Why Am I STILL Always So Tired?

May 10, 2016
Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS

Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS

Award-winning nutritionist and New York Times bestselling author.

Uncover the sneaky micronutrient deficiency at the root of exhaustion.

No—I’m not talking about B-12, folate, copper, or iron. This mineral shortfall is even more insidious because you can’t easily test for it.

It’s intimately connected to GERD, fibroids, weight gain, memory loss, hair loss, infertility, and hypothyroidism.

If you guessed iodine—you would be right!!

Iodine is used in every cell of the body and our bodies actually need two forms of iodine, which are iodine itself and potassium iodide.

This increasingly common deficiency is due to our declining intake of iodine over the last few decades, interestingly paralleling a nearly three-fold increase in breast cancer in this country.

Quite simply, the entire body needs iodine on a daily basis. Your stomach mucosa and salivary glands soak up nearly as much of the element as the thyroid gland does. And, iodine pumps are not only found in the thyroid gland and breasts—the ovaries, thymus gland, skin, choroid plexus in the brain (which makes cerebral-spinal fluid), joints, arteries and bones all have these pumps, too.

Developing a Deficiency

Back in the 1960s, each slice of store-bought bread contained 150mcg of iodine. Now, iodine has been replaced with bromine, a substance that competes with iodine and increases the risk of goiters.

Unfortunately, there are numerous paths that can lead you to a lack of iodine and cause disaster for your thyroid.

If you consume water that contains chlorine, it can displace iodine in your thyroid. Steroids, aspirin, and blood thinning medications can also all trigger iodine deficits, making the displacement of iodine even more severe.

Vegan and vegetarians in particular need to ensure they’re getting adequate iodine as a recent survey showed that 25% of vegetarians and 80% of vegans suffered deficiencies, as opposed to only 9% of participants who consumed animal protein sources.

Energizing with Iodine

The current iodine RDI is a mere 150-220 mcg per day which is incredibly insufficient considering that the thyroid alone can require 5-7 mg with breast tissue following close behind.

You can find iodine in many food sources likes sea vegetables (such as gomasio and Maine harvested seaweeds) and fish, but you have to be extremely careful these days to make sure that your seafood doesn’t also contain dangerous chemicals like mercury and lead.

Also, keep in mind that if you are already taking thyroid supplementation, you may need to see your doctor to readjust the dosage. It may be possible to discontinue the supplementation altogether, but this would be a decision between you and your physician.

Since food sources in our modern age are so often insufficient, I have all of my clients consider iodine supplementation from Prolamine Iodine or Iosol or Iodoral. For those with Hashimoto’s, Iodoral—with its potassium iodide content may be contraindicated—because it can congest the thyroid.

Take the Test

For decades, European naturopaths have utilized a simple test for both assessment and treatment of low iodine and resulting thyroid dysfunction. Here it is:

• Gather a cotton swab and some 2 percent tincture of iodine. (Tincture of iodine may be found at most drugstores and supermarkets. It is usually kept with the first-aid supplies and costs less than $2 for a bottle.)

• Dip the cotton swab in the iodine and paint a silver dollar-sized patch on your abdomen or thigh. You should now see a brownish stain. Make sure you allow it to dry before covering it with clothing.

• Check the stain frequently. The goal, and the sign of a well-functioning thyroid, is for the stain to remain visible for at least twenty-four hours.

• If the stain disappears in less than twenty-four hours, your body is deficient in iodine. Paint another silver dollar-sized area as soon as you notice the first stain has disappeared. For example, if your initial stain disappears in two hours, reapply the iodine at that time.

• Continue applying iodine until the stain is still visible after twenty-four hours. For people with severe iodine deficiencies, this process may take weeks!

As an easy option, you can also start supplementing with a low dose of iodine and build up gradually if you see your stain is quickly dissipating.

I personally now recommend 1-3 Prolamine Iodine per day or 1-4 drops of Iosol in 8 ounces of water. Since so many of my clients have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, I try to avoid any potassium iodide containing supplement, so I am cautious with Iodoral.

Otherwise, for those with extremely high needs and no sensitivities to iodine, 1-4 Iodoral works well.

Whatever you decide to do, iodine may be the key to unlocking boundless energy day in and day out!

Related Articles and Podcasts

Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS, is an award-winning New York Times bestselling author of more than thirty books including The Fat Flush Plan series and her latest book, Radical Metabolism. She’s been rewriting the rules of nutrition for more than 40 years and is internationally recognized as a pioneer in the field of diet, detox and women’s health issues. 

For a FREE daily dose of tips and strategies for maintaining healthy weight, conquering insomnia, and much more…check out my Radical Health Tips.

I’d like to meet and greet you on my Facebook groups, so won’t you check us out at the Radical Metabolism RevolutionFat Flush Nation, or my Inner Circle!


  1. Stephanie

    I take 88 mcg synthroid and 50 mcg cytomel . Do I still need to supplement with iodine? I’m exhaustef

  2. Team ALG

    Stephanie: We suggest you take the iodine swab test and proceed from there. Your body knows best!!

  3. Anne-Marie

    Hi. I have Hashimoto’s and take 88mcg of levothyrine. Mayo and other clinics state that excessive iodine is contraindicated for people with this disease. I wonder why you’re suggesting people increase their iodine intake…

    • Team ALG

      Anne-Marie, issues with the thyroid usually indicate a lack of potassium and iodine. This is why Ann Louise is suggesting taking the iodine test described above. It’s the form of iodine that is important for you to consider. As she says, avoid potassium iodide.

  4. Team ALG

    Ann-Marie: Thanks for your post. While ALG is very aware of the general recommendation to avoid excessive iodine for those with Hasimoto’s, the research points to iodine in the form of potassium iodide to be the culprit. In fact, this was how Hashimoto’s thyroiditis was initially discovered. Japanese oeople traditionally consumed too many sea vegetables high in insoluble potassium iodide. Many of ALG’s followers use low dose iodine very successfully – thus the recommendation for Iosol and Prolamine Iodine. The only way to know whether you are a candidate for iodine supplementation is to test in some way.

  5. Shannon

    I have Hoshimotos and had a total thyroidectomy. Do people without a thyroid still present with iodine deficiency and is it still necessary to test for it?

  6. Team ALG

    Yes Shannon. People without a thyroid may still need iodine – as it is used throughout the body in many other organs. Do test.

  7. Sherley

    Are you telling me the drugstore tincture can be used as treatment? That is not clear to me. Thank you

    • Team ALG

      Yes — that is correct, Sherley. Some use the topical as a treatment.

  8. Sherley

    Are you telling me the drugstore tincture can be used as treatment? That is not clear to me. Thank you I have never ask this question???

  9. Amanda

    I will definitely be doing the test & going from there. I have previously heard most of us are iodine deficient but thank you for the reminder. Maybe it’s the missing link for me.

  10. justine yildiz

    what if you have htperthroid possibly but unlikely graves with
    a nodule. should you take iodine?

  11. Team ALG

    Justine — We can not prescribe what to do for any medical condition. However, taking the test mentioned above may help you determine if iodine is suitable.

  12. Theresa

    What if you are allergic to shellfish and have an Iodine sensitivity can you still do the test and take the supplement

  13. Team ALG

    Theresa: Many people who have shellfish allergies seem to do fine with the test. The Iosol seems to work best for those with iodine sensitivities. We would start with a small swatch of topical iodine tincture and go from there.

  14. Stari Benedict

    Can you advise when and how is best to take iodine supplementation please? First in am? Empty stomach?, etc. Thank you for this wonderful information.

  15. Annie

    Do you feel the 24 hr iodine loading test is beneficial?

  16. Sheila

    I have purchased the losol from health food store. I am 54 and having bad hotflashes at night. Very fatigued. I do use DHEA and progesterone. Sometimes a little estriol down there:)My hair has been shedding for almost 5 years. I had hormone and thyroid testing a couple of years ago, and I was low in DHEA and thyroid. I put the losol on my arm two days in a row, more the second day and it disappeared within 30 minutes. Can I continue using the losol on my skin? Or do I need to drink with water? Thank you.

  17. Ali

    I am finding the iodine gets absorbed much faster from my inner thigh than my abdomen. Any idea why that might be? Also, am I correct to understand that if one has hypothyroidism and is on medication for it, it is contraindicated to take an iodine supplement which contains potassium? If so, why is that? Is the potassium harmful?


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