Hi Dr. C, “I’ve been following the Thyroid Reset Diet and I’m almost off of my thyroid meds. My friend said I should take iodine in case we are exposed to radiation from Ukraine but I don’t know if I should?” Sharon
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Great question. In the event of exposure to radiation, there are times when iodine supplementation can be helpful for some people.
Some have been led to think that iodine somehow protects their body against radiation sickness. It does not. It provides no immediate protection.
If used in the exact right circumstances it may slightly lower one’s risk of thyroid cancer…decades later.
The reason it helps is because high-dose iodine shuts off your thyroid. For many people, even small amounts can shut it off. You’ve been consuming less iodine while on the Thyroid Reset Diet and that is why your thyroid is working better again.
Some of the radioactive particles that circulate after a nuclear accident are radioactive iodine atoms. If they end up absorbed by the thyroid gland, they could damage the DNA and lead to thyroid cancer decades later.
The thyroid has a pump that pulls in iodine. A massive dose of iodine shuts the pump off for a period of time.
The most common form of iodine used is Super Saturated Potassium Iodine (SSKI – K is the elemental symbol for potassium). Typically it comes in 100 mg tablets. That’s a massive dose!
To put perspective on it, that is as much as your body needs over the course of 3 years. It is 500 times above what is normally considered a safe dose.
When you look at the details, it becomes clear this is almost never helpful.
The World Health Organization has done an impressive amount of research on this topic and has specific guidelines for us to follow.
It turns out that Iodine only helps:
- If there are no medical contraindications
- People of specific ages
- If they take the exact right dosage
- If timed correctly
- If the radiation source is nearby
So who should not consider iodine prophylaxis at all?
The World Health Organization recommends reconsidering it for those with:
- A history of thyroid disease
- Active thyroid antibodies
- A history of iodine allergy
- Dermatitis herpetiformis (a chronic blistering skin condition)
In all of these cases, the risk of excess iodine is thought to outweigh other possible benefits.
The use of iodine to protect against future thyroid cancer is most relevant for infants and children. Past age 12 the benefits of iodine prophylaxis are not clear.
Too much iodine is harmful for anyone, even if exposed to radiation. In nearly all cases it is debatable whether the benefit outweighs the risk. Here are the current dosage recommendations.
Good luck trying to accurately cut a tablet into 8 pieces!
|Age Group||Single Dose of Iodine (mg)||Fraction of 100 mg Tablet|
|Birth – 1 month||12.5||1/8|
|1 month – 3 years||25||1/4|
|3 – 12||50||1/2|
It gets worse. Iodine prophylaxis only works if taken 4-24 hours before radiation exposure. It also won’t work for up to several years if the dose is repeated.
If you know down to the hour when you will be exposed and it will only happen once, you might consider it. Otherwise the timing won’t fit.
Here is the final deal breaker. The nuclear accident or bomb detonation must occur within several miles.
Let’s think about that one. If a nuclear bomb went off that close to home, thyroid cancer 30 years later would be the least of your worries!
Here is a quote from Isabel Lauren Jackson, director of the division of translational radiation sciences at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
She sums it all up by saying:
“Potassium iodide pills have a narrow indication— They do not treat acute
radiation sickness”, the pills can cause serious side effects. They are not a
major part of planning for nuclear scenarios”.
Taking iodine at the wrong time is guaranteeing that it will not work when required. In fact, it might just have the opposite effect. Too much can raise the risk of thyroid cancer more than it prevents it.
If a nuclear accident occurs near enough to be a risk, what should you do?
Seek shelter for at least 24 hours. This means avoiding exposure to air for 24 hours or until you hear otherwise. If there are local concerns experts recommend keeping in your home non-perishable food, water, plastic and tape to seal the windows, and a battery-operated radio.
These are all practical steps that don’t run the risk of hurting your thyroid.
P.S. Whenever you are ready, here is how I can help you now:
1. Schedule a Thyroid Second Opinion with me, Dr. C, Click Here for Details
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