I wrote here about the possible reasons for the epidemic of hypothyroidism. One major contender is toxic halogens (bromine and fluoride) which pop up in a number of places in our society.

Where You Get Exposed to Halides

Bromine is an antibacterial agent used in pools and hot tubs, an agricultural fumigant and a fumigant for pests and termites, it’s in brominated vegetable oils found in sodas and beverages, and it’s still in some medications, particularly for asthma.

But probably most significantly, bromine is added to bread and bakery products as an anti-caking agent. Back in the 1960s, iodine was added to baking products instead of bromine for the same purpose. But because the therapeutic window for iodine is low, there was concern that this would disrupt thyroid function (see below). Therefore it was replaced with bromine in the 1980s, and bromine continues to be used to this day.

Fluorine is found in the water supply in many areas, as well as in toothpastes. Most of us know (or think we know) that fluoride reduces the incidence of cavities; however, studies now suggest that fluoridation of the water makes no difference in rates of cavities.

What Halides Do

Iodine is a critical nutrient for thyroid function, and since it’s primarily found in iodized salt, seafood, and seaweed, many of us don’t get enough of it.

Because of the chemical similarity between iodine and its cousins bromine and fluorine, though, the latter two can mimic iodine in the body, binding to its receptors. These other halides block the body’s uptake of iodine, potentially leading to goiter and hypothyroidism.

There is a test available that shows urinary excretion levels of fluorine, bromine, and iodine. This can indicate how big a problem these halides may be for you.

How You Avoid (or get rid of) Halides

  • Go organic. Crops that have been fumigated are likely to have elevated levels of bromine.
  • Limit bakery products. If you eat bread, do your best to make your own! Manufacturers are not required to list potassium bromate or brominated flour on the label. Or, my favorite bromine-free store-bought brand is sprouted, 100% whole grain Ezekiel bread.
  • Get a multivitamin that contains iodine, and/or consume seaweed. Iodine and other halides are at odds with one another, and supplementing with one can supplant the other. Because the therapeutic range is small and both too much or too little iodine can suppress the thyroid, at this point I prefer food sources or smaller amounts, like that found in a multivitamin. 
  • Salt Your Food! There is good salt and bad salt; what you want is the iodized Celtic Sea Salt, added to taste, and not the highly manufactured high-sodium containing foods. But it’s not just the iodine that will help supplant fluoride and bromide—it’s also the chloride, as chloride is also in the halide family. For this reason, a low-salt diet is likely to exacerbate halide toxicity.
  • Filter Your Water. This will help you avoid the halides in the water supply. A simple Brita filter should do the trick.
  • Choose Fluoride-Free Toothpastes.

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