Iodine Supplements and Heartburn

As early as 1982, researchers have been able to demonstrate a solid link between acid reflux and hypothyroidism (1). It is theorized that hypothyroidism may effect the motility of the esophagus and reduce lower-esophageal sphincter pressure (1).

It is fairly safe to say that hypothyroidism and heartburn are related. However, is there anything we can do about this? Of course – and you are about to find out what!

Iodine Supplementation – A Possible Heartburn Remedy?

One of the biggest contributing factors to hypothyroidism (and as such, thyroid-related acid reflux) is inadequate iodine intake.

In response to a few studies demonstrating that high iodine intake leads to possible cancer and hypothyroidism, Iodine has received a particularly bad reputation lately.

However, you should know that this study did confirm that high iodine intakes may cause cancer or lead to hypothyroidism, the “excessive” group excreted a median of 651 micrograms per liter of urine (2). While, this may not seem like a lot, consider this:

  • The average human excretes 1.5 liters of urine a day.
  • The recommended daily allowance for iodine intake is 150 micrograms.

So, in order to be excreting (sans what their body was actually using) over 1,000 micrograms a day, the average person in the excessive group in this study was easily consuming an average 5 times the recommended daily allowance for iodine for a length of time.

As a result, the average person in a modernized nation is going to rarely be consuming those levels of iodine. This is much more typical of an eastern diet which includes a lot of seaweed and kelp. These plants contain extremely high levels of natural iodine not approached by any other food on the planet!

Now that we have got that out of the way, another study of a similar population confirmed that unusually low levels of iodine intake are associated with thyroid disease (3). We knew this all along, but it is good to see some positive research since the “high iodine” study.


The Dark Side of Sea Salt

Iodine intake has always been quite naturally low in the western diet. In order to combat this issue, most salts in the USA have been iodized. Since salt is used ubiquitously in cooking, it was thought that this would significantly reduce iodine deficiencies (and indeed it did).

The problem is now sea salt has begun replacing normal salt on many tables. For some reason sea salt is thought as some sort of health food because its natural, but the truth is it lacks iodine which is far more essential of a nutrient than any mystery minerals which might be found in sea salt.

Unless the package specifically says iodized, your sea salt has no significant levels of iodine. You can buy iodized sea salt online, but I have not seen it in the typical grocery store.

With this in mind, consider adding iodized salt to your acid reflux diet. If you cannot add salt to your diet to due to restrictions (such as edema or high blood pressure), consider an iodine supplement. A very small supplement of just 100-150 micrograms (micro, not milli) should be fine. Be careful, because many iodine supplements are 600+ micrograms, which is unsafe unless done under a doctor’s supervision (as a doctor can collect and monitor bloodwork and urinalyses).

Important: Do not take an iodine supplement if you are taking medication already for hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid). If you already eat a iodine-rich diet (i.e. eastern diet rich in seaweed or kelp) do not use an iodine supplement.


Other Ways to Help Hypothyroidism

In addition to adding iodine to the diet, another great way to help get your thyroid back on track is to lose weight. I know a lot of people say that the reason they are fat is hypothyroidism, but the truth is that in most people the situation is reversed.

A small minority of the population has thyroid problems due to genetics, cancer, radiation exposure, or other illness. A vast majority of the population is experiencing poor thyroid function due to obesity. Obesity negatively impacts every body system, and the thyroid is no difference from this.

When you consider this, it is not surprising that diagnoses of thyroid disorders have exploded over the last 15 years and obesity has exploded over the last 20 years. This is not a coincidence.

The good news is that both heartburn and thyroid disorders often become milder (and frequently reverse) when you lose weight. This allows you to tackle acid reflux from two fronts through weight loss.

Medication

Of course, many will elect to go on medication for hypothyroidism if diagnosed. This is entirely up to you and your doctor. Many people report great improvements to their quality of life after starting this medication.

If you are experiencing symptoms of hypothyroidism such as brittle nails, dry skin, cold hands and feet, mental fatigue, and possibly even acid reflux, you will want to see your doctor and get some bloodwork done.

Hypothyroidism, Iodized Salt, and Acid Reflux Conclusion

Given that low iodine intake is related to hypothyroidism and hypothyroidism is related to acid reflux, I do not think it is too far of a stretch to consider iodized salt and iodine supplements to be good heartburn home remedies. If you prefer the flavor of sea salt, consider getting iodized sea salt, which is readily available online.

As always, talk to your doctor if you have any health concerns or are experiencing heartburn symptoms two times a week or more. If you need to lose weight, just remember that weight loss is tied to both reduced acid reflux and improved thyroid function!

References

1. Eastwood GL, Braverman LE, White EM, Vander Salm TJ. Reversal of lower esophageal sphincter hypotension and esophageal aperistalsis after treatment for hypothyroidism. J Clin Gastroenterol. 1982 Aug;4(4):307-10.

2. Teng, W., et al. Effect of iodine intake on thyroid diseases in China. N Engl J Med. 2006 Jun 29;354(26):2783-93.

3. Yu, X., et al. A five-year follow-up study of goiter and thyroid nodules in three regions with different iodine intakes in China. J Endocrinol Invest. 2008 Mar;31(3):243-50.

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