Iodine supplementation through the skin with Lugols Solution is not a new practice as it has been used as a prophylactic therapy in medical practice for over 100 years. Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride has been recommending it in the GAPS Protocol for over a decade and we have used this within our own GAPS Practice and home for well over 12 years.
Whilst there has been no scientific evidence undertaken to test the absorption of iodine through the skin, J Pharmacd Exp Ther (1932) conducted an experiment to test the absorption outcome and concluded “In this prolonged retention of iodine within the skin, we see a favorable condition for a possible local prophylactic and therapeutic action.” Dr. Brownstein, author of ‘Iodine, why you need it, why you can’t live without it’ feels iodine is the most misunderstood nutrient and that it is impossible to achieve your optimal health when there is iodine deficiency present. Not only does he address breast, thyroid, ovarian and uterine cancer, hashimoto’s and hypothyroidism to name a few but he also refers to the relationship between autism and iodine deficiency.
Dr Natasha Campbell McBride, creator of the GAPS Protocol emphasizes that iodine is essential for removing toxicity from the body and that our detox system cannot function without it. Her latest blue book ‘Gut and Physiology Syndrome’ discusses thyroid health in more detail.
“Our thyroid gland has a powerful effect on our metabolism: our temperature
control, metabolic rate, energy production, growth and maturation, food digestion
and assimilation, appetite, blood pressure and heart rate, body weight, bone density,
mental function, mood, sleep and many other functions. The toxicity produced in
the unhealthy gut usually causes low thyroid function”
(Gut & Physiology Syndrome Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride 2020)
Iodine taken in small doses is important for the health of the thyroid gland. The thyroid gland is a vital hormone gland that plays a major role in the metabolism, growth and development of the human body. It helps to regulate many body functions by constantly releasing a steady amount of thyroid hormones into the bloodstream. It’s purpose is to produce, store and release these hormones into the bloodstream to regulate, or in some way participate in the process of, a wide range of crucial bodily functions. For such a tiny gland, that’s a lot of responsibility.
Here, I wish to discuss the GAPS Protocol use of Lugols solution and it’s application on the skin for supplementation.
Lugols solution is made up of 10% Potassium Iodide and 5% Iodine in an aqueous solution. This is the correct combination of Iodine and Potassium Iodide to be called Lugol’s Solution.One drop of Luglol's contains about 6.5 mg of iodine. You may refer to our online store at GAPS Diet Australia for the correct lugols solution percentage acceptable for the GAPS Protocol.
The Lugols Skin Testing & Supplementation Method
Lugols Solution can be used to determine whether someone has an iodine deficiency. It is also a simple way to supplement iodine through the skin. This can be done by painting iodine on different parts of the body such as the arms, legs or torso. The size of the patch should be the same as the size of the patients palm. Simply painting lugols on the skin helps to identify whether you need it or not and this is measured by how well it absorbs.
Applying the lugols is easy but can be messy if spilt on clothing and bench surfaces that can become easily stained. Our lugols solution is contained in dark glass amber bottles with quality pipette lids for easy application.Simply release some of the lugols solution onto the skin and disperse it evenly. It should take a minute or two to dry before it is safe not to stain any clothing. Children enjoy smiley faces and pictures painted on their skin. It is suggested to apply lugols after your shower so that the solution has a chance to absorb into the skin.
The next step is to observe the time it takes to absorb the lugols solution, this can take up to 24 hours to absorb, however it will be different for different people depending on their iodine levels. If the yellowish stain disappears within 24 hours, it means your body is lacking crucial iodine and has soaked it all up. In this case, you need to continue painting the iodine every day until it stops absorbing and your body will tell you how much it needs. If the yellow stain is still strong after 24 hours, this is an indication that you have good iodine levels. However if the lugols stain is gone within 3 – 4 hours and in some cases even 8 hours, this would indicate a deficiency that may also requires oral supplementation of iodine.
Oral Iodine for Severe Iodine Deficiency
The problem with oral supplementation of iodine is that it is generally not from a natural source and this can lead to overdosing on iodine. This is why we suggest testing iodine levels with the lugols solution first and then if after a few weeks there is no improvement, then you may couple the lugols painting with supplementing a strong wholefood source of iodine like Seagreens Iodine Plus to improve the iodine deficiency. Seagreens is a wholefood seaweed kelp naturally rich in all the minerals and micronutrients needed for the proper transport and metabolism of iodine including selenium, tyrosine, zinc, copper, vitamins A, B2, B3, B6 and C. The bioavailability of Seagreens will allow the body to only absorb what it needs and secrete the excess naturally. Other approved GAPS oral iodine supplementation is Lugols solution in a tablet form – Iodoral but this should be taken for more severe cases of iododine deficiency and supplementation support should be advised by your practitioner. In such cases, Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride recommends taking iodoral with iodide/potassium 12.5mg and 50mg for a few weeks whilst continuing the paint to test whether more or less is needed and increments should be gradual.
When supplementing oral iodine sources, Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride recommends this practice to continue for at least two weeks with mineral salt loading (Himalayan salt or Celtic sea salt) which is a quarter of a teaspoon twice a day. If you are supplementing lugols in tablet form (instead of Seagreens) it is also important to include 200 mcg of selenium. Dr Natasha advises of the risk for potential onset of Hashimoto’s (a thyroid disease) if the selenium is not taken with oral Lugols iodine tablet supplementation. Again, we suggest you seek the guidance from your practitioner.
Iodine Deficiency Symptoms & Hormone Dysfunction
It is also good practice to look at other signs of iodine deficiency that may be easily overlooked. These may include but are not limited to visual signs such as hair loss, thinning and shortening hair at the ends of the patients eye brows, puffy eyes, swelling of the ankles and other limbs and a possible swollen tongue. Physical signs may include changes in hormones, changes in regulating body temperature, sleep problems and waking up more often throughout the night, brain fog, depression, anxiety, fatigue, goiter problems, hoarse voice change, heart palpitations, weight gain and difficulty losing weight.
Female hormones containing estrogens can inhibit the absorption of iodine which is why women are found to have lower thyroid function compared to men with a ratio of 9:1. When GAPS patients are tested for iodine deficiency because they present with many of the above symptoms, the tests often reveal confusing results and may show that the thyroid is producing normal or even high levels of iodine. How is this so? Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride calls this a functional deficiency of the hormones. For hormones to function effectively, they need to find and attach themselves to specific receptors on organs and tissues within the body. The hormones attach themselves to the receptors like a key fits into a keyhole. The problem here though is that toxins produced from unhealthy gut bacteria also fit easily into these key holes causing the hormone to be present in the body searching for unavailable receptors until it is excreted from the body. Therefore the hormone does not get the opportunity to function as it should, however it is still in the body showing up on tests and consequently causing the person to produce low thyroid symptoms. In this situation, it is important to remove the source of toxicity in the gut by reducing the toxic load and correcting gut dysbiosis with the GAPS Protocol.
Lugols Interactions & Reactions
For people who have significant iodine deficiencies, it is important to work with a practitioner who is knowledgeable with the use of the Lugols practice. Lugols solution is a strong skin antiseptic. It can kill worms, viruses, candida and bacteria and when applied on the skin, this can be felt with a tingling or mild itching sensation. In sever cases where the bacterial composition of the skin on the patient is not optimal, the Lugols solution can create a rare burning sensation and be quite uncomfortable, this is often referred to as a die off reaction and progress should be slow with smaller amounts applied to the skin initially. Whilst a little irritation is considered to be a common reaction, a severe irritation may indicate that the area applied may not be the best position for application and the practitioner will help decide where else the application can be best applied. The soles of the feet or palms of the hand are well known as a powerful absorptive surface and many people find it works better when applying to the soles of the feet than on other parts of the body. It is good practice however to apply the lugols on different parts of the body as it will be less likely to irritate the skin as it can dry out the skin if applied at the same site each day.
In Summary, painting iodine on the skin will allow you to test whether or not you are deficient, whilst also providing you with an iodine source to supplement via the skin. If it absorbs within 12-24 hours, you are still deficient and will need to continue painting as required. If the deficiency is severe and the stain is gone within a few hours, consider supplementing with both Lugols and Seagreens Iodine Plus. Knowing the best approach for managing your iodine levels if you prove to show signs of iodine deficiency after testing with Lugols can be supported by your GAPS Practitioner who will also know when to begin reducing your iodine supplementation therapy.
Campbell-McBride, Natasha. Gut and Psychology Syndrome. Cambridge: Medinform Publishing, 2012.
Nyiri W and Jannitti M. “About the fate of free iodine upon application to the unbroken animal skin. An experimental study.” J Pharmacd Exp Ther, 1932; 45:85-107.
Brownstein, David. Iodine, Why You Need It, Why You Can’t Live Without It. Michigan: Medical Alternatives Press, 2008.
Guy E. Abraham, MD, The Bioavailability of Iodine Applied to the Skin.
Optimox Better Health Through Nutrition (online 9th October 2020).
Mary Green online The Thy Life: The Importance of Thyroid Health At Every Stage of Life (9th Oct 2020)
Lynne Farrow, The iodine Crisis. Devon Press, 2018