The People's Perspective on Medicine

Sea Salt Instead of Iodized Salt Led to Thyroid Problem and Hearing Loss

Q. I have spent the last several years slightly overweight and in a mental fog, with no energy.  Last year I looked in the mirror and realized the outer third of my eyebrows were gone. I seldom felt hungry and ate little but never lost weight. What the heck happened to me? I’m only 50!

I ran across an article about iodine deficiency and hypothyroidism and began taking iodine. I felt more energetic by the end of the week. Four months out, my hearing is improved! That was a surprise. I am finally losing the excess weight.

Years ago I had stopped buying iodized salt and replaced it with sea salt. I robbed myself of crucial iodine. I won’t be doing that any more.

A. Iodine is essential for thyroid function. Switching from iodized salt to sea salt may have set you up for trouble. New research from China shows that thyroid disorders are more common in people who don’t use iodized salt or drink milk (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Sept. 2013).

Your symptoms (including loss of the outer third of your eyebrows) are typical of an underactive thyroid gland. Readers can learn more about such symptoms and the diagnosis and treatment of thyroid disorders in our Guide to Thyroid Hormones.

The improvement in your hearing is a fascinating development. Iodine deficiency and low thyroid function may contribute to hearing loss (Nutrition Research Reviews, June, 2013). We were not aware that reversing the iodine deficiency would counteract the hearing loss.

 You can read about other people’s experiences with iodized salt on PeoplesPharmacy.com

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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I have read that the iodine in commercial salts is mostly not useful to the body. Plus it seemed that I would need to use a LOT more salt than I did to get any benefit. I actually went to non-iodized salt first and take iodine.

At least the Himalayan and Sea salts do not have the chemicals added that commercial brands do. Trace minerals are still present as well.
I also use Real Salt from Utah.

Long ago, the chemical-oceanography professor said that the minerals in sea water are in the same proportions as in our bodies (and other animals too). Only seawater is more saline because of all the millions of years since our ancestors crawled out of the ocean, while rivers brought more salt down to the sea.

So I thought that sea salt should have the correct sodium /potassium balance for us. All we would need would be more iodine, since humans, unlike other land mammals, require more iodine, if we are not getting a shoreline diet. That says to me QED our hominid ancestors had to have spent a long time living near the shore of a salt-water location, and eating a mostly marine-based diet, for that extra iodine to have become necessary to us.

(A long time ago, my dad spent a summer job going up the course of a California stream, testing the water for iodine, and looking at the people for symptoms of thyroid problems. He was a chemistry major at Berkeley. That would have been about 1937 or so. (When the connection was recently being shown, I think.)

So I had been thinking about that, and when I saw the Iodized Sea Salt in the store, I said “That’s what I need!” And I almost entirely stopped having leg cramps. (The reason I was thinking about potassium/sodium balance.) Unless I eat too many processed foods in a day, occasionally.

WOW… I also use sea salt… I’ve heard so much about sea salt being better for you because it has healthy minerals and so on… I’ve also heard it’s much less dangerous for one’s overall health than iodized salt (though I think this is controversial). And now this?! It’s so very hard knowing what to do and whose advice to follow…

@abigail-kelp, plain old dried kelp- you can get it in health food stores and asian markets. They sell small boxes of snack kelp too.

@emh – what type of seaweed are you using? packaged? bulk? what kind of seaweed – there are so many available. thanks.

comments please. Thanks.

I use Sea Salt but I always buy the Sea Salt with Iodine.

I have lost the INNER third of my eyebrows. My thyroid tests at the lowest you can be and still be considered “normal”. Anyone else experience the inner third of the eyebrow disappearing instead of the outer third? My doctor just goes “hmm”.

Yes, true. I was a lab tech, did my folks blood work all the time. Mom got dad on low salt (no sodium) because of heart problems and HBP. She decided to use it too. Soon she was tired, no energy and was losing her hair! She had a few other symptoms too. I did her blood work again & also thyroid studies, and it was quite messy. After having normal ones prior I got to thinking about the low salt and iodine. Sure enuf, after buying her sea weed and telling her to go back on REAL salt herself, all went back to normal. What a scare! The seaweed helped quickly, so she keeps it at the house but also went back to real salt for herself.

I have Hashimoto’s Hypothyroidism, which is an autoimmune disease. I had it for many years, before being finally diagnosed. I had used iodized salt for all of my life, but still became hypothyroid. I have to use plain sea salt now, because the iodized version contains corn-derived anti-caking agents, and I’m severely allergic to corn. But I take a multi-vitamin that contains iodine. And get some in my diet, too. Be aware, that not all thyroid disease is caused by a lack of iodized salt. Autoimmune thyroid disease runs in my family.
People’s Pharmacy response: good point. and taking extra iodine or seaweed isn’t necessarily beneficial for thyroid problems!

I buy sea salt WITH IODINE. Hain’s. Our local healthfood store and our big wally store carry iodized sea salt.
I am totally convinced that a large part of iodine deficiency is due to folks watching cooking food tv shows, where they almost always say use kosher salt, which is iodine free.
A few years ago, a friend of mine was telling me her symptoms, which were classic hypothyroid. I asked her if she had changed her diet in any way. She said no. Later, while watching her cook and helping her, it came up about her using kosher salt. I then asked her if her symptoms began about the time and a little time after she went from iodized table salt to kosher. She looked like a light bulb turned on in her head. She said yes. She said that all those cooking shows said to use kosher, so she thought she should, also! Later a routine medical check up showed hypothyroid.

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