Kelp Is Not a Good Way to Get Iodine


kelp powder

After constantly being asked about kelp and other sea vegetables in the context of iodine supplementation, I decided that it was time to address the elephant in the room.  The constant push to take Kelp and other Sea Vegetables to supply iodine in the diet has been concerning to me.  While sea vegetables may offer iodine and other nutrients, they also risk a high exposure to toxins.

Natural News Labs published this article on the testing they performed that showed high levels of cadmium, arsenic, lead, mercury and copper.

A UC Davis study finds high arsenic levels in kelp supplements.  

A recently published study of herbal kelp products by UC Davis public health expert Marc Schenker concludes that some kelp supplements may cause inadvertent arsenic poisoning and health dangers for consumers, especially when overused. Schenker and two researchers evaluated nine typical herbal kelp products and found higher than acceptable arsenic levels in eight of them.

Dr Alexander Haskell states in one of his youtube videos on iodine that he attempted to obtain a 3 mg capsule of kelp from Gaia Herbs to use in his practice.  After much investigation, Gaia returned to him and stated that attempting to put this amount of kelp in a capsule would put them over the legally allowed limit for arsenic.

Our seas are becoming so polluted with chemicals, heavy metals and pesticides.  The organization Sea Web offers some troubling information about what we are facing with anything that comes from the sea – be it sea veggies or seafood products.

From an old blog from Dr Brownstein in 2007 that is no longer online:

Caution With Kelp Supplements

My research has shown that after testing over 4,000 patients for their Iodine levels, over 96% of those tested are significantly low in iodine. Many patients ask me if they can take kelp instead of iodine. The amount of iodine in kelp can be variable. Furthermore, I was always concerned that kelp supplements may contain toxic amounts of arsenic or halides. I have tested 2 kelp supplements and found very elevated arsenic levels in both items. Both of these products were marketed heavily and sales in the millions of dollars were reported. When I contacted he manufactures of these products, neither returned my phone calls. Remember, if kelp is grown in a polluted area of the ocean, it may contain elevated amounts of these pollutants. New research has validated my findings.

Researchers at the University of California/Davis found that eight out of nine kelp supplements contained abnormal levels of arsenic (Env. Health Perspectives, April, 2007). The researchers began to look at kelp supplements after a patient presented to the UC Davis clinic with a myriad of complaints including memory loss, hair loss and fatigue. She was found to have very high arsenic levels which was traced to a kelp supplement she was taking. After stopping the kelp supplement, her arsenic levels gradually declined and her symptoms improved.

So, what can you do? IF you are low in iodine, take a pure iodine product that is not contaminated. Lugol’s solution or tableted Lugol’s solution (Iodoral®) have both proven safe and effective in my practice. Kelp can be an appropriate iodine source if the kelp has been tested and found free of toxic elements. I would be very cautious about taking a kelp supplement unless the manufacture is consistently testing the kelp for purity and consistency.

 Another research article on the Safe Use of Kelp Supplements shares that arsenic is indeed found in these supplements.  While they are not totally negative on the issue it does reinforce that arsenic is an issue.

Fukushima continues to be an issue especially for those on the west coast.   The nuclear reactors continue to leak toxic radioactive materials and have been since 2011.  Even in March of 2016 we see news reports of its toxic waste dump into the ocean.

While health food enthusiasts continue to support the use of kelp for iodine let’s put this into perspective – toxins aside.  Sea vegetables on average have 500% of the RDI of iodine for a daily diet.  That may sound like alot, but the RDI is 0.150 mcg of iodine.  500% of that would be 0.750 mcg of iodine.  This is far from a high amount when considering that the iodine doctors (Dr Abraham, Brownstein and Flechas) have been using amounts from 12.5 mgs up to 300 mgs (for cancer patients) in their practice for years as a daily supplementing dosage.  The average member of my Facebook Iodine group is reporting daily supplementing of 50-150 mgs + per day.  You would have to eat a lot of sea veggies to match this level.

Final Thoughts:  If you are determined to consume these products, then I would suggest that you do a few things.  Contact the manufacturer and ask them what testing is done.  Ask them to see the reports outlining the levels of halides and other nutrients.  Also ask them if they test for radiation exposure.  If they cannot provide these things then I would pass on purchasing and consuming their products.

If you are looking to supplement with iodine the best way to do this is through an Iodine supplement like the ones I offer in my store.    Make sure your supplement is Lugol’s formula for both iodine and iodide because the body needs both forms.  (See my previous blogs on iodine for more information on supplementing).


Children and Iodine

Before I begin this post I want to stress that the information I will share with you is based on the experience I had with my own children who are under the care of a very qualified iodine and thyroid literate doctor.  Please do not take this information and apply it to your children.  We have done lab tests to evaluate their specific nutritional needs as they have grown.  What we did will not represent what is needed for all children.  



As I began to research iodine for children, my journey began with pregnancy.  There was a lot of talk of cretinism which is what occurs in severely iodine deficient states resulting in mental retardation.  While I appreciated this information and understood the danger, I wanted to know about the reality of what we were facing in a deficient country that was not producing these severe cases.  What was happening from our deficient state that maybe we were not recognizing as iodine deficiency.  What I found was that my gut instincts were right.  Once again pharmaceutical drugs were being used on children who had underlying nutritional deficiencies.

Let’s talk a little about pregnancy.  A mother who is iodine deficient prior to becoming pregnant, more than likely has a sub-optimal functioning thyroid.  When a woman is first pregnant, the baby’s thyroid gland is not functional so it draws off the mothers thyroid hormones until the 3rd tri-mester.  A deficient mother leaves the child deficient and unable to develop from a neurological perspective.  Research studies I have read stress the importance of obtaining enough iodine prior to the end of the 2nd trimester or irreparable damage occurs.   Myelin sheath development requires iodine sufficiency.  Japanese women on average consume approximately 12-13 mgs / day of iodine via sea veggies.  Based on this standard the Iodine doctors agreed at the 2007 Iodine Conference that this could be used as an acceptable amount for those beginning supplementing for the first time during pregnancy and lactation.

What is the result of iodine deficiency more commonly seen in our 1st world countries?  First, I believe that there are many un-diagnosed hypothyroid children.  Symptoms of a hypothyroid children (based on my own experience and that of others I have talked to with confirmed diagnoses) include:  slow growth, cold / under blankets even when 80 degrees, low tolerance to change, frequent “meltdowns”, crying uncontrollably for seemingly no reason, thin body type, bed-wetting, and the inability to focus or sit still (ADD/ ADHD).

The following image is of a spelling test my son took when he was in 2nd grade.  He was diagnosed hypothyroid when he was in 1st grade (7 yrs old).  He was 8 yrs old at the time of this test.  He was going through a growth spurt.  We had a parent / teachers conference when the test on the left was presented to us with concern from the teacher.  He was a good speller and rarely missed more than one word.  On this test he missed 6.  We increased his thyroid hormone 1/4 grain and then 8 days later I had him take the test again.  We did not review one word.  This clearly demonstrates the importance of proper thyroid function.  The sad thing is that he was being labeled as ADD / ADHD.  It wasn’t.  It was an iodine deficiency combined with low thyroid.  You can see the brain fog confusion that so many of us have experienced.

Spelling Test

My children were diagnosed with a thyroid problem when they were 4 and 7 yrs old.  Their body temperatures were registering at 96.1 (4yr old daughter) and 95.7 (7 yr old son).  Basal body temperatures should be 97.8 or higher when thyroid levels are optimal.

I should probably back up a bit and share why my children ended up in crisis.  I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer 4 months after my son was born.  In the pictures taken of me and my son shortly after his birth, you can clearly see a goiter with a nodule.  So while I was pregnant with him I was low thyroid, had hashimotos and was toxic in mercury and bromide.  By the time I had my daughter 2 1/2 years later I had been treated with 2 rounds of radioactive iodine (one with a low iodine diet) which left me very depleted.

Now for what we did.  Dr Brownstein writes about children in chapter 10 of the 5th edition of his Iodine Why You Need it Why You Can’t Live Without It book.  His recommendation for dosing is 0.11 mg/lb/day (0.25 mg/kg/day) adding that appropriate laboratory testing should accompany this prior to starting supplementation.

We started both of my children on 6.25 mgs of Iodoral.  I crushed the tablets in applesauce.  We added the following supplements to the iodine.

Selenium (methylselenocystine)  100 mcg  3x / week
Vitamin C – Metagenics Ultra Potent C chewable – 1 / day
Magnesium – came from their multivitamin.  We used Nordic Naturals Nordic Berries
Course Ground Salt – Celtic Sea Salt – I placed it in dipping cups and they ate and used as they desired.
We added DHA Fish Oils for my son to help with his attention issues.

For small children – I have a great new product form Hakala Research.  It is a 3.125 mg chewable tablet.

At the age of 9 years my son continued to struggle with focus and behavior.  We decided to do a 24 hour loading test.  When we ran it, the bromide levels showed that he was at 45 mgs / L with toxic being any level over 5 mg / L.  His levels rivaled the breast cancer patients test we were running that day.  Unfortunately we made a mistake in the lab and did not obtain his saturation levels.  Based on this toxicity we decided to increase him to 25 mgs where he stayed until this year right before his 16th birthday when we increased him to 37.5 mgs.

Both of my children (13 and 16 yrs)  are on 37.5 mgs.  They continue to take selenium and a multivitamin.  I don’t have any recommendations for teens at this point because I am struggling with their inability to swallow pills so I am searching for a high quality and potency option.  I have not found anything I am thrilled with.  Their protocol is based on their own specific needs based on laboratory values so I will refrain from sharing what they take.  They are basically adult dosing now since they are both adult size.

Is there hope for children who did not get iodine in the womb?  Yes there is.  Children 2 and under receive the most benefit.  But children and adults of all ages can also benefit from this element.  It may not increase IQ’s but it can help the cells in our body to remain healthy and happy.

Please make sure that you read the previous blogs on the topic of iodine.
You can also join the Facebook Iodine group for additional support.

For further reading consider:

Dietary Iodine:  Why are so many mothers not getting enough?
The influence of components of diet on the symptoms of ADHD in children
Reflections on mental retardation and congenital hypothyroidism:  effects of trace mineral deficiencies


Bromide Blocks Iodine

Today’s blog will address the issues we are facing with bromide toxicity.  If you haven’t read the previous blogs on Iodine please go back and read through them so that you have a clear understanding of the big picture.

Bromide is a toxic halide that competes with the absorption of iodine in the body.  When the body is in an iodine deficient state it attempts to substitute other halides such as bromide and fluoride to fit its needs.  This doesn’t work out well.  If you think of a lock and key mechanism, you can put the key in but you cannot turn it.  The same happens for the Sodium Iodine Symporter (NIS) trying to take in a replacement halide.  It just doesn’t work well and often becomes stuck on the receptor which blocks any iodine that may try to come in.  It takes high levels of iodine flooding the body to displace the toxic halides with the good one.


Historically bromide has been used in products that were sedatives and anti-convulsants.  They were sold under names like Bromo-Seltzer and Dr Miles’ Nervine.  Nervine is the name of a plant that had a positive impact on the nervous system, however the main ingredient in this product was bromide.  This product as well as Bromo-seltzer (removed from the market in 1975) were touted as safe and effective ways to calm nerves and handle headaches.  The issue with both products is that over consumption could lead to bromism which creates abnormal conditions with psychiatric, neurological, gastrointestinal, and dermatological symptoms.


Today, bromide is found in many common items.  It is in electronics, furniture, mattresses, automobiles from PBDEs which is a flame retardant.  You can find it on thermal paper, plastics, bakery products, pesticides, sports drinks, sodas, hair dye, inhalers & other rx medication as well as in hot tubs as a sanitizer, to name a few.  It seems to be everywhere.  We are bombarded in our deficient state.  Do you see how it all comes together to form the perfect symphony for disease?

One of the things that happens when individuals begin to take iodine is bromide detox.  The iodine introduced into the body will begin to push it out.  This is the point where most stop taking iodine because they don’t understand what is happening  and mistake it for iodine toxicity.  The key is knowing how to deal with it.  Here is a list of some common bromide detox symptoms.

Headaches Constipation / Diarrhea Aching Joints
Acne Cloudy Urine Aching Muscles
Fatigue Sleepiness Rash
Tremors Impaired Memory/Concentration Color perception disturbance
Irritability Abnormal skin pigmentation Slurred speech
Emotional instability Hair loss Vision changes
Cherry Angiomas Depression Runny Nose
Reflex changes Schizophrenic like actions Metallic Taste
Hallucinations Eyelid twitching Dream Changes
Increased salivation Anxiety Kidney pain
Dry mouth Body Odor Increased Sweating

*This list is quoted from “Gulflink Military document – Chapter on Bromism”

If you take a close look at this list you will notice that the majority of the detox symptoms also mimic the list of iodine toxicity.  The curious thing about this is that when the detox pathways are supported and salt water is consumed (the antidote to bromide toxicity), the symptoms on this list tend disappear signifying that it was not iodine toxicity.  Many a person has reported that their doctors tried to scare them into stopping when complaining about these symptoms.

This is why the supporting nutrients outlined in the guide are important.  They help the body to adequately deal with detox issues.  If your body is really toxic then you may need to put further protocols into place.  There are some strategies outlined in the guide to supplementing.  You can download a free copy here.

** UPDATE**  I have received some concerned posts over other blogs stating that chocolate is high in bromine.  These individuals are misinformed.  Chocolate contains THEOBROMINE which is an alkaloid of the cacao plant.  It is not a halide.  Go ahead and eat your chocolate.