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Low Iodine In Women Before Pregnancy Associated with Lower IQ in their Children

I have been practicing holistic medicine for nearly 25 years.  Among all the items I have found successful, one stands head and shoulders above rest:  iodine.  Iodine is one of the most fascinating essential elements.  After checking thousands of patients (along with my partners), I can state with confidence that the vast majority of our population is iodine-deficient.  Sadly, most are severely iodine deficient.

I was taught in medical school that iodine deficiency was a thing of the past.  My professors only mentioned iodine by declaring that the iodization of salt solved the iodine deficiency epidemic that was affecting most of the United States in the 19th and early 20th centuries. 

In my book, Iodine: Why You Need It Why You Can’t Live Without It, I describe how the iodine deficiency epidemic is (unfortunately) alive and well in our modern times.  In fact, due to our exposure to toxic halides that contain fluoride and bromine, our iodine requirements have increased over the last few decades. 

The consequences of iodine deficiency are severe and include cancer and diseases of the glandular tissues including the breast, ovary, uterus, prostate, pancreas, and thyroid.  Which cancers are increasing at epidemic rates?  Glandular cancers including all that I listed above are occurring too frequently.

Iodine is also necessary for a fetus to develop normally.  It is well-known and accepted that iodine deficiency in a pregnant woman can result in a lowered IQ in her child. 

Researchers in England examined the relationship between maternal preconception (before the child is conceived) iodine status and their offspring’s cognitive function (IQ level) at age 6-7 years.

The scientists measured the urinary iodine status in women approximately three years before conception.  Interestingly, the median urinary iodine measurement in these women was 108.4 ug/L which classifies these women as iodine deficient.  This level is similar to the average current iodine level of U.S. women of pregnancy age.  The researchers then compared the preconception maternal iodine level with their children’s IQ measured at age 6-7 years.

As compared to women with higher iodine levels, women with the lowest preconception iodine levels were found to have children with lower IQs.  The authors concluded by stating, “In a general population sample of UK women, lower iodine status before conception was related to lower IQ in their 6-7 yer old children.      

The Journal of Nutrition.  Nutritional Epidemiology.  2018.148:1-6

Comment:  Folks, there is nothing I am more passionate about than teaching patients how to be healthy.  It is impossible to achieve your ultimate health by being iodine-deficient.  As previously mentioned, iodine deficiency is still (unfortunately) alive and well in our modern world.  A mother deficient in iodine puts her child at risk for a host of problems including abnormal development of the child’s neurological, endocrinological, and immune systems.

The U.S. Government’s data (through NHANES) has shown that iodine levels have fallen over 50% over the last 40 years, yet the powers-that-be still provide no remedies to this situation.    

You simply cannot wait for the Government to guide you on how to optimize your health.  Why is that?  The agencies of the U.S. Government that  should be working and watching out for us, including the FDA and the CDC, are owned by Big Pharma and other corporations.  These agencies cannot be relied upon to do the right thing.

It is up to you to educate yourself about how to keep yourself healthy.  That is why I write my newsletter (Dr. Brownstein’s Natural Way to Health) and my books. 

I have been lecturing and teaching about iodine deficiency for over 15 years.  It is beyond time to put an end to iodine deficiency in our population.  I predict that ending the iodine deficiency epidemic that has gripped our country would change the course of many diseases that are affecting us including cancer of the breast, prostate, ovary, uterus, thyroid, and pancreas.  Furthermore, ending the iodine deficiency epidemic in women of childbearing age would result in healthier children who do not suffer from so many common neurological problems such as a lowered IQ.

More information about iodine can be found in my book, Iodine: Why You Need It, Why You Can’t Live Without It.

Author Info

David Brownstein, M.D.

Comments ( 24 )

  • Sarah Mussi

    Hi Dr B

    What would be the dosage in daily drops of 5% Lugol’s for a normal pregnancy (healthy mother) of iodine to optimise baby development and mother health. (living in UK).


    • Sarah,
      Everybody is different, but,,,Dr. Abraham and I found that 25-50 mg/day would saturate all the iodine receptors in most individuals. In my practice, that is what I have nearly all my patients on. That comes to 2-8 drops of 5% Lugol solution.
      I do not recommend pregnant women take iodien without working with an iodine-knowledgeable doc.


  • Kelly

    Hi Dr. Brownstein,
    I’ve had hypothyroid symptoms for years but my labs have always come back normal. I’ve been on 50 mg iodine for about 8 months and it’s been a life changer, especially in clearing brain fog. My naturopath recently did a blood test to check my serum iodine levels and it came back 634 mcg/L, six times the upper limit, according to traditional standards. Is this a concern, or is there an alternative range of values you use? Also, while the iodine has been incredible for several months in resolving my hypothyroid symptoms, fatigue and hair loss have been returning the last 2-3 months. Is it common for iodine’s benefit to decline with time? If so, is there anything you’d recommend I try?
    Thank you in advance,

    • Kelly,
      Serum iodine levels when one is taking iodine are inaccurate readings of the body’s iodine stores. There is no reason to ever order that test. A 24 hour iodine loading test is the best way to measure body iodine levels.

  • Michelle

    I was diagnosed with Hashimotos 10 years ago. I’ve tried all different thyroid medications and am currently on high dose NDT plus levothyroxine. Years ago I was told iodine would worsen my condition and increase my antibodies, and only recently began revisiting the idea of iodine deficiency which led me to your work. Now I am wondering if iodine deficiency could have been my problem all along. Ive started taking lugol’s have two main questions:
    1. I seem to be somewhat resistant to thyroid hormone, as it takes really high doses for me to get any relief from hypo symptoms. Could this resistance be due to an iodine deficiency and does iodine have any effect on cellular sensitivity to T3, or thyroid conversion?
    2. I have been dealing with unexplained infertility for many years and I wonder if iodine deficiency could be a cause. If by some miracle I were to get pregnant while supplementing with high dose iodine (I have started taking 50 mg and may increase further) would this be safe? I’ve read studies that show it can harm the baby if a mother who takes too
    much iodine during pregnancy. Is there a certain amount I should limit myself to, just in case, or what would you recommend to someone in this situation?
    Thank you!!

    • Michelle,
      IF you have read my book or seen me lecture, I make a point of showing that the vast majority of pregnancy age females are iodine deficient. There is no known amount of iodine except a deficient amount that has been harmful to a fetus.
      However, I do not advocate taking iodine without working with an iodine-knowledgeable doctor.
      Yes, I have found correcting iodine deficiency very helpful to people with thyroid problems, Hashi’s and Grave’s included.

  • Starrsr1

    Hi Dr. B,
    First of all thank you for what you do, you have changed my life forever since I found your book Overcoming Thyroid… in 2013. I found out a whole string of things because of your insight on iodine and salt. And I am thankful to say everything you said is working. I have most of your books, and plan to purchase them all one day. Thank you. You are a part of my health team incase you did not know. My doctors have to line up with your information or I won’t work with them. My question pertains to iodine 50 mg. I have been off and on iodine for a period of about five years now. Lately, I am feeling real sluggish so I upped my dose to 50mg like I did when I first found you, then later went down to 12.5mg daily. My eyebrows are thinning nearly off at the ends I’ve never had this happen. I have some weight gain, tiredness, even drag moments but they pass, hair thinning, and anemia from fibroids I’m trying to correct. My labs are not low enough for thyroid medications, at least the last time I checked a few months back. I take unrefined salt daily in all my water anywhere from a pinch to 1/4 tsp in 32 oz if I need it. I am cold and have mid-section weight gain, but loss 20. I am on progesterone bio-identical capsules 100 mg for almost a year now. I lost 20 Lbs. without trying and sleep better and oh, yeah my labido is back , my husband is happy! My question is am I doing right to take 50mg and taper down once I find a happy balance? And also, when you use 50mg will you smell the chemical toxins temporarily leaving your body or could that be a nasal infection? My doctors wouldn’t hear of naturopathic anything nor support my iodine intake nor progesterone so I found a ND who was great but recently up and moved to another state. I’m bummed about that. I’m sort of out here on my own, but have learned so much from you and have experienced much relief with your help. I know I’m doing better by following support that is evidence based, as you are very knowledgeable and dedicated to what you do. Thank you, again!

    • Dear S,
      Most of my patients are on 25-50 mg/day of iodine. Once they are stable on a dose of iodine, I generally don’t change it. I recommend more if there are endocrine problems.
      Glad to hear I am on your team!!


    My care at the renown Johns Hopkins Hospital speaks to Dr B’s message about iodine . After my first child was born in 1971 at JHH my OB found an orange size thyroid mass & it was immediately surgically removed & I was put on thyroid medicine… for life . No one told me until a few years ago that the path report showed it was a goiter . No one put me on iodine . I suffered serverly from uterine fibroids & endometriosis until a hysterectomy at age 49. All probably related to low iodine .
    Late in life I developed Thyroid Eye Disease .
    After reading Dr B ‘s book I started taking iodine supplements. When I told my doc he was NOT supportive & told me to stop . I asked him to test my levels . When it came out’ low normal ‘ he still told me to stop !
    I am looking for another doctor to help me and to date I have had no success.

  • Maria ewing

    I could not agree more with Dr. Brownstein! Sadly, there are few doctors out there who have a clue about what I call the “spiritual mineral”. I call it that because the 5th chakra is in the throat area where are thyroid is located. It is the half way point between the upper and lower, more earthly, chakras. I believe it is the master mineral. I personally take a lot of it, sometimes nearing 100mg and have no fears about it at all. I take Lugol’s iodine daily and have no intention of ever stopping. I , like millions of people, had low thyroid and was put on desiccated thyroid replacement, but quite. honestly I always felt Iodine was the reason in the first place the thyroid was low and therefore should be the dominant source of support not the desiccated replacement. I now only take a very small amount of a desiccated supplement and make iodine the master supporter. In other words, I will not sacrifice Iodine. This mineral is in every cell of the body. When will people stop listening to the phobias out there about iodine and listen to Dr. Brownstein instead! Thank you Dr. Brownstein for helping to bring me to this awareness. I have read your books, listened to your videos and learned so much.

      • Susan McFarlane

        Dr. Brownstein I have read all of your books and learned so much! My issue is trying to find a doctor in Houston to help guide and monitor the supplementing of iodine. Do you have any recommendations?

        • Susan,
          Dr. John Trowbridge is as good as you can get. He is a good friend of mine that I would recommend anybody to.

  • Deidre

    Thanks Dr Brownstein for your informative articles. Could you please advise me on whether adding Dulse flakes to meals is considered to be an effective means to increasing iodine intake, and if so, what quantities would a child or adult need on average per day? Thanks

    • Deidra,
      I recommend using Lugol’s solution or tableted Lugol’s solution. Dosing for children can vary depending on the weight. I would recommend finding an iodine-knowledgeable provider and working with him/her.

  • Dawn

    How much iodine would you say a person with chronic Lyme disease needs? They speak about the need for iodine on all the Chronic Lyme forums.

    • Dawn,
      It varies. It is best to work with a doc who is iodine knowledgeable. For people with chronic infections I usually recommend higher doses.

  • Amy

    Hello, I have Hashimoto’s Disease. I have never learned a definitive answer to the question of whether someone like me should supplement. Most of what I find says no-if you have this auto-immune disease iodine will make it worse. Can you advise?

    • Amy,
      I cover this in my book in more detail. Iodine deficiency is responsible for autoimmune thyroid illness.

  • Mary1

    Most health practitioners, even those iodine aware, DO NOT recommend supplementing.
    What I have seen some say it can make thyroid problems even worse. They won’t be convinced so far.

    So pregnant women have both iodine and dangerous vaccines to contend with.

  • Does Himilayan salt contain iodine? I know that it contains minerals but I don’t know which ones. I quit using iodized salt years ago. Because I suspect that I may be slightly hypothyroid despite my doctor saying my tests are normal, I occasionally take a little potassium iodide.

    • Janet,
      Unrefined salt such as the one you mentioned has very little iodine in it–not enough to supply the body with what it needs.

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