on my thyroid and in 2006 was diagnosed with thyroid cancer – with no previous thyroid issues to speak of (normal TSH, etc). I had a total thyroidectomy and ablation of the remaining tissue with radioactive iodine. Now I take synthroid to suppress my TSH.

    During this time I was on birth control pills, but decided to stop taking them after the cancer incident (desiring to remove as many synthetic hormones from my body as possible… the synthroid being necessary now). I stopped having my period for over 18 months.

    I used natural progesterone cream, backed waaaay off my exercise regime (doing HIIT cardio and weights almost daily), and gained back about 20 lbs. Finally my period resumed. And I got pregnant shortly after (intentionally).

    I was never hypothyroid before the thyroid cancer, but I’m wondering if my experience falls in the spectrum of our healthy diets going “wrong” somehow?

    And would I benefit from iodine supplementation even without a thyroid? Do other tissues use iodine to utilize thyroid hormone or is it just the thyroid that uses iodine?

    Finally, I remember when I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, my doc asked me if I was eating a lot of seaweed or taking such supplements. I was not, but apparently that can affect the development of goiter.

    Interesting discussion.

    • Helen on August 29, 2010 at 10:16

      Every cell in your body has its own need for iodine, not just the thyroid.

  37. […] lest we get too cocky, problems crop up in the "paleo" arena too. But, while I congratulate them on their honesty and willingness to air dirty laundry in public, I […]

  38. […] the number 1 suspect so far seems to be iodine, or possibly minerals in general, depleted from the soil by industrial agriculture that leaves […]

  39. […] Those who recall my Paleo Problems post, and then the Iodine post, might recall Diana Hsieh's extensive comment documenting her problems. Well, she's now written an […]

  40. Hypothyroidism Treatment Options :PaleoSnow on February 10, 2010 at 21:17

    […] milligram range iodine supplement is needed; Lugol’s and Iodoral were two suggestions in the comments over at Richard’s […]

  41. 8/2/10 › Crossfit Redline on August 1, 2010 at 18:37

    […] salt has been iodized, and most processed food is in turn made with plenty of iodized salt. As Richard pointed out a few months back, an unintended benefit of the SAD may be the adequate intake of iodine! […]

  42. Helen on August 28, 2010 at 20:58

    I was hypo-thyroid for years until I started taking Iodoral. I started with 4 tablets per day and within two weeks it was like I had been give a new lease on life. I took 4 tablets per day for about a month, then cut back and now I take 1 per day. I think the reason I became hypo-thyroid was because I tried a stint of veganism. I’m pretty certain that all the soy I used for protein nearly destroyed my thyroid gland.

    • Future Primitive on August 28, 2010 at 21:42

      When you say you were hypo-thyroid, what do you mean specifically? Did a physician diagnose you? What were your symptoms and what were your lab numbers?

      4 tablets of Iodoral per day is a HUGE amount of iodine, far and above enough needed to suppress thyroid function. Reducing your intake to just one per day puts you well in excess of the amount needed to elicit symptoms of iodine induced hypothyroidism, given the right circumstances.

      What does “all the soy I used for protein” equate to? I eat soy now and then, especially when it’s Japanese night with our friends. To me, no big deal. Feeling great. What are you on about?

    • Helen on August 29, 2010 at 10:12

      Yes, a doctor diagnosed me, but refused to help me do anything about it, so I took matters into my own hands. I had the clinical signs of hypothyroidism BEFORE starting to take Iodoral…swollen neck, dry, coarse skin, thinning, dry, brittle hair, weight gain, constipation, feeling cold all the time, depression, brain fog, but the doctor didn’t care…all he cared about were the numbers on his test, but since I have been taking Iodoral, I have no more signs of hypothyroidism…no more swollen neck, or any of the other symptoms. If I go without Iodoral for more than a couple of weeks my neck starts to swell again and my hair starts to fall out. One tablet a day may seem like alot to you, but I can tell that it is not too much for me. And don’t forget that what may not be too much soy for you might be too much for me…why are you using what is ok for you to do or eat to judge what may or may not be ok for me? You don’t know me or anything about me or my life circumstances…you don’t know what kind of stress levels I may or may not be dealing with, and you are in no postion to judge what is right or wrong for me. I have lived in this body for 54 years and I know when something is not right, and since I stopped listening to and visiting doctors, and started to listen to my intuition, I have gotten healthier and healthier. So what about what the Japanese eat? I am not Japanese, or Asian.

    • Future Primitive on August 29, 2010 at 10:40

      Helen, my intent wasn’t to antagonize you with my questions and examples.
      I’m not looking to judge you – just wanted you to elaborate. Thanks.

    • Helen on August 29, 2010 at 11:16

      It seems to me that there are some hidden assumptions in the way you phrased you questions, the biggie being that an intuition about our bodies needs to be validated by lab tests or a doctor in order to be real. The second assumption seems to be that just because the amount of iodine I was taking was alot, it automatically means that it was too much. I assure you, from the way my body responded, it was not too much FOR ME. Nor is the amount of iodine I take now…1 Iodoral tablet per day…too much FOR ME. It may or may not be too much for someone else, but that is not something for me to say.

    • Helen on August 29, 2010 at 12:33

      p.s. The other thing you did was imply that I became hypothyroid AFTER I started taking Iodoral, when the exact opposite was the case…I was hypothyroid BEFORE I started taking iodine.

    • Future Primitive on August 29, 2010 at 15:59

      You can go on being needlessly defensive and read whatever you want into what I’ve said. Don’t care.
      I’ve got better things to do than argue with somebody demonstrating open disdain for evidence based medicine.

    • Helen on August 29, 2010 at 16:43

      I wrote: “I was hypo-thyroid for years until I started taking Iodoral. I started with 4 tablets per day and within two weeks it was like I had been give a new lease on life. I took 4 tablets per day for about a month, then cut back and now I take 1 per day”

      Future Primitive wrote: “4 tablets of Iodoral per day is a HUGE amount of iodine, far and above enough needed to suppress thyroid function. Reducing your intake to just one per day puts you well in excess of the amount needed to elicit symptoms of iodine induced hypothyroidism, given the right circumstances.”

      ROFL…So, what kind of distain would you prefer me to show? I think what really upsets you is that you got caught pulling switcheroo. Someone reading your post but not not mine would think that it was Iodoral that made me hypothyroid, when nothing could be further from the truth. Your precious “evidence based medicine” nearly cost me my life twice before I wised up and quit going to doctors, and that is not even counting the medical idiot who refused to see the clinical signs of hypothyroidism that were right in front of his face. I’ll say it again: taking iodine in the form of Iodoral gave me a new lease on life. If you don’t like that, or the fact that I brought myself back to health not only without the help of a doctor, but in spite of one, that is your problem, not mine.

  43. Future Primitive on August 29, 2010 at 19:45

    “I think what really upsets you is that you got caught pulling switcheroo.”

    I’ve made no ‘switcheroo’, but I’ll concede you’ve managed to annoy me.

    I stand by my statement, and when I say “given the right circumstances”, I mean just that.

    See? Given the right circumstances. Context dependent. Words mean things. That’s why we use them.
    (Given that your screen name is “Helen” and not “Hikiro”, I assumed you’re not a native Japanese woman living on the North shore and eating a traditional diet loaded with seaweed, btw.)

    Richard mentions iodine induced hypothyroidism in this post (and the U shaped dose response curve) – plus, it’s mentioned in the comments by Dr. Harris and myself. Right there. You’d only miss it if you weren’t paying attention or have reading comprehension issues.

    Guy Abrams (The guy behind Iodoral) mentions that he sees elevated TSH with iodine supplementation in his practice as well, but then goes on to dismiss it as being clinically insignificant (I’m not contesting his position here, btw – the rabbit hole goes deep, there’s a lot going on, and I don’t presume to have all the answers).

    Furthermore, what I’ve stated is backed by evidence on But then, pub med is full of evidence, and that would appear to be anathema to your worldview.

    So, really. What are you talking about?

    Are you:

    1) a troll
    2) surfing the net whilst wearing your tinfoil hat
    3) not paying attention


    When you say, “yes, I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism” and then turn around and say “and that is not even counting the medical idiot who refused to see the clinical signs of hypothyroidism that were right in front of his face”, I have to assume you’re just taking the piss. Were you properly diagnosed or not?

    And look, it’s great that you’re feeling better.

    I sincerely wish you no ill will, but you’ve got to understand that statements like:

    “I’ve lived in this body for 54 years, blah, blah, blah”
    “I listen to my intuition, blah, blah, blah”
    “I’ll say it again: taking iodine in the form of Iodoral gave me a new lease on life, yammer, yammer, yammer…”

    …and so on, are absolutely useless when it comes to making claims about the truth.

    • Helen on August 29, 2010 at 20:34

      Why are you being so nasty, FP, and casting aspersions on my character by asking, “Are you surfing the net whilst wearing your tinfoil hat?” What do you care if ignore evidence or not…I mean really, what’s it to you? Why are you so invested in whether I go by the evidence or not? Its my health and my life, not yours or anyone else’s, and if I choose to listen to my intuition rather than refer to PubMed or go to a doctor why in the world should you care? Long story short, the way in which my body reacted in such a positive way to iodine (in the form of Iodoral) is really all the evidence I need. I don’t care one whit what PubMed or anyone else has to say. If tomorrow I find that I am showing signs of Iodine overdose, then I will cut back my dosage, that’s all. I am sure that some people do have a problem with iodine, but I am not one of them.

      And by the way, I made no claims for truth in the kind of universal sense that you mean…I did not claim to have THE TRUTH…I was refering only to my own experiences, and anyone reading my posts can see that. I don’t know why you seem to have taken some sort of animus against me, but you seem to be taking my dislike of doctors personally.

    • Nicole on August 30, 2010 at 06:23

      OMG, FP, will you quit digging the hole?

      Her first post clearly presents her own experience as an anecdote, and you’re treating it like she made broad recommendations for everyone based on settled science.

      Frankly, I think you are being a confrontational jerk. Just in case you weren’t sure.

    • Helen on August 30, 2010 at 07:15

      Thank you, Nicole.

  44. Dave Mayo on July 14, 2013 at 18:18

    Hey Richard, I read your blog from time to time and came upon this one via a google search. I have come to a similar conclusion as you that the sodium in a SAD serves a potential protective factor. I wrote a blog on this found here…

    Anyhow, I think the link is bromide. Bromide can attach to iodine and chloride receptors in the body and has a much longer half-life compared to iodine and chloride (12 days vs 10hrs). The interesting thing is that bromide excretion is proportional to sodium excretion and both are greater at higher sodium intakes. High salt intake cuts bromide half-life down by more than 60% in rats. When in an iodine deficient and sodium deficient state, I think bromide may be able to accumulate in tissues and cause major problems. Eating a diet high in goitrogens(cruciferous veggies, sweet potatoes, spinach, etc.)This may also be a way low carb diets hammer the thyroid, low sodium allows bromide to stick around longer in the blood and increases the likelihood that bromide can crowd out iodide in the thyroid and other tissues.

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