Iodine Patch Test
Our bodies need iodine for a variety of reasons. It is vital for proper thyroid function, brain function and breast health as well as many other reasons. Iodine is especially important for women during pregnancy; deficiency is linked with serious developmental issues in children (1) and recent research has linked it to autism spectrum disorder in children. (2)
Growing levels of iodine deficiency is considered to be related to changing agricultural practice, and the presence of fewer minerals within the soil. Environmental pollutants and toxins have depleted the natural mineral levels in the soil resulting in a lower iodine content in our food.
According to the World Health Organization’s estimates, there are over 2 billion people on the planet who are deficient in iodine to some degree and as many as 50 million of those may be suffering with severe symptoms of deficiency.
Symptoms of Iodine Deficiency
The presence of iodine actually determines the form of the thyroid hormone itself. Symptoms of an iodine deficiency result from the improper production of the thyroid hormone.
Essentially when your thyroid gland receives insufficient amounts of iodine, serious problems can happen. The severity of these symptoms vary between individuals but they often manifest themselves in the following ways:
- Enlargement of the thyroid which is sometimes referred to as a ‘goiter’
- Emotional problems such as anxiety or depression
- Poor mental development especially in children whose mothers were iodine deficient during pregnancy
- Autism spectrum disorder
The Iodine Patch test
If you are concerned about being iodine deficient then the most reliable way of finding out is by getting a proper test done by your doctor. However, there is a cheaper and more convenient alternative that you can do yourself in the comfortable surroundings of your home.
This do it yourself iodine patch test is a popular method of measuring your iodine levels and finding out if you are deficient or not. However, it is a controversial method and most experts believe that it is not completely reliable. It certainly cannot give you the comprehensive view of your body’s iodine levels that a proper test carried out by your doctor would.
Despite not being 100% reliable, it may be enough to help you to find out if you are deficient. It is also cheap and very easy to do yourself. If you are interested in performing an iodine patch test read on….
What does the Patch Test tell you?
An iodine patch test is supposed to measure the absorption rate of iodine by your body which will theoretically let you know if you are deficient or otherwise. While it is not considered a dependable substitute for a more thorough clinical test which accurately measures your iodine levels, it is still a popular option.
Iodine Patch Test instructions
- First of all, get an iodine tincture or a solution. You need to use the orange colored iodine solution rather than the clear type.
- Apply the iodine to your inner forearm, your inner thigh or your stomach. The area you apply it to should be a square shape of around 3 by 3 inches. Make sure that you let the solution dry before you touch anything because iodine stains.
- Now all you need to do is monitor any changes in color over a 24-hour period from when you first applied it.
What the Results tell you
Keep a close eye on how long the iodine colored patch on your body takes to disappear. Proponents of this test say that if the patch is still visible after a 24-hour period then your iodine levels are normal.
If on the other hand the patch has disappeared or mostly vanished in fewer than 24 hours it indicates an iodine deficiency of some kind.
They go even further by suggesting that if the patch lightens significantly or disappears completely inside 18 hours then the iodine deficiency is more severe. In cases of severe iodine deficiency, some people recommend iodine supplementation but this is controversial.
Iodine Patch Test Validity
It is important to realize that the test is not considered completely reliable. No scientific tests have ever confirmed the validity of the iodine patch test and if you are concerned in any way, it would be prudent to visit your doctor for a dependable test. This is especially important for pregnant mothers who are concerned about the welfare of their unborn child.
Results are mixed but some studies have actually demonstrated that iodine levels can be increased by absorbing it through the skin. These studies lend some credence to the patch test however there are numerous factors that might result in the fading or lead to the iodine color disappearing completely from your skin.
Basically, the way the iodine on your skin behaves does not necessarily mean that your body is absorbing it out of necessity. Iodine can evaporate because of factors like the ambient temperature and also atmospheric pressure.
Another consideration is that iodine can be reduced by the skin to iodide; when this happens, the iodine color will vanish because iodide has no color.
Iodine Loading Test
When it comes to testing for iodine deficiency, the iodine loading test is considered to be far more reliable.
The iodine loading test is based on the level of iodine found in the urine. A 50 mg iodine supplement is taken and then all urine produce over the following 24 hours gets collected before you send it to the lab.
Because a body deficient in iodine will hold onto iodine, the amount excreted in the urine over a 24-hour period is considered to be a very reliable indication of your iodine levels and should be able to inform you properly whether you are deficient or not
Research into Iodine Deficiency
I have already mentioned some of the symptoms of iodine deficiency earlier in the article and will look at some of the lesser known symptoms here.
Slowed Cognitive Function
Research has linked insufficient iodine to poor brain function especially for children during the gestation period. A study published in 2009 indicates that iodine supplements in deficient children helped improve perception and reasoning. (3)
A deficiency in iodine can hinder the body’s ability to synthesize foods into nutrients that it can use. This in turn may lead to a poorly performing and sluggish metabolism, digestive problems and even weight gain.
Poor Immune function
A lack of iodine exposes us to free radical damage especially in our thyroid glands. This increase in harmful amounts of fluoride, goitrogens and other substances can leave those with an iodine deficiency at greater risk of cold and flu. (4)
A lack of iodine can disturb hormonal balance leading to emotional issues like anxiety and poor libido. (5)
Breast Soreness and Cysts
There is a link between iodine deficiency and breast tenderness in women especially during menstruation. Studies have also revealed that women given iodine supplements experienced improvements in fibrocystic disease of the breast. (6) There is some speculation that iodine deficiency may be linked with breast cancer.
Supplementing with Iodine
Before you consider going ahead and taking iodine supplements, it is important that you consult your doctor. There is a lot of controversy surrounding iodine supplementation with the American thyroid Association warning that overdoing iodine is associated with certain risks.
The ATA has stated that iodine supplements contain iodine in very high levels often thousands of times in excess of the tolerable range of 1,100 mcg daily. The ATA recommends against using iodine supplements containing over 500 mcg of iodine a day noting that ingesting over 1,100 mcg might cause certain thyroid dysfunctions.