Fibrocystic Breast Disease – How Iodine Supplementation Saved Me From Unnecessary Surgery (Plus A Book Review: Iodine Why You Need It and Why You Can’t Live Without It by David Brownstein, MD)
This is another one of those posts that I have wanted to write for many months. Hopefully you find it interesting and maybe helpful to you or someone you know. My purpose is two-fold: discuss my experience with fibrocystic breast disease and iodine supplementation and review Iodine Why You Need It and Why You Can’t Live Without It.
In 2005 (age 28) I found a small mass in my left breast. At the time I was completely wrapped up in the conventional wisdom mindset. Low fat and so-called “heart healthy” whole grains were in my regular rotation, I was clocking serious chronic cardio at the gym, and Western medicine seemed to have all the answers. Panicking, I called my physician and went in for a breast exam. She agreed that the mass was abnormal and immediately sent me for a mammogram. I was a stressed mess leading up to that test and during the mammogram I almost passed out. I think it was a combination of the pain (OMG) and anxiety. Sure enough, they saw something on the films! I was instructed to see a surgeon to discuss my options. He informed me that I had fibrocystic breast disease and that the mass I found was a fibroadenoma. Not cancerous, but something that should be removed because if left alone, they can grow to the size of softballs (more panicking). So I agreed to have it removed on an outpatient basis. I was awake during surgery and he showed me the lump as he removed it. It was barely the size of a small marble. Off it went to be tested and a few days later I got the all clear call. Whew!
So, why did this happen? What do I do about it? Will I continue to undergo surgery after surgery as these show up in the future? Answers were in this order: We don’t know, nothing – just watch it with regular mammograms, and yes you cannot ignore breast masses. Fabulous. So, like a good girl, I continued to have regular breast exams and routine mammograms (2, plus numerous ultrasounds). During this time there were no suspicious masses or lumps. After the second mammogram, I started to refuse. My Western medicine doctor agreed to let me stop them until I turned 40 as long as I did regular breast exams. OK. Deal.
Meanwhile, I had developed chronic low back pain. In 2009, I started to seek alternative treatment for my pain, as conventional medicine had failed to relieve my symptoms (for more details see About). I had fantastic success with a Holistic physician and asked him for a referral to a Holistic family practice doctor. I was now a full blown believer in Alternative/Holistic/Naturopathic medicine. In April 2011, I transferred all of my records to her office and saw her for a physical to establish myself as a patient. We discussed my fibrocystic breast disease history. She did an exam and noted no abnormalities, but stated we would watch from year to year (still encouraging me to do regular breast exams). One month later I found a nickel sized mass in my right breast. Oh no – here we go again… I made an appointment to see my new doctor and during the one week leading up to the appointment, the mass had increased in size (now approximately quarter sized). Recalling all that was said to me in the past, I blabbered on to her about not wanting surgery or a mammogram! She listened and then quickly calmed my fears. Absolutely no mammograms and a very good chance that I could avoid surgery.
Step one was testing with breast thermology. Totally non-invasive, painless, and radiation free. The procedure is not covered by insurance (of course), but I was willing to shell out the $100 for peace of mind and some answers to my current condition. Click here to read up on this amazing procedure and find out more about the clinic that I used. So as expected, my scan came back negative for cancer, but positive for another fibroadenoma.
Step two was to start supplementing with high doses of Iodine (50 mg Iodoral) and 100 mcg Selenium. I don’t know why, but this really freaked me out. The US RDA for Iodine is 150 mcg. Was it safe to take so much? What are the side effects? Would there be long term consequences? My doctor assured me that there was no need to worry. Although I trusted her, I was still unsure. I hurried home and started to research Iodoral supplementation and fibrocystic breast disease. I found next to nothing. What I did find online was quite discouraging. Women reporting that they had tried Iodoral without improvements in their symptoms. At the same time all of this was occurring, Alex had a friend at work who was being treated for breast cancer by Dr. David Brownstein’s Center for Holistic Medicine in West Bloomfield, MI. She purchased his book, Iodine Why You Need It and Why You Can’t Live Without It, for me and I dug into it as soon as I got my hands on it. I won’t get into the science here, I won’t do it justice. What I will say is that the breasts and the thyroid are two of the body’s main storage sites for Iodine. In a deficient or depleted state, these tissues become primed for illness including fibrocystic breast disease and breast cancer. Dr. Brownstein’s book contains an entire chapter devoted to this topic.
So I decided to give the supplementation a try. My instructions were to take 50 mg Iodoral and 100 mcg Selenium one time a day for 6 weeks and then cut the Iodoral in half to 25 mg (continue to take the Selenium) for another 6 weeks. After that, my physician said I could again cut the Iodoral dose in half (12.5 mg) and continue to take the selenium. This would be my maintenance dose.
I did it. And guess what? IT WORKED!!! Within a couple of weeks the mass was smaller, less dense, and not as tender. Within a month it was half the size it was before supplementation. Within two months, it was GONE. Gone – without pain, without stress, without an invasive procedure.
So why did it work? From Dr. Brownstein’s book:
Animal studies have shown conclusively that an iodine deficient state can alter the structure and function of the breasts. After my own research and study, I concur with several investigators that iodine deficiency is a causative factor in breast cancer and fibrocystic breast disease. I believe it is essential that women have their iodine levels tested, and if it is shown there is an iodine deficiency, iodine supplementation should be initiated.
The breasts are one of the body’s main storage sites for iodine in the body. In an iodine-deficient state, the thyroid gland and the breasts will compete for what little iodine is available. Therefore, this will leave the thyroid gland and the breasts iodine depleted and can set the stage for illnesses such as goiter, hypothyroidism, autoimmune thyroid disease, breast illnesses including cancer, and cystic breast disease. In addition, other glandular tissues such as the ovaries which contain the second highest concentration of iodine in the body, will also be depleted in an iodine deficient state.
The breasts and thyroid aren’t the only utilizers of iodine. It is needed by the prostate gland, the gastrointestinal tract, salivary glands, bones, and connective tissues. If you have any of these parts and you want to keep them healthy, you should probably make sure you have adequate iodine in your diet.
So that’s my story and I felt it was important to share. My fibrocystic breast disease was present way before I started a Paleo/Primal/Ancestral lifestyle, but I think it’s valuable to note that this eating style is generally low in Iodine. Most of us opt for Celtic sea salt over iodized table salt when cooking after we make the switch. Cutting out packaged, processed foods also cuts out iodized salt intake. Our soil, especially in the Mid-Western states, is deficient in Iodine, meaning our produce and pastured animal products are not a good source. Fish is a decent source, and sea vegetables are fabulous sources, but these are not foods that are typically eaten everyday by our population. I strongly encourage you to find a Holistic or Naturopathic physician that can assist you in testing and determining your need for Iodine supplementation. I wouldn’t recommend undertaking this on your own, as your doctor will likely want to monitor your thyroid function while supplementing.
There is one other note that I wanted to make. I work in the medical field and am nose deep in conventional Western medicine everyday. I truly believe that there are Western medicine practices and amazing medical advancements that have improved our lives greatly. However, our current medical field does have it’s shortcomings and my story is an example. We should not be treating the symptoms, we should be investigating and treating the cause. Otherwise are we truly ever healed or are we just chasing our tails?
For further information, Donald Miller, M.D. has also written some great articles on this topic. This one is a great overview: http://www.lewrockwell.com/miller/miller20.html
This blog post was shared at Food Renegade.
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