Last week, I wrote about three tests you can take to help determine if you are iodine deficient. Since I (like most people) tend to prefer options that are simple, easy, and cheap, I decided to start my renewed iodine effort by determining my level of iodine deficiency through the skin patch test.
As I explained last week, the skin patch test involves painting a patch of tincture of iodine on the skin and then observing the time it takes before the patch disappears. As the theory goes, if the patch disappears within a few hours, that means your body is in need of iodine. The less time it takes for the iodine to fully absorb, the more iodine-deficient the body.
Tincture of iodine is available at most drugstores, near the hydrogen peroxide. Most solutions have a yellowish tint which is integral to the test. If you use a clear solution, you won’t be able to tell when the iodine is absorbed.
I haven’t found much information regarding which type of iodine to use, but a 2 percent solution seems adequate according to most sources I’ve come across. The only iodine available at my local Target was Povidone-Iodine so I used that.
It’s best to paint a soft area of skin that won’t be influenced by chronic agitation. The stomach or inner thigh is often suggested as a good place to apply the iodine tincture.
As I researched this question, I started to notice the first cracks in the patch test theory. I could not find a standardized timeframe to help gauge the level of iodine deficiency. One source said that if the iodine absorbed within 4 hours, it was an indicator of normal iodine levels. Another source said 4 hours was a sign of extreme deficiency. Hmmm… that’s strange.
Most reputable sources seemed to have the same ballpark figures. Anything under 4 hours indicates iodine deficiency (Dr Lynn August suggests 6 hours is more accurate). And most sources agree that a patch lasting more than 24 hours is an indicator of iodine sufficiency. But the discrepancies made me wonder how accurate this test can be.
I was fortunate to find an article by Dr. Guy Abraham addressing this very question. Dr. Abraham is the physician who introduced Dr. Brownstein to the ground-breaking research on iodine (Dr. Brownstein is the author of this month’s Cellulite BOTM, Iodine: Why You Need It, Why You Can’t Live Without It). The two docs have been coordinating their research on iodine for several years.
Dr. Abraham explains that iodine is absorbed through the skin, but the absorption of topical iodine is not an accurate indicator of iodine deficiency because of other factors that can affect the absorption rate.
For example, if iodine is reduced to iodide by the skin, the yellow color of iodine will disappear because iodide is white… The evaporation of iodine from the skin increases with increased ambient temperatures and decreased atmospheric pressure due to weather conditions and altitudes. For example, the yellow color of iodine will disappear much faster in Denver, Colorado at 5,000 feet above sea level then Los Angeles, California at sea level, irrespective of the amount of bioavailable iodine.1
Dr. Abraham recommends the iodine loading test, which I also mentioned in last week’s post (see, 3 Tests for Iodine Deficiency).
While the iodine loading test is undoubtedly more accurate, I believe there is still a place for the iodine patch test —as long as you understand its limitations. The patch test should not be used to make a diagnosis, but I can see how it could be a helpful way to monitor the progress of an effort to restore iodine levels in the body (especially for us laymen).
I attempted the iodine patch test twice this week, and both times the patch lasted over 12 hours. This seems right to me. In addition to my efforts to eat a nutrient-dense diet, I’ve been supplementing with kelp (off and on) for over a year. And as you know, I started taking an iodine supplement from Standard Process two months ago in addition to eating iodine-rich foods such as shrimp, mussels, and the infamous shrimp stock (I’m still holding out for my shrimp stock theory!).
For my situation, I am more curious to know how the added iodine is affecting the level of fluoride in my body. The patch test won’t help me there, but the iodine loading test might provide some answers. More on this next week…
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