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Iodine and Radiation — How it Works

Written by Dr. Group, DC Founder
Woman with fingers on her neck.

Iodine is often used to protect the thyroid from the effects of radiation[1] — as we were clearly reminded during the nuclear disaster at Fukushima in 2011. While iodine protects against radiation poisoning of the thyroid, its radioactive state has also proven a useful emergency medical tool. It is also worth noting that we believe that nascent iodine is the most effective form of iodine for supplementation because of its high bioavailability, making it easier for the body to break down and utilize.

YouTube Video

Iodine and Radiation

Length: 2 minutes

How Iodine Protects Against Radiation

A nuclear or radiological event such as the Fukushima disaster released large amounts of Iodine-131 into the air. In a radioactive event like this, the thyroid will quickly absorb the Iodine-131. This internal contamination damages the thyroid, leading to hypothyroidism (when the thyroid fails to produce adequate hormones) or worse.[2]

That’s because the thyroid cannot distinguish between normal iodine and radioactive iodine.[3] In a situation like this, nascent iodine may save your life.

Here’s how it works: Nascent iodine supplements, which are designed to be the most bioavailable form of iodine, help provide sufficient levels of iodine to the thyroid. This helps the thyroid maintain the stable iodine levels necessary for normal function.[4] If the thyroid has reached the appropriate level of iodine from the supplement, then it cannot absorb the radioactive iodine trying to enter. The necessary amount of nascent iodine depends on the age and size of the individual in question.

Keep in mind, nascent iodine only protects from radioactive iodine — not from other radioactive substances or effects. It also does not repair a damaged thyroid.

Does Radioactive Iodine Have Any Benefit?

Some thyroid conditions require an immediate slowing of the hormone production. In situations like this, a minuscule amount of Iodine-131 can be used to slow thyroid hormone production.[5, 6, 7] While this may seem counterintuitive, the amount of iodine used is very, very small. It is used only in emergency situations, and it's only administered in medical settings. You're not going to get it from the corner drugstore and administer it yourself.

Iodine as a Contrast Agent

Iodine is also used as a contrast agent in radiography, x-rays, and computed tomography of the vascular system or the gastrointestinal tract.[8] In this application, it prevents the radiation from passing through the tissue, producing a much clearer image. The recommended type of iodine used in this procedure is inactive and is designed not to interact with the body.[9]

Radiation and Iodine — Toxin and Protector

As a means of radioactive protection, nascent iodine has proven successful in protecting the thyroid. While it also has been used as an emergency medical tool in radiography, iodine remains an integral part of human health. Knowing how to use nascent iodide in an emergency may save your life. In fact, I recommend keeping it on hand at all times. Nuclear disasters can happen with very little warning and nascent iodine can be in short supply during an emergency. Do you have Detoxadine® in your emergency preparation kit? If not, I suggest you get some today. The benefits far outweigh its minuscule price tag.

YouTube Video

Watch an In-Depth Video on Everything You Need to Know About Iodine

Length: 61 minutes

References (9)
  1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Food and Drug Administration, and Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER). Guidance: Potassium Iodide as a Thyroid Blocking Agent in Radiation Emergencies. December 2001.
  2. Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Thyroid Screening Related to I-131 Exposure; National Research Council (US) Committee on Exposure of the American People to I-131 from the Nevada Atomic Bomb Tests. Exposure of the American People to Iodine-131 from Nevada Nuclear-Bomb Tests: Review of the National Cancer Institute Report and Public Health Implications. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 1999. 3, Health Risks of I-131 Exposure.
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Potassium Iodide (KI). Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response (OPHPR). Last updated: August 10, 2015.
  4. PubMed Health. How does the thyroid work? Last updated: January 7, 2015.
  5. Vijayakumar V, Nusynowwitz ML, Ali S. Is it safe to treat hyperthyroid patients with I-131 without fear of thyroid storm? Ann Nucl Med. 2006 Jul;20(6):383-5.
  6. Mumtaz M, Lin LS, Hui KC, Mohd Khir AS. Radioiodine I-131 For The Therapy Of Graves’ Disease. The Malaysian Journal of Medical Sciences: MJMS. 2009;16(1):25-33.
  7. Shinto AS, Kamaleshwaran KK, Shibu DK, Vyshak K, Antony J. Empiric Therapy with Low-Dose I-131 in Differentiated Cancer Thyroid: What is the Magic Number? World Journal of Nuclear Medicine. 2013;12(2):61-64. doi:10.4103/1450-1147.136694.
  8. Kern MJ, Roth RA, Aguirre FV, Beauman G, Vogel R. Effect of viscosity and iodine concentration of nonionic radiographic contrast media on coronary arteriography in patients. Am Heart J. 1992 Jan;123(1):160-5.
  9. Mihl C, Wildberger JE, Jurencak T, Yanniello MJ, Nijssen EC, Kalafut JF, Nalbantov G, Mühlenbruch G, Behrendt FF, Das M. Intravascular Enhancement With Identical Iodine Delivery Rate Using Different Iodine Contrast Media in a Circulation Phantom. Invest Radiol. 2013 Jul 12.

†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician.


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