Vitamin D can be activated to hormone D within some types of cancer cells

Normal and cancerous pancreatic cells express the enzyme, 1a(OH)ase, that converts inactive vitamin D into active hormone D. [1] Asking what benefit pancreatic cancer cells might receive from converting more of the inactive vitamin into the powerful hormone D than normal pancreas cells seems like a reasonable question to consider. The excerpt below mentions some other locations that the enzyme has been found and mentions work from a different study regarding the enzyme in the diseases sarcoidosis and psoriasis. The research article the excerpt is from focuses on the use of extra vitamin 25-D or a modified form of it as a possible way to reduce proliferation of the cancer cells.

Zehnder et al. examined the distribution of 1a(OH)ase in extra renal tissues (41). They reported specific staining for 1a(OH)ase in skin (basal keratinocytes, hair follicles), lymph nodes (granulomata), colon (epithelial cells and parasympathetic ganglia), pancreas (islets), adrenal medulla, brain (cerebellum and cerebral cortex) and placenta (decidual and trophoblastic cells). They also reported over-expression of the enzyme in disease states including psoriatic skin and sarcoidosis.”  [1]

The use of extra vitamin D may not equally benefit all types of patients or possibly all types of cancer. Trials with supplements of vitamin D in live prostate cancer patients have not been found to be reliably beneficial. [2] Supplements of vitamin D and calcium have not been found to reduce fracture risk in healthy pre-menopausal women. [3] Educational materials for physicians may not include information about the risks associated with vitamin D supplements for some types of patients that are known to have risk of having low 25D values along with elevated 1,25D such as patients with sarcoidosis or cancer of the parathyroid gland.[4] [26]

Few research studies about vitamin D deficiency or effects include blood tests of both the vitamin and the hormone. The hormone form is less chemically stable and the lab test for it is more expensive than the lab test for the vitamin. Checking only the level of vitamin D  for assessing deficiency is based on the assumption that the converting enzyme is carefully controlled within the kidneys and that excess hormone D won’t build up but the enzyme is also made by some types of cancer cells and white blood cells and even within the placenta of pregnant mammals.[21] If the hormone is especially important within the placenta for growing a baby than it might also be important for growing a tumor. Including less vitamin D in the diet of prostate, breast or colon cancer patients might help more than offering more. But extra vitamin D may be helpful for other patients, and checking both lab values may help to be sure a reduced blood level of 25-D isn’t because it ‘s being converted to extra 1,25-D outside of the kidney rather than being a diet or sun deficiency.

Without also checking the blood levels of 1,25-D it is impossible to know if all patients with depressed levels of 25-D are truly deficient in hormone 1,25-D or whether they simply have depressed levels of the precursor 25-D. The website, Chronic Illness has more information regarding having both tests performed accurately: [6] Taking too much of either form of D regularly can lead to harmful side effects and long term bone loss and soft tissue calcification problems. [20] People with typical health responses will break down some of the excess but a large dose for months can build up to an excess. The risk is increased if there is an undiagnosed problem leading to increased conversion to 1,25-D.

If someone’s diet includes fortified breakfast cereal, toast, milk, yogurt and other fortified beverages and snack bars and the fish that are naturally good sources of vitamin D then too much supplemental vitamin D may be consumed over time without a single capsule having been taken. The average healthy person would have the enzymes needed to break down the excess but chronically ill patients may not have the enzyme that deactivates hormone D. Vitamin D is fat soluble and can be stored. That aspect of vitamin D metabolism may have been critically important to health during winter months before the fortification of foods became common.

/Disclaimer – I have tried to share my concerns regarding the possible societal and personal risks of over-fortification and over-supplementation with vitamin D. If taking excess vitamin D was truly helpful than why hasn’t it helped more people who have tried it by now? Instead supplementation has been associated with an increase in cholesterol levels. [14] Some extra vitamin D is necessary and beneficial when there is an actual deficiency of both the vitamin and the hormone but it is not helpful if the vitamin D blood levels are low because the vitamin is being converted into elevated levels of the very powerful hormone D. Psoriasis [22] and sarcoidosis are painful diseases and the most effective treatment may require avoidance of the precursors to hormone D. Topical use of 1,25-D [24] and light therapy [25] has been tested for psoriasis and found beneficial so some individuals might have a problem using dietary sources of D.

Many foods and beverages are fortified with vitamin D now and the previous fortification levels of liquid milk had already largely eliminated most problems with rickets/vitamin D deficiency during childhood. [7,8,9,10,11] I screened many patients and educated regarding the need for adequate food sources of vitamin D or sunlight for years and during that time only met one child with early signs of rickets. His legs developed normally after sardines were added to his dairy free diet (milk allergy). Now bread and breakfast cereal and other nondairy beverages are also fortified with vitamin D. He would’t need to look only to sardines for vitamin D now but he would need to read labels. Unlike milk, the fortification levels for vitamin D are not set at any consistent level in the newer fortified products. A yogurt may have 50% fortification or zero extra fortification. Food fads to sell more products can be dangerous if the fortified chemical can be stored and possibly collect to dangerous levels. Those smaller percentages of fortification from the varied sandwiches and yogurts might add up over time especially if there is an undiagnosed problem leading to conversion of the vitamin to the hormone. Oat bran is safe but vitamin D in excess is not. A list of overdose side effects of vitamin D: [5]

I do have bias against excessive fortification of the food supply with vitamin D because both myself and my significant other have chronic conditions that cause depressed lab values of vitamin D and elevated levels of hormone D. That also means that I have first hand knowledge regarding what living with the side effects of elevated hormone D is like. Rickets can cause pain but so can the elevated hormone D levels and the elevated calcium levels that increased hormone D can cause. The firsthand knowledge regarding calcium, phosphorus and vitamin D physiology helped me recognize similar symptoms when they occurred in my puppy when she was sick with Parvovirus. The canine illness is frequently deadly. She only got better when I limited foods during the recovery period that were naturally rich or fortified with vitamin D and excess calcium/phosphorus. Pathogens have learned how to use our body’s natural processes for their own benefit. Trying to fight disease while providing the pathogens with the foods that they thrive on is largely a waste of effort. (Feed a fever but starve a cold. – a somewhat true old wive’s tale.)

Taking extra CLA, an essential fatty acid, [15, 16, 17] and limiting foods rich in arachidonic acid [19] may benefit individuals who are fighting prostate and breast cancer. Similar metabolic pathways may be involved with other forms of cancer or chronic disease but not necessarily. [18] Some types of pathogens have learned how to convert nutrients that normally are stored within cellular membranes into food sources. Feeding the body and starving the cancer would make more therapeutic sense than inundating the body with chemicals that kill both the healthy and unhealthy tissue.

Health care is not affordable if it focuses on symptoms and doesn’t tackle the underlying causes of disease./

  1.  Schwartz G, et. al., “Pancreatic cancer cells express 25-hydroxyvitamin D-1a-hydroxylase and their proliferation is inhibited by the prohormone 25-hydroxyvitamin D3,” (Carcinogenesis vol.25 no.6 pp.1015–1026, 2004) [] Excerpts: “Two samples obtained from infiltrating adenocarcinoma of the pancreas displayed robust and extensive expression of 1a(OH)ase in (Figure 2C, left two panels). High expression levels were also found in ductal breast carcinoma (Figure 2C, top right) and in a section of pediatric renal cell carcinoma (Figure 2C, bottom right). Furthermore, we found positive staining for 1a(OH)ase in the autonomic ganglia in colon and in the bile ducts of the liver (data not shown).” . . . “Our results confirm previous findings of expression of 1a(OH)ase in normal pancreas. Moreover, they demonstrate for the first time that 1a(OH)ase is also expressed in pancreatic adenocarcinoma.”  [1]
  2. Article by Mary E. Dallas, “Calcium, Vitamin D Supplements May Pose Risks for Men With Prostate Cancer,” MedlinePlus  SOURCES: Louis Potters, M.D., chair, radiation medicine, North Shore – LIJ Health System, New Hyde Park, N.Y.; Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, news release, Aug. 7, 2012
  3. Article by Gina Kolata, “Calcium and Vitamin D Ineffective for Fractures, U.S. Preventive Services Task Force Says,” (June 12, 2012) []
  4. Physician Consideration Regarding Vitamin D,” (March 2012) MGHS, Nutrition and Medicine Committee, pdf [] website: []
  5. Cacitriol,” MedlinePlus []
  6. D-Metabolites Tests” []
  7. Article by Katherine Doheny, “The Baby Won’t Take a Bow” (April 4, 1995) LATimes [] *Not too worried about rickets in 1995.
  8. Article by Janet Stobart, “Global Health Watch: Rickets showing up in some British children,” (Jan 19, 2011) LATimes: [] (*~40 children in the UK were treated for it at one hospital in 2011.) Rickets is no longer a reportable disease in the US and statistics aren’t available.
  9. Lazol JP, Cakan N, Kamat D. “10-year case review of nutritional rickets in Children’s Hospital in Michigan,” Clin Pediatr (Phila). 2008 May;47(4):379-84. Epub 2008 Jan 11.  (*96% of the cases found were breast fed infants that weren’t receiving a supplement and ethnically may have had darker skin tones.)
  10. Top children’s surgeon says ‘poverty’ bone disease has returned in Southampton,” (Nov 12, 2010) Press Release, University Hospital Southampton: [] Excerpt:  “In my 22 years at Southampton General Hospital, this is a completely new occurrence in the south that has evolved over the last 12 to 24 months and we are seeing cases across the board, from areas of deprivation up to the middle classes, so there is a real need to get national attention focused on the dangers this presents.” […] “said Professor Nicholas Clarke, consultant orthopaedic surgeon at Southampton General Hospital and professor of paediatric orthopaedic surgery at the University of Southampton.”  (*So asking what changed in the one to two year time period preceding Nov. 2010 that would affect 20% of children at all income levels would seem a pertinent question rather than assuming that suddenly 20% of children were no longer receiving vitamin D fortified products and had stopped going outside. Low calcium or phosphorus can also cause rickets, not just low vitamin D. Elevated 1,25 D levels can lead to decreased bone mineralization. Twenty percent of children may have chronic inflammatory conditions that current science doesn’t recognize or test for.)
  11. Steichen JJ, Tsang RC, Greer FR, Ho M, Hug G. “Elevated serum 1,25 dihydroxyvitamin D concentrations in rickets in very low-birth-weight infants,” J Pediatr. 1981 Aug;99(2):293-8.  [] * 25D levels were low and 1,25 D levels were elevated. The infants were successfully treated with an increased amount of calcium and phosphorus but without a change in their vitamin D intake. The infant’s 25 D levels increased and the 1,25 D levels decreased after the change in calcium and phosphorus intake. These were premature infants, not average infants.
  12. Peter J. Malloy, J. Wesley Pike and David Feldman, “The Vitamin D Receptor and the Syndrome of Hereditary 1,25-Dihydroxyvitamin D-Resistant Rickets,” Endocrine Reviews April 1, 1999 vol. 20 no. 2 156-188 []
  13. Vitamin D3 1,25-Dihydroxyvitamin D, Interpretation” Medscape [] Excerpt: “In granulomatous disease such as lymphoproliferative disorders, sarcoidosis, tuberculosis, and inflammatory bowel disease, 1α-hydroxylase enzyme activity was found in macrophages as the extrarenal source of 1,25(OH)2 D. When 1α-hydroxylase is activated, it converts 25(OH)D to 1,25(OH)2 D, just as what occurs under physiologic conditions in the kidneys.[12] However, unlike the kidney, the 1α-hydroxylase in the macrophages in granulomatous diseases is not controlled by the usual physiologic regulators.”
  14. Vitamin D Supplements Won’t Help Cholesterol Levels: Study,” (Sept 4, 2012) MedlinePlus: [] SOURCES: Manish Ponda, M.D., M.S., assistant professor, clinical investigation, Laboratory of Biochemical Genetics and Metabolism, Rockefeller University, New York City; Michael Holick, M.D., professor, medicine, physiology and biophysics, Boston University School of Medicine; Sept. 4, 2012, Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology (* Vitamin D in normal metabolism is made from cholesterol and excess amounts of it are converted back into cholesterol so those who don’t need extra vitamin/hormone D are buying and taking a supplement of a slightly different form of cholesterol. Taking supplemental cholesterol is not a typical recommendation for anyone.)
  15. What Doctors Don’t Tell You (vol 13, issue 5): “CLA fatty acids may combat prostate cancer,” []
  16. Song HJ, et. al., “Conjugated linoleic acid inhibits proliferation and modulates protein kinase C isoforms in human prostate cancer cells,” Nutr Cancer. 2004;49(1):100-8  []
  17. Ochoa JJ, et. al., “Conjugated linoleic acids (CLAs) decrease prostate cancer cell proliferation: different molecular mechanisms for cis-9, trans-11 and trans-10, cis-12 isomers,” Carcinogenesis (2004) 25 (7): 1185-1191. []
  18. Field CJ, Schley PD, “Evidence for potential mechanisms for the effect of conjugated linoleic acid on tumor metabolism and immune function: lessons from n 3 fatty acids,” Am J Clin Nutr 2004;79:1190S–8S, Full text pdf: []
  19. A previous article of mine, “Prostate and Breast Cancer and omega 6s and 3s,” (May 16, 2012) Gingerjens: []
  20. “Hypervitaminosis D, Symptoms and presentation” Wikipedia []
  21. Chapter author, Daniel D Bickle, “Extrarenal Synthesis of 1,25-Dihydroxyvitamin D and Its Health Implications,” Vitamin D: Physiology, Molecular Biology, and Clinical Applications , Nutrition and Health 2010, pp 277-295, Ed. Michael F. Holick []
  22. Article by John Gever, “Low Vitamin D Plus Hypertension May Worsen Cardiovascular Risks,” (Jan. 7, 2008) MedPageToday: []  Excerpt: “Dr. Wang and colleagues could not rule out the possibility that vitamin D deficiency is not causative. “Unmeasured characteristics associated with vitamin D deficiency could account for the increased cardiovascular risk,” they acknowledged. They pointed out that “an alternate explanation for the present findings is that vitamin D deficiency is a marker of chronic nonspecific illness rather than a direct contributor to disease pathogenesis.” ” (* Depressed levels of vitamin D that are associated with elevated levels of hormone D would lead to increased wasting of magnesium and hypertension is a primary symptom of magnesium deficiency. Other aspects of cardiovascular disease are also related to magnesium deficiency.)
  23. Morimoto S, et. al., “Inverse relation between severity of psoriasis and serum 1,25-dihydroxy- vitamin D level,” J Dermatol Sci. 1990 Jul;1(4):277-82.  []
  24. Kowalzick L, “Clinical experience with topical calcitriol, (1,25-dihydroxy-vitamin D3) in psoriasis” Br J Dermatol. 2001 Apr;144 Suppl 58:21-5. []
  25. Amra Osmančević, “Vitamin D Status in Psoriasis Patients Treated with UVB Phototherapy,”  (2009, Sahlgrenska University Hospital, Institute of Clinical Sciences at Sahlgrnska Academy)[ ]
  26. The parathyroid glands and vitamin D,” Chapter Five in Endocrinology: An Integrated Approach. Nussey S, Whitehead S.Oxford: BIOS Scientific Publishers; 2001. []
Biochemistry and physiology are complicated and one answer is not going to work for every patient.

I don’t have all the answers or full access to the expensive research articles and journal subscriptions but I do have different questions. If the medical industry only asks the same questions then we will never learn how to cure or prevent chronic disease. One of the earliest symptoms of magnesium deficiency is hypertension and elevated 1,25 D levels lead to increased wasting of stored magnesium and decreased intestinal absorption of magnesium. Identifying individuals who have undiagnosed hypertension in order to stabilize them on pharmaceuticals will not be cheap or effective if the person’s hypertension was caused by magnesium deficiency. Magnesium is very inexpensive and hasn’t been known to cause side effects when added to foods or beverages. Adequate magnesium is essential for apoptosis and apoptosis is used by white blood cells to protect us from infected or precancerous cells.

True vitamin/hormone D deficiency can also be a cause for hypertension. It would be good to know for sure whether a depressed 25D level was signalling a metabolic pathway malfunction leading to elevated 1,25-D or a true combined vitamin/hormone D deficiency.

We don’t know what we don’t know. Learning requires being open to the idea that previous answers or theories might be wrong or might be wrong for some cases. Accurately testing 1,25 dihydroxy D levels in addition to 25-D would tell us whether the epidemic of low vitamin D levels is actually an epidemic of depressed vitamin D levels and elevated hormone D rather than an epidemic of actual deficiency.  Or, even better, it would tell us which patients are part of the epidemic of chronic illness and which actually are low in vitamin and hormone D and would benefit from modifying their diet or starting to use a supplement.

Edited 9/28/12 8:50pm EST,  edit-10/1/12

/The Short Disclaimer: Information presented on this site is not intended as a substitute for medical care and should not be considered as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment by your physician./

Carrots, spices and baby aspirin help prevent cancer and inflammation

 Aspirin has two active parts that help reduce pain and swelling. The salicylate was first isolated from myrtle and willow tree bark but it has since been identified in many plants and is particularly rich in herbs and spices including turmeric and mint. A compound similar to curcumin found in the spice turmeric has been found to have similar bioactivity and structure to salicylic acid. Benefits may include reduced breast, colon and prostate cancer risks:

“Dibenzoylmethane (DBM) has been reported to exhibit chemopreventive activities in several animal models, including mammary, colon and prostate tumorigenesis during the past few years.2,12–16” [2]

Production of the isolated phytochemicals are being studied but in the meantime spicing up the diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices seems like a good bet and it looks like a baby Aspirin might help protect against breast and prostate cancer as well as cardiovascular disease. Eating more fiber rich produce and spices would help protect against ulcer risks associated with regular use of Aspirin or ibuprofen (I think if I looked that ibuprofen would have similar protective effects because it also reduces the breakdown of endogenous cannabinoids which would reduce free arachidonic acid availability for breast or prostate cancer cells).

From the research article: Table 1: Examples of total salicylate content of food items. [1]
Food Item
Salicylate/ mg/kg
Food Item
Salicylate / mg/kg
Gala melon
Green beans
Green apple
Mange tout
Kiwi fruit
Mushroom (button)
Onion (white)
Spices and Herbs
Apple juice
Black cumin
Cranberry juice
Grapefruit juice
Chat masala
Orange juice
Garam masala
Pineapple juice
Tomato juice
White wine
Red wine

1. [] Garry G. Duthie and Adrian D. Wood, Natural salicylates: foods, functions and disease prevention, Food Funct, 2011, 2, 515-520, DOI: 10.1039/C1F010128E (full text free with login registration)

“Rodent models using ‘‘nutritional’’ rather than ‘‘pharmaceutical’’ dietary intakes indicate that salicylic acid modulates a range of proteins involved in protein folding, transport, energy metabolism and cytoskeletal regulation.40,41 The biological significance of these changes is unclear. However, several of the identified proteins are known to be involved in two major redox pathways (thioredoxin and glutathione). This strongly suggests that salicylic acid modulates interactive components of the cellular redox system, such as glutathione S-transferase yb-2, p53 and AP-1.42 Oxidative stress is implicated in the pathogenesis of many diseases, including heart disease, diabetes and several cancers.43 Consequently, cellular exposure to low concentrations of salicylic acid may benefit health by regulating the activity or expression of transcription factors involved in modulating oxidative stress, such as the antioxidant response element.44 This potential effect is not, however, unique to salicylic acid as other dietary-derived phenolic compounds, such as flavonoids, also activate this enhancer sequence, thus mediating the transcriptional activation of genes in cells exposed to oxidative stress.45”

“The bioactivity of Aspirin is unique in that it is characterised by two compounds within the same molecule. In addition to salicylic acid, the acetyl moiety is released within minutes of Aspirin consumption by enzymatic hydrolytic cleavage by esterases in the intestine, blood and liver.68 The binding of the acetyl group to serine530 in platelets inactivates the active site of cycloxygenase-1, thus preventing the access of arachidonic acid and irreversibly inhibiting prostaglandin synthesis. (*** also preventing access by prostate and breast cancer cells to the arachidonic acid breakdown metabolite 5-HETE) The resultant prevention of platelet aggregation is a major reason for the widespread use of Aspirin in the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease.69 However, the other primary metabolite of Aspirin , salicylic acid, has a much longer half-life of several hours.70 It is likely that its broad spectrum of cellular targets, already discussed, contributes to disease prevention through, for example, its anti-inflammatory, antiproliferative and antioxidant activity. This view is supported by meta-analyses,71–73 which strongly corroborate the hypothesis that the regular consumption of Aspirin -derived salicylic acid can inhibit the incidence and progression of several diseases where platelet function is not a major consideration. However, the doses employed in such trials (30–1300 mg day 1) exceed that which can be obtained from diet alone. Current clinical data are most supportive of a 75 mg daily dose of Aspirin 74 (equivalent to 66 mg salicylic acid), which is readily available from pharmacies and retail outlets in the UK. Larger doses may be required to obtain significant anticancer effects, although a recent population study75 showed for the first time that doses of around 100 mg day 1 may confer some protection. This does not preclude the possibility that the sustained lower intakes achievable by the regular consumption of salicylate-rich diets may also have a disease-preventative activity. However, to date, no double-blind randomised controlled trials using doses of 5–10mg salicylic acid have been conducted in support of the hypothesis that dietary salicylates have long term health benefits. It should also be pointed out that even with therapeutic doses of acetylated salicylic acid of 75mg day 1, there is a peptic ulcer incidence of 5–10% over 3–6 months of usage, a bleeding complication rate of 0.5–2.0 per 100 patient years and a mortality rate of ulcer complications of about 5% of those who have been admitted to hospital due to ulcer bleeding.76 It is likely that the risk of GI toxicity from salicylate levels in food is low, but as a note of caution, Aspirin intakes as low as 10mg day 1 are reported to produce demonstrable gastric damage in humans.77”

Future perspectives

“Interest in the potential beneficial effects of dietary salicylates has arisen, in part, because of the extensive literature on the disease preventative effects of Aspirin . However, it should not be forgotten that plant products found to contain salicylic acid are generally rich sources of other phenolic acids. For example, rich sources of hydroxycinnamic acids such as ferulic, synapic and caffeic acids include legumes, cocoa, fruit, herbs, nuts and cereals. In addition to salicylic acid, other hydroxybenzoic acids such as protocatechuic, vanillic and syringic acids are present in wine, berries, herbs, fruit juices and tea.78 Daily intakes of many may markedly exceed that of salicylic acid. Estimated intakes of caffeic and ferulic acid in a Finnish population are 417 and 129 mg, respectively.79 Many of these compounds also have a marked anti-inflammatory and redox-related bioactivity in mammalian cells.80 Their potential protective effects should not be overlooked. In this context, the importance of dietary salicylic acid should not perhaps be over emphasised. “

***This research team is encouraging the use of whole foods and the intake of a variety of active phytochemicals in the same dose. Earlier within the article the anti-cancer benefits of the dose available from food intake are compared with the dose from a baby aspirin or regular dose aspirin. Within the discussion section, excerpted above, the authors point out that many other active phytochemicals contained within a food would boost the active dose from eating more produce, herbs and tea (and moderate amounts of wine).

2. [] Chuan-Chuan Lin, Yue Liu, Chi-Tang Ho and Mou-Tuan Huang, Inhibitory effects of 1,3-bis-(2-substituted-phenyl)-propane-1,3-dione, β-diketone structural analogues of curcumin, on chemical-induced tumor promotion and inflammation in mouse skin, Food Funct., 2011, 2, 78-83 DOI: 10.1039/C0FO00098A
Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes.

Hypothyroid or Iodine Deficient ?

Both is the answer or kind-of is the answer to the question in the title. I realize I never answered it directly in the post or may not have explained it clearly. We may have the RDA, the Recommended Daily Allowance, of iodine in a supplement or fortified products each day — but if the environment and diet are also providing the chemically similar minerals bromide, perchlorate (chloride), and fluoride then the body may be making thyroid hormone with the atoms of bromide, chloride and fluoride instead of with atoms of iodine and a lab test might show the presence of thyroid hormone but that lab test wouldn’t be testing specifically for the presence of iodine.
     Thyroid hormone might be present that contained bromide, chloride, or fluoride, or a combination, but it wouldn’t actually function within the energy pathways in the body and symptoms of tiredness and other symptoms of hypothyroidism.  A very large dose of iodine taken for one month can help the body replace the wrong atoms in the thyroid hormone with atoms of iodine. The presence of bromide, chloride and fluoride may be involved in risk for autoimmune thyroid disease and cancer of the thyroid or other endocrine glands. More is included on these topics later in this post. It can also help resolve the pain of fibrocystic breast disease, that topic isn’t included in this post but I did find it helpful for resolving that condition for me, and it hasn’t returned. I had symptoms of it for years and the standard answer is along the lines of “we don’t know,” – well I know that for me my condition resolved after taking a large dose of iodine for one month and then a smaller but still larger than RDA dose for several years — but I didn’t know about or forgot the selenium and ran into hyperthyroid problems, more on that –>
*This updated post is not about being fat or thin, or “body-shaming,” inner beauty has nothing to do with size, however good health can have to do with size.  Mood and skill in social settings can also be affected by size.  Information about cancer is included in this post because a problem with iodine deficiency can increase risk for cancer.
     The commonly used treatment for hypothyroidism within the current medical community is simply replacement of the thyroid hormone which is not addressing iodine deficiency for the thyroid gland or for the rest of the endocrine glands and the rest of the body. The thyroid organ can preferentially take up iodine when there is a limited supply, so a diagnosis of hypothyroidism suggests the rest of the body has even less iodine than the thyroid gland. Other side effects of hypothyroidism include depression, extreme tiredness, feeling cold, a tendency towards gaining weight and for constipation – everything slows down in the body when there is inadequate thyroid hormone or when it is present but not functioning correctly.
     It is more comfortable to not weigh an excessive amount and it is more comfortable to have energy and not feel depressed and cold.
     Showing the two pictures below is again, not about “body-shaming,” but was to give some idea of my past. Overweight women are somewhat invisible to men and to other women who care a lot about image. I have the social skills of an overweight woman, not those of a woman used to fending off unwanted attention from strangers or old acquaintances. I’ve never been to a fancy “cocktail party” if such a thing still occurs outside an episode of Mad Men (aka/the 1950’s). Or – more accurately – I have the social skills of someone with child trauma issues who may not have tried much in life and never gained experience and learned better skills.
     It takes a while to learn what you don’t know and further, to learn how many layers of not-knowing-what-you-didn’t-know and that you’ll have to learn about and work through before you will really get to the core issue or issues.
     A core issue revealed in the first picture is hyperthyroidism – I look thinner than typical for me. In the second picture I’m heavier but that was the weight that stubbornly stuck no matter how hard I tried to diet and exercise it off – until I took the large dose iodine supplement. My problem turned out to be the selenium. I didn’t learn about that until later after having developed hyperthyroid symptoms. Autoimmune thyroid problems can fluctuate between hypothyroid – low activity, and hyperthyroid – elevated activity. The first picture is me with hyperthyroidism and the second picture is hypothyroid.
     We all do need iodine though. I have to limit how much I eat now because I still have an overactive autoimmune thyroid condition. I do eat some iodine foods but not much iodized products or any supplements and I do try to eat selenium rich foods regularly, which is about two Brazil nuts per day.
     There aren’t many foods naturally rich in selenium. Coastal ocean microbes transform it from the form found in the ocean water into a form that can be carried in water droplets in the atmosphere where it is rained onto Brazil nut trees in the Amazon rain forest – isn’t our planet amazing?
We all need iodine.
This is how I spent most of my years as an adult, before I took iodine supplements.

The rate of infants born with congenital hypothyroidism has been escalating, baffling many, unless you consider an older diagnostic term – cretinism or iodine deficiency. Cretinism is somewhat reversible if the infant receives adequate iodine after diagnosis, the thyroid gland would grow and begin to produce hormone naturally. If the infant is treated only with synthetic thyroid hormone, then organ development would continue to suffer and the baby will probably need the drug for the rest of its life. Weight gain, fatigue, apathy and depression are common symptoms in adults and children born hypothyroid typically are petite and can have reduced IQ. Women can’t grow babies out of synthetic hormone, but that is what they usually are given if diagnosed with hypothyroidism instead of iodine deficiency.

All of our glands need iodine not just the thyroid gland. The pineal gland, also known in more  ancient terms as our Inner Eye, [crystalinks], has the second largest uptake of iodine and it is crucial for melatonin and a good night’s sleep. [5, 6] The mammary and prostate glands need iodine as well. Prostate and breast cancer also may involve an underlying iodine deficiency [2, 3] and the substitution of bromide, perchlorate and/or fluoride.

Lab tests have become a primary diagnostic tool and if the science underlying their use was wrong then the diagnosis based on the tests may not be very reliable. Our bodies have learned how to fool the lab test’s expectations of goiter by producing thyroid hormone containing fluoride or bromide. The gland is functioning normally but the hormone it is producing won’t prevent the symptoms and malfunction of hypothyroidism.

I had all those symptoms, but my lab tests were normal and therefore I was normal, or so I was told. However, after attending a seminar by Dr. Brownstein, I started a high dose iodine supplement that is equivalent to the amount of iodine provided by the sea weed in the traditional Japanese diet. The supplement that I have taken daily for six years contains 83 times more iodine than our current RDA. Our national guideline for iodine has not been changed since it was created in the 1940’s. Salt doesn’t have that much added to it and we aren’t really using much iodized table salt anymore. Do we reach for the salt shaker when we think about any other vitamin

It is important to get adequate amounts of the trace mineral selenium when supplementing with iodine, especially when using a large dose of iodine. Selenium is essential for the enzyme that breaks down excessive amounts of the active thyroid hormone. Excessive thyroid hormone can cause hyperthyroidism which can be associated with extreme mood and physical symptoms. Selenium can be toxic when excessive amounts are consumed for months.

Approximately two Brazil nuts provide the recommended daily goal of 200 micrograms of selenium. A one-a-day or prenatal vitamin would likely include 200 mcg of selenium. “Selenium” []

A peer reviewed article with seaweed nutrient content information suggests that there is a wide range in iodine levels between different types of seaweed and between different samples of the same type of seaweed. [10]

The case study does not mention selenium. Hyperthyroid problems induced by abrupt increased intake of iodine may be mitigated by increasing selenium intake at the same time.

Kelp supplements can contain an unreliable amount of iodine. Out of 17 supplements tested the iodine content ranged from 45 micrograms to 57,000 micrograms. [1]

The kelp supplements content as tested is unreliable and potentially dangerous due to the unknown amount that might be contained. Seaweed also may contains goiterogens that interfere with thyroid function and occasionally toxins or other contaminants can be present due to the variability in ocean waters. [ ]

Excessive iodine chronically can lead to toxicity side effects that include acne, a metallic taste in the mouth, a persistent mild cough and nasal discharge. The metallic taste can be a short term side effect due to bromide stores being exchanged for iodine. The RDA has been 150 micrograms. The Iodoral supplement that I have been using for six years contains 1250 micrograms of iodine/iodide which is a mega dose but is consistent and known, breaking the tablets and using a portion for a smaller daily dose is possible.

Those at increased risk of developing hypothyroidism include: Postpartum women, Women with family history of autoimmune thyroid disorders (AITD), Those with previous head, neck, or thyroid surgery or irradiation, Those with other autoimmune endocrine disorders (e.g., type 1 diabetes mellitus, adrenal insufficiency, or ovarian failure), Those with nonendocrine autoimmune disorders (e.g., vitiligo, multiple sclerosis), Patients with primary pulmonary hypertension, Those with Down’s or Turner’s syndromes. 

The following biological activities are particularly impaired by hypothyroidism: Calorigenic modification, Oxygen consumption throughout most tissues, Protein, fat, and carbohydrate metabolism, Augmentation of calcium ATPase activity in cardiac muscle, Mitochondrial ATP production, G-protein-coupled membrane receptor activity, Organ-specific effects. 

The clinical manifestations of hypothyroidism (see Symptoms) are the result of effects occurring at the molecular level because of the impact of thyroid hormone insufficiency.” Read more: [ ]

December 15, 2011 addition:

  • “Asian countries, such as Japan, have low rates of breast cancer, while Western countries have cancer rates that are many times higher. 25,26 However, when Japanese girls are raised on westernized diets, their rate of breast cancer increases dramatically.”  []
  • Some statistics about prostate and breast cancer rates compared to iodine levels. []
  • – world food supply statistics. ***The world three year average consumption of Aquatic Plants ( aka seaweed) for 2007-2005 is zero if you remove the three out-lying values out of the 154 countries with data. The countries with Aquatic Plant consumption are China – 20.39 grams/capita/day, Japan- 4.02 gr/cap/day, and the Republic of Korea – 35.28 gr/capita/day. []
  • The Japanese intake of 4.02 grams Aquatic Plants may provide a safe amount of iodine without an excess of goiterogens that may be provided in the Chinese 20.39 average intake or the Republic of Korea’s 35.28 grams/capita/day of Aquatic Plants.
  • The World’s Healthiest Foods website,”Sea Vegetables, What’s New and Beneficial about Sea Vegetables?” – recipes and health information for a variety of sea vegetables. [ ]
  • Nutrient information for Kelp lists iodine content as 415 micrograms per 20 gram serving. The U.S. Nutrient Data Base # 11445, Seaweed, Kelp Raw did not have a line for Iodine content. Based on the wide range in content found by the research team in citation #1 it would be hard to estimate how much iodine the Japanese, Chinese, and Republic of Korea citizens might be consuming on average – but it is clearly an excellent source. []

For more on hypothyroidism and pickle’s value as a side dish, see my post:  [Vitiligo, hypothyroidism and melanin]

Plastics, pesticides, herbicides and other chemicals may be a major cause of the feminizing of our young men [13] but the lack of iodine is also at fault. The prostate and testicles need iodine in addition to the thyroid, mammary and pineal glands. Switch to stainless steel drinking bottles and filtered water if you are worried about chemicals that disrupt the endocrine system; avoid soda (metal cans are lined with plastic) it is so acidic that it is leaching magnesium from you anyway; and take a high dose iodine or tested seaweed supplement. Boys will only continue to be boys if we provide their pregnant mothers and their growing bodies with nutritious building blocks. We still can’t build a functioning body out of pharmaceuticals or synthetic hormones.

/Disclosure: This information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes./

  1. Norman JA, Pickford CJ, Sanders TW, et al. Human intake of arsenic and iodine from seaweed-based food supplements and health foods available in the UK. Food Addit Contam. 1988;5:103-109.
  2. Most Asian Men Have Better Prostate Cancer Survival Rates, Finding could help to govern treatment approaches, study suggests. By Steven Reinberg, HealthDay Reporter,  []
  3. Race Plays A Key Role In Prostate Cancer Survival Rates,,  []
  4. Watanabe R, Hanmori K, Kadoya H, Nishimuta M, Miyazaki H, Nutritional Intakes in community-swelling older Japanese adults: high intakes of energy and protein based on high consumption of fish, vegetable and fruits provide sufficient micronutrients, J Nutri Sci Vitaminol (Tokyo). 204 Jun: 50(3): 184-95, []
  5. On Pineal calcification and its relation to subjective sleep perception: a hypothesis-driven pilot study, Volume 82, Issue 3, Pages 187-191 (30 June 1998)  []
  6. Richard Mahlberg, Thorsten Kienast, Degree of pineal calcification (DOC) is associated with polysomnographic sleep measures in primary insomnia patients, [
  7.  “Selenium” []
  8. []
  9. []
  10. Müssig, K., Thamer, C., Bares, R., Lipp, HP., Häring, HU., Gallwitz, B., Iodine-Induced Thyrotoxicosis After Ingestion of Kelp-Containing Tea, J Gen Intern Med. 2006 June; 21(6): C11–C14. doi: 10.1111/j.1525-1497.2006.00416.x. PMCID: PMC1924637
  11. Leung, A.M., Pearce, E.N., Braverman, L.E., Iodine Content of Prenatal Multivitamins in the United States, N Engl J Med 2009; 360:939-940, []
  12. Jian-Ying Zhan, Yu-Feng Qin and Zheng-Yan Zhao, Neonatal screening for congenital hypothyroidism and phenylketonuria in China, World Journal of Pediatrics Vol. 5, Number 2, 136-139,  []
  13. Why so many teen-age boys are wimpy, irresponsible, unmotivated and bored: one of the reasons,,  []

I need to talk about iodine a bit before I get to the vitamin D and calcium story. I don’t think I would have kicked my migraine and autoimmune problems if I hadn’t conquered my undiagnosed hypothyroidism first. The body can’t do anything without energy and the thyroid hormone is our energizer. Hypothyroid bodies become super efficient at not wasting energy and people can gain weight on 600 calories a day – you can’t live on that. Extreme fatigue, depression, apathy, hair loss, infertility and miscarriages are also common symptoms.