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Bad GOOP Advice, hormones, snake oil

Gwyneth Paltrow and GOOP give dangerous info on iodine. Their expert gets his info from a ghost.

GOOP is at it again with the dangerous medical advice. This time they are leaving the vagina alone and focusing their dangerous energy vibrations on your thyroid.

The article that caught my eye and my disgust is about iodine and the medical “expert” is a self-described medical medium (yes, you read that correctly) named Anthony William. What, pray tell, is a medial medium? Well, Mr. William claims he “was born with the unique ability to converse with a high-level spirit who provides him with extraordinarily accurate health information that’s often far ahead of its time.” That’s right, he talks with ghosts to make health recommendations and he is GOOP’s expert.

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To write my reply I decided not to hold a séance, instead I read some articles and consulted with a real live board-certified endocrinologist, Elena A Christofides, MD, FACE. She is also on the board of endocrineweb.

I know GOOP likes to point to their disclaimer that they “intend to highlight alternative studies and induce conversation,” but speaking with a spirit is not an accepted scientific method and the only thing I think they have induced with me is my gag reflex. Mr. William has no medical training and has not published any data.

Why does the body need iodine?

Mr. William’s spirit must not know too much about iodine because he swings and misses right off the bat. He says, “Iodine is essential for two main reasons: (1) your immune system relies on this mineral to function, and (2) iodine is a natural antiseptic.” Later on he says, “while iodine does also help with thyroid hormone production, that’s one small aspect of why iodine is important for your health.”

The body needs iodine because without it you can’t make thyroid hormone and then you will slowly die. It will be a long and drawn out process. All of the symptoms of iodine deficiency are related to resulting thyroid dysfunction and 70-80% of the body’s iodine is stored in the thyroid. This is not a “small aspect” this is THE ASPECT. The thyroid is the show. The thyroid gland is the only tissue that takes up and holds onto iodine. The primary function of iodine is in the production of thyroid hormones. Iodine only supports the immune system because a functioning endocrine system supports the immune system.

While iodine is a TOPICAL antiseptic anyone who things that oral iodine is some guided missile for bacteria or viruses is wrong and promoting an unsafe therapy. Also, iodine does not impact “advancement” of the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). This is medically nonsensical.

Does Epstein-Barr virus cause Hashimoto’s thyroiditis?

Mr. William claims, “The Epstein-Barr virus causes 95 percent of all thyroid conditions, including hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, Graves’ disease, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, and thyroid nodules, tumors, and cysts. The other 5 percent of thyroid dysfunction is due to radiation exposure from sources such as dental X-rays, other X-rays and exams, plane travel, and the radiation that’s around us in our atmosphere. Iodine is critical in both of these cases, because it is an antiviral agent that reduces any sort of viral load in the thyroid and the rest of the body, plus it protects the thyroid from radiation.”

This is bullshit. I just don’t know any other way to say it. Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit. There is no possible way a single virus could cause all of these conditions and guess what, there are no studies supporting this assertion. My son has congenital hypothyroidism and it wasn’t caused by EBV or x-ray exposure so where does he fit in this rubric? According to the National Library of Medicine his congenital hypothyroidism was either iodine deficiency or genetic, not EBV or radiation. I ate tons of salt while pregnant due to a continuous egg salad sandwich craving, so by process of elimination (and the fact he still needs thyroid hormone 13 years later) it’s genetic. To blame 95% of thyroid conditions on EBV and the rest on radiation is to have no understanding of modern medicine beyond evil humors. Maybe the medium’s ghost is from the dark ages?

Dr. Christofides says that EBV is just like any virus and Hashimoto’s, like all other autoimmune diseases, can be induced by a variety of environmental triggers in a genetically susceptible individual. So virus + genetic issue can = autoimmune condition. There is nothing special about EBV in this regard. Also, she correctly pointed out that ionizing radiation causes cancer, not hypothyroidism. If you’re going to fear monger over radiation at least get the condition right.

Is iodine deficiency common today?

In modern America, no. Dr. Christofides says she has seen one case in over 19 years.

This paragraph is particularly troubling as there is implication that more iodine is somehow better. While iodine is essential, we actually need very little because it’s a micronutrient. Dr. Christofides says “iodine supplementation of salt was mandated in 1924 to combat goiter and wide-spread hypothyroidism. We only require trace amounts so basically eating out even a couple of times a month gets us enough iodized salt to suffice.”

For non pregnant adults 150 μg per day of iodine is what you need and one teaspoon of iodized salt contains approximately 400 μg iodine. So less than 1/2 a tsp a day of iodized salt is enough. Dairy foods, eggs, fish, and meat are also good sources of dietary iodine.

Does severe iodine deficiency “lead to a very weakened thyroid as well as possible fluid retention and swelling around the thyroid (also known as goiter)?”

Iodine deficiency causes hypothyroidism and a goiter (enlarged thyroid). According to Dr. Christofides what the “medical medium” is describing for GOOP can’t happen. If you are clinically hypothyroid (abnormal lab tests) you can develop swelling (edema), but it’s not usually in the neck. Christofides also said “there is no such thing as a weakened thyroid.” She likened a weakened thyroid to the non existent adrenal fatigue.

Goiter is, quite simply, an enlarged thyroid. It can have nodules or not, but Dr. Christofides says, “this notion of swelling around the thyroid is utter nonsense. The thyroid is an encapsulated gland. If there’s swelling around it – it’s coming from somewhere else, like the lymph nodes. Which for an ignorant person sounds awfully close to thyroid area swelling.”

Does iodine’s potent disinfectant properties create a die-off reaction in the body for anyone with a bacterial or viral infection ?

Dr. Christofides knows of no data to support iodine induced viral “die-off.” I couldn’t find any either. DON’T TAKE IODINE TO KILL BACTERIA AND VIRUSES!

Do we need to be concerned about getting too much iodine?

Mr. William and GOOP don’t seem to be, but Dr. Christofides was very concerned about the idea of additional iodine supplementation for people who are not iodine deficient. It’s easy to see how someone could read the GOOP article and think they should protect their immune system and fight off killer EBV with iodine. Hey, it’s natural and Gwyneth says what he does feels “inherently right and true.” Dr. Christofides pointed out that taking excessive iodine with a normal thyroid actually “blunts the thyroid and actually CAUSES hypothyroidism.” She states, “in fact we use it in hyperthyroidism to ‘stun’ the thyroid giving us time to correct it by more permanent means.” She has seen women take so much over the counter iodine  that they eventually cause hypothyroidism.

Let’s go over that again. Taking too much iodine causes hypothyroidism, the very condition you think you are preventing. She said, “It’s an easy consult, but never a fun one.” In these situations people often can’t believe they were led astray and it can take multiple visits to convince them otherwise. There are also studies linking excessive iodine intake with autoimmune thyroiditis and papillary thyroid cancer. Maybe Spirit doesn’t know that?

Almost everything in this article is wrong and potentially dangerous

We need very little iodine, that little bit is important but if you eat a healthy diet and have a little iodized salt here and there you will be just fine.

If you take iodine supplements when you do not need them you could actually cause hypothyroidism, develop an autoimmune condition, or even get cancer.

EBV and radiation are not the root cause of all thyroid disease. EBV is not associated with thyroid cancer, it is associated with some lymphomas and nasopharyngeal and gastric carcinoma.

Iodine is not an internal antiseptic or immune booster.

Here’s some direct medical advice. If you have medical questions don’t get second-hand information on GOOP from a ghost, see a doctor. 

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Discussion

22 thoughts on “Gwyneth Paltrow and GOOP give dangerous info on iodine. Their expert gets his info from a ghost.

  1. Taking iodine or even supplementing your diet with excess seaweed is medically unsafe. As a nuclear medicine specialist I see cases where this practice interferes with our diagnostic testing and subsequent medical therapy for thyroid conditions. Your last line says it best “Do not get medical advice on GOOP from a ghost!”

    Posted by Cara | February 15, 2017, 4:03 am
  2. Thank you for writing about this! I can’t believe that her site would publish information that is so wrong. Shame on you Gwyneth Paltrow and Goop. Many people will think that what you write is actually factual and will follow what she says because she is a celebrity. Thanks again for blogging!

    Posted by Csilla | February 15, 2017, 4:06 pm
  3. The iodine thing sounds bad, I think that CARA is right about the problem that iodine supplements can make the medical management of some thyroid conditions more difficult. If you were to take iodine supplements before a thyroid scan or an attempt to treat thyroid cancer with I-131 then it would lower the specific activity of the iodne in the body which could stop the scan or the treatment working so well.

    I would like to know how exactly the man who talks with Ghosts suggests that one should increase ones iodine intake, goop did not make it clear to me. Back during the Fukushima crisis I heard of two crazy things, in one part of Asia people were trying to eat vast amounts of table salt and in another case painting the skin on their necks with iodine solution.

    I would like to get in touch with Jen Gunter, please if Jen is reading could you contact me (I work in Sweden at Chalmers University on iodine chemistry)

    Posted by Mark Foreman | February 16, 2017, 11:56 pm
  4. Once again, a great article on the issues with getting medical advice from celebrities. However, while severe iodine deficiency is uncommon in the US, moderate iodine deficiency may not be as uncommon as people assume. Adult women, especially those who are pregnant, are at risk of iodine deficiency. Median urinary iodine deficiency was below the WHO’s cut-off for adequate iodine status in pregnant women (Gahche). Eating at a restaurant every month is not a good way to get adequate iodine because it will depend on whether the restaurants use iodized salt. Only around 20% of salt consumed in the US is iodized (Dasgupta), and this is because the salt used in commercial cooking is generally not iodized. I would also suggest that obtaining the majority of one’s iodine in a single meal is not advisable.

    The Office of Dietary supplements has a good list of the iodine content of foods (https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Iodine-HealthProfessional/#h3). The “whole food” supplements suggested by the Goop article are normally incredibly expensive when a standard multivitamin will quite often be less expensive and have a more reliable iodine content. The iodine content of seaweed is highly variable and it is possible to overdose on iodine from seaweed if it is a variety with a high iodine content – consume with caution.

    Dasgupta: http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/es0719071
    Gahche: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23616501

    Posted by juliakbird | February 20, 2017, 2:40 am

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