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What About Iodine and Kelp Supplements?

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Updated December 29, 2003

Question: What About Iodine and Kelp Supplements?
Answer: While some herbalists and vitamin proponents recommend iodine tablets or kelp supplements (which are high in iodine) for people with thyroid problems, you need to be extremely careful about any decision to take iodine or kelp supplements if you are on thyroid hormone replacement therapy.

The thinking behind taking iodine or kelp is that in many parts of the world, goiters and thyroid disease are related to iodine deficiency. In the U.S. and other developed countries, iodine deficiency is not very common anymore, due to the addition of iodine to salt -- iodized salt -- and other food products. In fact, the most common forms of thyroid disease found in the U.S. -- autoimmune thyroid diseases like Graves' Disease or Hashimoto's Thyroiditis -- have nothing to do with iodine deficiency at all. Actually, thyroids are extremely sensitive to iodine, and you need to be careful about adding too much iodine to the diet as it can irritate or aggravate the thyroid. Most doctors say not to worry about some iodized salt, or the iodine present in a food item such as an occasional sushi dinner. But even many prominent alternative doctors such as Andrew Weil and Stephen Langer advise against taking iodine or kelp supplements for people with autoimmune problems.

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