“Spot” Testing Iodine Levels

Who needs iodine supplementation? How deficient is she?

The half-life of iodine in the blood is very short. It either gets absorbed by various tissues or excreted out into the urine within 6–24 hours. So blood measurements are of limited value when working up patients, said Dr. Sherri Tenpenny, a women’s health specialist, and iodine advocate.

Fortunately, there’s an old-fashioned, very inexpensive test that can give you a pretty good idea of who needs extra iodine and who does not.

Simply put 1–2 drops of 5% Lugol’s solution (aqueous I2 and iodide) on a patient’s wrist, ideally early in the morning. The solution will create a yellow stain about the size of a half-dollar. Then simply have the patient monitor how fast the stain disappears.

The faster it fades, the more iodine-deficient he or she is. In a healthy patient with optimal iodine levels, the stain will be visible for 14–16 hours or even longer. If it’s gone in 2–3 hours, she’s got a significant deficiency. In essence, the test is showing to what degree the patient’s system is “hungry” for iodine.

“This is a qualitative test, not really quantitative. It’s not a definitive test, but it can tell you if you need to look further,” said Dr. Tenpenny.

Iodine loading tests will give a better quantitative sense of a patient’s iodine levels, but in many cases it’s reasonable to simply move into treating the patient empirically, “especially if she has lumpy, bumpy breasts and a lot of cyclic pain.”

Breast thermography is an excellent, inexpensive and non-invasive tool for assessing breast health and monitoring tissue response to nutritional interventions like iodine supplementation. (Visit www.holisticprimarycare.net and read our Fall 2008 cover story, Breast Thermography: Can It Open a Window for Breast Cancer Prevention?)

“You can actually see the improvement in breast tissue inflammation with iodine supplementation. You can also feel the changes in tissue texture.”

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