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Toxic Halogens and Iodine

Do you remember the Periodic Table of Elements? If you are like me, that big, intimidating chart was posted on the wall of your junior high school science class. I remember watching The Facts of Life in the early 80’s (remember a young George Clooney?) when the girls had to memorize the elements. The line that stays with me to this day is Natalie saying, “AU give me back my gold!” Of course, AU is the symbol for gold – so clever!

As I’ve studied more about thyroid health, I have learned about the elements that impact the thyroid – some positively and some negatively. Under column 17 on the Table of Elements you will find a listing of the elements of the halogen group – from the top down are F – Fluorine; Cl – Chlorine; Br – Bromine; and, I – Iodine.

In the book IODINE: Why You Need It and Why You Can’t Live Without It, Dr. David Brownstein describes fluoride, chlorine and bromine as the halogen bullies. When the halogen bullies are present in the body, they displace iodine and cause a host of problems. Unfortunately iodine deficiency is epidemic and the use of the harmful halogens, fluoride, chlorine and bromine, is increasing.

F – Fluorine as fluoride: Fluoride is added to drinking water in many municipalities and is used in toothpaste to protect teeth from decay, but this is actually very controversial and many believe fluoride is much more harmful to human health than beneficial. Fluoride inhibits the thyroid from utilizing iodine. I recommend using fluoride free toothpaste and if fluoride is added to your drinking water, definitely use some type of water filter to remove as much fluoride as possible.

Cl – Chlorine: Chlorine is used as a disinfectant in many municipal drinking water systems, as well as a disinfectant in swimming pools. Chlorine gas irritates the mucous membranes and the liquid burns the skin. As a halide, chlorine also displaces iodine. It is advisable to limit your exposure to chlorine by using a filter on drinking water and on your showerhead. Take a shower after swimming in chlorinated water, avoid chlorine based cleaning products, but if you do use them, wear gloves to limit exposure to the skin. Dr. Brownstein recommends avoiding the steam released from the dishwasher. Also, avoid the artificial sweetener, Splenda.

Br – Bromine: Bromine or bromide is an extremely toxic halogen. Listed just above iodine on the periodic table, it is very disruptive to iodine absorption in the body, but especially in the thyroid gland. Bromide causes lethargy, depression, headaches and irritability, in addition to worsening iodine deficiency. Bromide is found in pesticides and insecticides. It is also found in a variety of food products including some energy drinks, Mountain Dew, baked goods, bread and some medications. Bromine causes goiters, hypothyroidism and will worsen symptoms associated with thyroid disorders. Carefully read labels and avoid all products that contain bromide or brominated materials. Choose organic foods as much as possible to limit your exposure from bromide found in pesticides.

I – Iodine: The role of iodine to support thyroid health, as well as healthy breasts, ovaries, skin, brain function, cancer prevention and several other bodily functions is well documented. Iodine is also severely deficient in the Western diet. Iodine deficiency is only part of the problem. Unfortunately, the other three halogens, Fluorine, Chlorine and Bromine are extremely damaging to the thyroid and are very plentiful in our food, water and environment. To help detox the body of the toxic halogens, iodine must be present in high amounts. Dr. Guy Abraham, an expert on iodine use, recommends supplementing with iodine to help the entire body detox from the toxic halides. Dr. Brownstein’s experience has shown that iodine supplementation improves the immune system, balances hormone levels, and causes an increase in overall health and well being.

Unfortunately we cannot avoid all of the fluorine/fluoride, chlorine and bromine/bromide halogens in our food and environment. The most important step we can do is to ensure that we are providing enough iodine to the body to detox the toxic halogens and provide the valuable nutrient the body needs to function optimally. When it comes to thyroid health, “I” is far more valuable than “AU”.
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