Ask the Pharmacist: The truth about shellfish allergies and Iodine deficiency

Suzy Cohen
You may have an enlarged thyroid and it will look like a lump at the base of your neck. Goiters are sometimes treated with iodine supplementation prior to surgically removing the thyroid gland.

Iodine is a purplish-grey mineral is needed for our survival. There is a lot of confusion surrounding this supplement because people assume iodine is a drug, but that’s not true. It’s as natural to your body as magnesium or calcium.

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A shellfish allergy translates to an iodine allergy in only about two or three percent of people. Most people avoid iodine their whole life because they do not know this. A shellfish allergy has to do with you being allergic to a protein in the fish, not iodine which is needed for your very survival.

Shrimp are high in iodine, which lead to clogged pores and acne.

Here are five signs of possible iodine deficiency: 


You may have an enlarged thyroid and it will look like a lump at the base of your neck. Goiters are sometimes treated with iodine supplementation prior to surgically removing the thyroid gland.

Not all goiters are related to low iodine however, iodine deficiency is the most common cause of goiters and nodules in the thyroid gland.

Sadly, some physicians surgically remove the thyroid gland instead of trying iodine. The issue is that you are still deficient in iodine and a thyroidectomy doesn’t correct that, besides symptoms within the breast will show up next.

I have a whole chapter on goiters in my best-selling book, “Thyroid Healthy: Lose Weight, Look Beautiful and Live the Life You Imagine.”

Breast pain or cancer

Iodine deficiency causes tiny benign (noncancerous) cysts to begin forming in the breasts and the condition is termed fibrocystic breast disease. Women with this condition have slightly lumpy breasts, and breast tenderness. Sometimes it’s hard to enjoy a hug because the pain is so bad. Continued iodine insufficiency may increase risk for breast cancer as well.

Feeling tired or weak

Low iodine always leads to low levels of thyroid hormone. That’s because your thyroid gland requires iodine to produce thyroxine, your thyroid hormone. This is the hormone that makes you feel strong, energetic and full of vitality.

Dry skin

Iodine is needed for soft skin and healthy skin. Eczema is sometimes related to low iodine or hypothyroidism. When iodine levels are low, skin cell regeneration doesn’t occur as often as it should, and this leads to dull, itchy, dry skin.

Pregnancy and baby’s brain

People underestimate iodine’s power on the brain. If you’re deficient in iodine, risk for miscarriage is increased. But there are implications to the baby too, if mother is not a seafood lover, or has iodine deficiency for some other reason.

When mother’s iodine is deficient, she has what we call “hypothyroxinemia” which damages the developing brain. The baby may be born with neonatal hypothyroidism, or may have cretinism, a severe cognitive disorder. 

Since doctors now tell women to limit seafood due to mercury concerns (and a dirty ocean full of plastics and phthalates), I urge you talk to your practitioner to see if a clean supplement of iodine is something you should take in advance of pregnancy or during. Creative brands of iodine contain both iodine and iodide, two different isomers of the molecule that feed and nourish your thyroid gland and breasts. You can find this in one capsule if you look for high-quality brands.

Understanding the pathogenesis of hypothyroidism and its connection to impaired iodine status in the body has allowed us to look at all these symptoms and realize they are not always a new “disease.” Sometimes a symptom is tied to a natural mineral that has become deficient for one reason or another. Causes include our genes, or poor diet, sometimes a medication (i.e. a drug mugger) and more. It’s important to find the underlying cause of your symptoms, rather than layering on the drugs. 

More:Ask the Pharmacist: Nutrients you need before pregnancy

Suzy Cohen is a registered pharmacist. The information presented here is not intended to treat, cure or diagnose any condition. Visit