Iodine: A Solution and a Problem For Me

Iodine.  Iodine was a big problem for me.  It also was a big solution for me.  My post flox life often revolved around trying to balance the problems with the solutions when it came to iodine.

I said earlier that some of my statements would have to be taken at face value.  These next few sections on iodine will be full of them.

I also warned earlier that some of what I write may not be clear to people unfamiliar with how the thyroid axis works.  These next several sections may be difficult for some people to understand if this is the case.  I recommend researching the thyroid axis and endocrine axes in general for those that are interested.  There is plenty of information for people at all levels of knowledge available on the internet.

I started trying to write up my experiences with Iodine, but stopped at about 90 pages.  I could have easily written several hundred pages, with hundreds of references.  But the truth was, I wasn’t up for such a task that would take years to write correctly, and that not a whole lot of people would read, and most of all, that didn’t supply any clear cut solutions to the problem of FQT for all people 100% of the time.   However, the major take away point of all of it would have been this:  I believe that Iodine metabolism and homeostasis were severely affected in me as a result of taking the Cipro.  I also came to believe that my body and cells desperately needed iodine – but were unable to get it or utilize it due to this metabolism and homeostasis problem.  Iodine was the solution for me, because my cells desperately needed it.  But iodine was the problem for me, because there was some kind of metabolism and homeostasis problem preventing my cells from getting it.

If you read my story in the About section, then you saw that I experienced some wonderful relief from my symptoms when I took larger (milligrams) amounts of iodine.  It appeared to be the solution to my problems.  Now, if you read through the rest of this document, all you’re going to hear about is how sensitive I am to iodine and how I can’t tolerate taking even tiny (microgram) amounts without making all my symptoms worse.  This makes it sound like iodine is the problem.  How can it be both?  It’s hard to explain, but I’ll try.

Here is what I wrote about my experience with iodine in the About section:

It turns out that for some people on thyroid medication, if they increase their iodine intake by large amounts (such as milligrams), they’re forced to decrease their thyroid medication to avoid symptoms of hyperthyroidism.  This is not true of all people, but it was true for me.  I was one of those people.  This is actually a significant and important point to remember about my experience with iodine.  So I’m going to say it again:  If I increased my iodine intake while I was on thyroid hormone medication, I would develop symptoms of hyperthyroidism unless one of two things happened.  1) I decreased my dosage of thyroid hormone medication, or 2) I decreased the iodine instead.  I chose to decrease the meds.

Important things to notice about this paragraph, is that I was ON medication, and I was on a fully suppressive replacement dose.  This means that I supplied the full amount of T4 and T3 my body needed to function.  My thyroid gland was not making any thyroid hormone at all.  Why?  Because I was supplying all the T4 and T3 my body needed.  It’s like the thyroid gland says “Why bother making it, if we’re getting it for free?”  And so in this situation, my thyroid gland was “shut off” (TSH was essentially zero).  All my T4 and T3 came from the medication I was taking.  This means that I controlled the amount of T4 and T3 my body got.  I had “control of my thyroid axis”.

Several alternative and holistic practitioners have noted that when some people who are on thyroid hormone medication start taking iodine, they develop symptoms of “hyperthyroidism”.  To counteract this, they will decrease the amount of medication they are on.  It turns out, I am one of those people who are forced to decrease their meds if they start taking larger amounts of iodine.   Please note this is not true for all people.   However, it was true for me.   I could not take larger doses of iodine unless my T3 and T4 serum levels decreased.  Because I was on medication and controlled the amount of T4 and T3 in my system, it was easy enough for me to decrease the T4 and T3 floating around in my blood.  All I had to do was take a lower dose of T4 and T3.  I could control how much and how fast my serum levels of T3 and T4 decreased over time quite tightly and easily, because I was on the medication. My thyroid gland did not “turn on” or contribute any thyroid hormone at all during this time – which is another important point.  So whatever dose of T4 and T3 I provided, that was in my bloodstream and was utilized by my cells.  I ran frequent lab work every 2-4 weeks during this time to confirm what was occurring with my serum parameters as a function of dosage changes of thyroid hormones and iodine as well, and correlated these with my symptoms.

Why is the above important?  Because it’s an entirely different result when I’m NOT on thyroid hormone medication.  In this case, now, my thyroid gland is working to provide T3 and T4.  I am not providing any T3 and T4 through medication, and I really can’t reliably control the amount of T3 and T4 my thyroid gland is making.  I do NOT have “control of my thyroid axis” anymore.  Now, when I take iodine, and I develop symptoms of “hyperthyroidism”, there’s no quick, easy, and most importantly, controlled and reliable way to decrease my blood levels of T3 and T4.  When I was ON medication, and I wanted to lower my T3 and T4, all I had to do was decrease the medication dosage.  When I was OFF the medication and wanted to lower my T3 and T4, I really couldn’t do it – at least, not in the tightly controlled, consistent, and reliable way I could while on the medication.

When I was OFF the medication, the slightest bit of iodine, and I’m talking tiny MICRO gram amounts, would bring on “hyperthyroid” symptoms.  The most troublesome, and potentially harmful ones, were the cardiac symptoms and CNS symptoms, which I discuss later on in other sections of this document.  There was no way for me to “drive down serum T3 and T4 reliably” to help alleviate these symptoms.  No amount of salt or supplements made any difference in whether or not I developed the “hyperthyroid” symptoms.  Therefore, my only other alternative was to stop the iodine, or decrease the iodine.  This is because I couldn’t change my serum T3/T4 levels quickly.

What this means is that when I was OFF thyroid hormone medications, I had to severely limit my iodine, or all kinds of unpleasant “hyperthyroid” symptoms would develop.  These symptoms were basically the same as or similar to my floxing symptoms.  So when I was OFF medication, one way of attempting to control or alleviate my floxing symptoms was to limit my iodine intake.  I was so sensitive to iodine, that even a few micrograms of it (that’s MICROgrams) could make my symptoms worse.  That means I had to severely limit my diet in an attempt to avoid iodine.  Of course, this also meant that over time, as my body lost iodine stores, I was going to become hypothyroid over time as well.  But that’s for a later section.  For now, the important thing is to be aware that post Cipro, I now could no longer tolerate much iodine in my diet because of this phenomenon.

It became apparent I was experiencing what I call an “either/or” situation when it came to TH and Iodine.  Meaning, I could have higher serum levels of T4/T3 in me, or I could ingest higher amounts of iodine (and presumably have higher serum levels of iodine within me) – but I could not have both at the same time.  And this has caused me a hell of a lot of grief, to put it mildly.  Prior to being floxed, I could ingest any amount of iodine without a problem; my thyroid axis captured, stored, and distributed this iodine to every cell of my body automatically and without a problem, and I excreted any excess. In fact, I grew up on, and for much of my life, ingested a high iodine diet (estimated 1-3 mg/day).  Now, post flox, this is no longer the case.  Whatever other problems the Cipro caused in me, at least part of it has to do with this TH-Iodine homeostasis problem.  It’s also one potential reason I am experiencing so many “thyroid like symptoms” despite a well functioning negative feedback axis and normalized serum TH values.

So it became apparent to me that when I could get the protein component of thyroid hormone out of the way, that iodine alone could be very helpful and the solution to some of my problems.  But it also became apparent to me that when thyroid hormone levels were normalized in me, that iodine could become very problematic for me as well.  It became clear to me that iodine itself was playing as large a role in my symptoms as thyroid hormones (T3/T4) were.  I came to believe that my body and cells desperately needed iodine – but were unable to get it or utilize it due to this metabolism and homeostasis problem.  Iodine was the solution for me, because it seemed that my cells desperately needed it.  But iodine was also the problem for me, because there was some kind of metabolism and homeostasis problem preventing my cells from getting it or utilizing it appropriately.

For the rest of this document, it’s important to be aware that for the most part, I am discussing only the scenarios where iodine was a problem for me.  This means that I was either 1) NOT on thyroid hormone medication.  This is the case most of the time for this particular document, or 2) if I was ON thyroid hormone medication, I kept the medication dose constant and was NOT varying the medication.  Therefore, small amounts of iodine affected my symptoms greatly in both of these situations.


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