Protect Your Breasts.

Via Dr. John Douillard
on Dec 28, 2011
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image courtesy of Teodoor Thomas

Did you know that there is more iodine stored in the female breast tissue than there is in the thyroid?

Research suggests the reason may be that iodine, which is rare, is essential for brain development in infancy. Storing iodine in the breast may have been an evolutionary safeguard to ensure the delivery of iodine to the infant through breast milk, thus securing the proper brain development of the newborn.

Today, studies are showing that adequate amounts of iodine are essential for breast health, whether a woman plans on breastfeeding, or not. Lack of iodine may increase the risk of breast cancer and fibrocystic breast—not to mention the links to obesity, cognitive function, heart and mental health (2).

Unfortunately, iodine deficiency is a common issue today. Up to 74% of healthy adults may not get adequate amounts of iodine (1).

I want to share some of the new research regarding the link between breast health and iodine, as well as discuss the Ayurvedic perspective on iodine supplementation.


New Findings Link Iodine to Breast Health

Current research suggests that iodine supports breast health in more ways than one:

– Iodine has been shown to exert a powerful anti-oxidant effect on the breast tissue equal to that of Vitamin C (3). When the breast tissue is deficient in iodine, there may be an increase in lipid peroxidation (cell damage), one of the first indicators of breast cancer risk (4).

– Low iodine levels have been shown to increase the amount of circulating estrogens in the breast. Consequently, iodine-deficient breast tissue has shown an increase of estrogen receptor proteins, making iodine –deficient breasts a target for toxic estrogens and thereby increasing the risk of breast cancer (5).

– Stress is also a big contributor to the health of the breasts and thyroid. Excess levels of cortisol—a stress hormone—have been linked to a weakened immune system and breast cancer. Iodine helps regulate cortisol levels (6).

– In animal studies, iodine was shown to decrease breast tumors by 2.5 times (7). Breast tumors were also shown to uptake iodine and thus reduce tumor growth, likely because of the free-radical-scavenging property of iodine (8).

– At a dose of 3-6mgs per day, iodine was shown to reduce the symptoms of fibrocystic breast disease by 65% as assessed subjectively by the patients and their doctors (9).


The Japanese Contrast

image courtesy of Buzz Hoffman

Because of the high availability of iodine-rich sea vegetables, the traditional Japanese diet is naturally rich in iodine. In fact, consumption of iodine in Japan is 25 times the amount of western consumption (10). The Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) for iodine in the US is 150mcg per day, 15% of one mg. By contrast, the average Japanese consumption of iodine is 6-13mgs per day, significantly more than we consume in the west (11).  Interestingly, American women experience three times as much breast cancer as do Japanese women.

There may be two major reasons why iodine has become so deficient in the west. Firstly, there has been a significant reduction of salt intake. While iodine is not a natural component of sea salt, it has been added to salt beginning in 1924 to combat an iodine-deficiency epidemic that was causing goiters and thyroid disease country-wide, especially in the land-locked areas of the country. This was extremely effective and has been a major source of iodine in America since. However, refined salt has been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, and many health-conscious folks have cut this iodized product out of their diet, opting for sea salt instead.

A second major source of iodine since the 1960’s has been commercial breads—in 1960 iodine was added to bread as a dough conditioner. One slice of bread offered 150mcg of iodine, 100% of the DRI (then called the Recommended Daily Allowance or RDA). In 1980 the iodine was replaced with bromine, which competes with iodine receptors. As a result of these two factors, iodine levels have plummeted by more than 50% in the last 30 years.


An Ayurvedic Perspective

In Ayurvedic medicine, iodine is considered to be a natural antiseptic for the blood, warding off infection. It was in fact considered the antibiotic of the 1800s. Because of its role in normalizing metabolism via the thyroid, it was used to support balanced weight, mood, and cardiovascular function.

According to Ayurveda, iodine is also a bile thinner and lymph mover. Poor bile flow compromises the natural detoxification pathways as well as the utilization of the good essential fatty acids. As a lymph mover, iodine supports cellular metabolism, and helps the body drain waste and toxins that may accumulate in between cells. These accumulated toxins may be a major contributing factor to histamine (allergic) reactions to pollens, pollutants, and hard-to-digest foods like wheat and dairy.

Because much of the breast tissue is drained by the lymphatic system, it is important for breast health that the body’s lymphatic flow be optimal. Breast swelling or tenderness around menstruation, as well as fibrocystic breast issues, may be related to sluggish lymphatic drainage.


Where to Get Iodine Today?

There are plenty of reasons not to go back to iodized table salt and enriched commercial bread, so where does one get iodine today?

Unfortunately, iodine is not available in sufficient quantities in most foods. Sea vegetables—especially kombu (also called kelp) may be the most reliable dietary source.

Experts agree that it is safe to supplement with 3-6mgs, or 3000-6000mcg of iodine per day to help protect against breast cancer and support optimal breast health (13).

Experts believe that an effective iodine supplement should contain both iodine and iodide. Iodine is concentrated in different forms by different tissues of the body. The thyroid and skin concentrate the iodide form and the breast and prostrate concentrate the iodine form. If you choose to supplement, look for a product with both iodine and iodide(14).

The area of breast health is one more addition to the well-documented benefits of iodine. Whether you choose to supplement, or to make sea vegetables a mainstay in your diet, make sure you are getting enough of this rare, essential mineral.


1.    Med J Aust. 1999. Nov 1;171(9):476-70
2.    Life Extension 2011. Oct; 43-51
3.    Med Rev. 2008. Jun. 13(2);116-27
4.    Med Rev. 2008. Jun. 13(2);116-27
5.    Lancet. 1976. Apr 24; 1(7965): 890-91
6.    J Neuroendocrinol. 2000. Dec 12; (12):1149-59
7.    Mol Cell Endocrinol. 2005. May 31; 236 (1-20) 49-57
8.    J Biol Chem. 2006. Jul 14: 281(28):19762-71
9.    Can J Surg. 1993. Oct 36; (5):453-60
10.    Life Extension 2011. Oct; 43-51
11.    Life Extension 2011. Oct; 43-51
12.    Brownstein. Iodine. Medical Alternatives Press, 2009
13.    Life Extension 2011. Oct; 43-51
14.    Brownstein, Iodine. 2009. Med. Alt Press. p.58


About Dr. John Douillard

Dr. John Douillard, DC, CAP is a globally recognized leader in the fields of natural health, Ayurveda and sports medicine. Over the past 30 years, he’s helped over 100,000 patients repair their digestive system and eat wheat and dairy again. He is the creator of, a leading Ayurvedic health and wellness resource on the web with over 6 million views on YouTube. LifeSpa is evolving the way Ayurveda is understood around the world with over 1000 articles and videos proving ancient wisdom backed by modern science. Dr. John is the former Director of Player Development and nutrition advisor for the New Jersey Nets NBA team, author of six books, a repeat guest on the Dr. Oz show, and has been featured in Woman’s World Magazine, Yoga Journal, the Huffington Post and dozens of other publications. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Receive his valuable health reports in your inbox - sign up for free! ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- For information on Dr. John's newest book, Eat Wheat, please visit, and connect with Dr. Douillard on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Eat Wheat is now available in bookstores. It can be ordered from Amazon, and all major booksellers.


13 Responses to “Protect Your Breasts.”

  1. Considering that iodine was only discovered in the 1800s, I am curious about the source for the purported Ayurvedic use of iodine. As far as I am aware, there isn't any mention of the therapeutic use of iodine in any classical Ayurvedic text.

  2. Jessica says:

    Dr. Doulliard, I really enjoyed your article, which I found quite flowing, easy to read, and well researched. Your breadth of focus in the article, including varied research, and mention of Ayurveda was a bonus. Your contribution to women's health is very appreciated. You are my neighbor and I would really like to visit you at the LifeSpa. My past history of hypothyroidism (which has now disappeared) and breast cancer correlates to the research you cite above. Hope to see you soon! Blessings for a beautiful and healthy New Year!

  3. Jessica says:

    Todd, while "Iodine" may have been recorded in Western culture as being "discovered" in the 1800's that does not preclude that it was not identified in Ayurvedic texts and used in Ayurvedic medicine dating back to 400-200 BCE or earlier. Ancient Greek, Roman and Indian medicine used plant moulds and other substances to treat infections that one might say could resemble penicillin. While penicillin was not officially "discovered" until 1928, the arrogance of Western Medicine to imagine that these substances and compounds were not identified and used prior to the birth of Western medicine in the 1800-1900s is absurd and unlikely. TCM had the female hormone system mapped out well before copernicus could even be persecuted and censured for hypothesizing that the earth was not in the center of the known universe. That being said, I don't want to presume anything about your background: have you read and translated the Charaka Samhita, Sushruta Samhita, Ashtanga Hridayam and Ashtanga Sangraha? These are the central Ayurvedic texts and I believe it would take a lifetime to digest their wisdom and complexity. Maybe you are a Sanskrit speaker?

    The primary Ayurvedic texts

  4. Jessica says:

    My general sentiment as a woman, is gratitude for a well researched article which discusses breast health in a pertinent way that can be applied today.

  5. Dear John – please know that I have no debate with the therapeutic potential of iodine, and have had occasion to use it in my practice, although i prefer organic sources of iodine. My comment was directed to the supposed Ayurvedic use of iodine, for which I have never seen a reference. And yes, I have all those texts in my library so if you can cite the source I will be able to confirm your statement that Ayurveda considers iodine " be a natural antiseptic for the blood… bile thinner and lymph mover." If not, then this is a gentle reminder to be careful about what can and cannot be attributed to Ayurveda, or when appealing to the authority of Ayurveda is appropriate. While as practitioners we may synthesize information from a variety of sources, it's also important to maintain the integrity of traditional knowledge. Perhaps if you stated that "as an Ayurvedic practitioner I consider iodine… etc etc", I might not have been confused. Too often I hear people attribute practices to Ayurveda which aren't authentic, and I am concerned that people get the wrong impressions.

    best wishes…

    Todd Caldecott, Dip. Cl.H., RH(AHG)
    Ayurvedic Practitioner, Medical Herbalist
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    Author, Food As Medicine: The Theory and Practice of Food
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    Editor, Ayurveda in Nepal
    The Teachings of Vaidya Mana Bajra Bajracharya
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    Author, Ayurveda: The Divine Science of Life
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    tel: 778.896.8894
    fax: 1.866.703.2792

  6. greenbless says:

    Todd, I really love your Blog, "Food as Medicine" and genuinely appreciate the cultural and scholarly contributions you are making to Ayurveda, Food and more. I jumped all over your previous comment because I interpreted that it seemed to assert something about more traditional medicine practices. I apologize if I took your comment out of context (based on the new info that you provide) and clarifying your approach. I understand now the caution you are trying to raise (now) based on your practices and study, and it makes more sense. I'm glad I didn't assume about your background, but probably assumed too much anyhow. Looking forward to checking our your website and hope to hear more about breast health from non-western practices in the future. Stanya and Artava always seemed to come last in our lectures. 🙁

  7. […] are a few of the suggestions: 1. Flash people your “cupcakes” while driving. (Hmmm…seems […]

  8. […] Iodine is used by estrogen receptors, which are part of all female reproductive tissue, (and found in men also). Iodine helps shunt the breakdown of estrogen into a cancer preventive metabolite, rather than a cancer causing metabolite. […]

  9. […] calls out to my to my fears of loss and of dying. I fear changes to my breast, my fertility and my sexuality. I fear losing my wholeness in the shape of my […]

  10. Ella Gollin says:

    This really is the information I needed. Many thanks writing this posting.

  11. […] Iodine provides natural support for radiation exposure. In one study I reported on in my article, Protect Your Breasts, research indicated that just three to six mg of iodine a day supports optimal cellular replication, […]

  12. TLA says:

    Great article! This is something that's not talked about enough, as I struggled with iodine deficiency for years. I have never gotten a normal period (once or twice a year since age 14) and have tried multiple natural remedies in order to try and become "regular," none of which worked. After some research on iodine, I started taking it at the beginning of this year, and I've had four periods in a row. The doctors always told me that I would have trouble getting pregnant, that I should try to have kids while young, and to just "get on birth control" (which made me moody) to get a period….All the while, the natural answer was what suited me best. I know that everyone's different, so be sure to check with your doc before just adding it to your diet, but it tremendously helped me, so I thought I would share. I order mine from (I am not affiliated with them in any way) in order to avoid radiation from the west coast.