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How Potassium Iodide Can Potentially Work for You

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thyroid health

Story at-a-glance -

  • Potassium iodide serves as a treatment and preventive mechanism for these thyroid disorders by counteracting less-than-optimal iodine levels that occur because of dietary deficiencies
  • Read this article to know more about potassium iodide and how it can work for your body

Have you ever been curious as to why table salt is sometimes labeled "iodized?" This is because of potassium iodide, a white crystalline, granular or powdered solid with a strong, bitter and salty taste often added to table salt."1,2

Potassium iodide is also available in supplement form, and can be purchased over-the-counter and on health websites. Keep reading to learn more about potassium iodide and how it can work for your body. You'll gain more knowledge on potassium iodide's potential health benefits, what research has to say about its efficiency and how much of it you should be taking.

What is Potassium Iodide?

Potassium  iodide (KI) is a salt of stable and nonradioactive iodine. It's known to help block radioactive iodine from being absorbed by the thyroid gland, the part of the body most sensitive to the mentioned substance. Once a person takes potassium iodide, stable iodine in the supplement or solution can be absorbed in the thyroid.

Since potassium iodide contains ideal amounts of stable iodine, the thyroid gland becomes "full" and can't absorb any form of iodine for the next 24 hours.

Take note, however, that potassium iodide doesn't promise a 100 percent protection rate against radioactive iodine. There are three factors that can determine if protection to the thyroid gland can be increased, such as time after contamination, absorption and dose of radioactive iodine.3

Potassium iodide is taken orally, either as an oral solution, syrup, uncoated tablet or enteric-coated delayed release tablet. Note that the delayed release tablet generally isn't recommended because it can cause serious side effects.4 Potassium iodide is mainly used in the form of a saturated solution. This is prepared by reacting iodine with a hot solution of potassium hydroxide, and then added to water, fresh fruit juice or raw grass fed milk before drinking.5

There are also foods that contain some levels of potassium iodide, such as kelp, low-fat yogurt and 2 percent cow's milk.6 However, your best source of potassium iodide may still likely be from a potassium iodide supplement or solution.

Health Benefits of Potassium Iodide

Numerous health benefits are attributed to potassium iodide, such as:7

Helps filter the body — Potassium iodide can help filter out harmful mercury, fluorides, chlorides and bromides from tissues and cells.

Helping reduce arthritis risk — An iodine deficiency is linked to arthritis. Potassium iodide supplements may help people lower their risk for this disease.

Promoting hormonal balance — Emotional disorders, malfunctioning glandular systems and weight gain associated with hormonal imbalance have been linked to an iodine deficiency. Potassium iodide supplements may help promote better hormonal health.

Reducing chances of developmental problems — According to the World Health Organization, iodine deficiency is the biggest cause of mental retardation on a global scale.

Because of this, many developing countries utilize potassium iodide supplements to lower the occurrence of growth and development problems such as goiter, Hashimoto's disease, Graves' disease, miscarriage, generalized fatigue and impaired immune system function.

Contributing to overall healthy thyroid function — Potassium iodide is known as the thyroid mineral, and helps keep iodine levels in the thyroid balanced. If iodine levels in the body aren't optimized, this can cause either hyper or hypothyroidism, two conditions where the thyroid gland produces too much or too little iodine, respectively.

Potassium iodide serves as a treatment and preventive mechanism for these thyroid disorders by counteracting less-than-optimal iodine levels that occur because of dietary deficiencies. Furthermore, potassium iodide can aid in boosting colloid accumulation in the thyroid follicles by contributing to improved functioning.

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Potassium Iodide's Uses

Potassium iodide is often used as an expectorant to help loosen and break up mucus in the airways. An expectorant allows the patient to cough up mucus so he or she can breathe more easily, especially if long-term lung problems such as asthma, chronic bronchitis or emphysema are present.

Potassium iodide is also used with antithyroid medicines. Potassium iodide can assist in shrinking the size of the thyroid gland and decreasing the amount of thyroid hormones produced. This supplement may work for people who need to prepare the thyroid gland for surgical removal and address overactive thyroid conditions like hyperthyroidism.

Meanwhile, a potassium iodide in iodine solution can be used in a radiation exposure emergency.8 As mentioned earlier, potassium iodide can block the thyroid from absorbing the radioactive iodine, helping protect it from damage. Ideally, this solution must be used along with other emergency measures that may be recommended.9

A saturated solution of potassium iodide was also shown to be potentially effective as an antifungal and help address external forms of cutaneous sporotrichosis, a fungal infection that can lead to skin lesions.10

Studies on Potassium Iodide

Over the years, studies were conducted regarding the effectiveness of potassium iodide for certain conditions, such as:

Rhinofacial conidiobolomycosis (RFC) — According to a 2016 International Journal of Dermatology study, a combination of potassium iodide and itraconazole can be an effective treatment modality for this disease, as it has a relatively faster onset of action, low relapse and minimal adverse effects.

Researchers have said that these substances can be considered a first-line treatment for RFC patients.11

Palmoplantar pustulosis (PPP) and pustulotic arthro-osteitis (PAO) — Published in the International Journal of Dermatology in 2017, a study showed that using a potassium iodide formula  combined with tetracycline can be utilized to address these conditions.12

Reduction of lead accumulation — This 2017 International Journal of Occupation Medicine and Environmental Health study revealed that a formula of potassium iodide and chlorophyll, when used as food additives, had the same effects as meso-2,3-dimercaptosuccinic acid (DMSA) in reducing lead accumulation in male mice.13

Graves' disease — In this study published in the American Journal of Surgery in 2017, potassium iodide given before an operation helped Graves' disease patients in reducing blood loss during a thyroidectomy. Traditionally, potassium iodide was utilized to prepare patients of the disease before a thyroidectomy.14

Unfortunately, potassium iodide can also be a precursor to harmful changes in the body. A 2013 Thyroid Research article showed that potassium iodide, when used in the highest concentrations (≥50 mM), increased lipid peroxidation in a concentration-dependent manner.15

Ideal Dosage of Potassium Iodide

As a supplement, potassium iodide is usually taken once daily, or for as many days as your doctor  says is needed. It must be taken around the same time every day.

Before taking potassium iodide, consult your doctor to see if you need to take this supplement. Follow directions on the package label carefully, take potassium iodide directly as advised, and do not increase or decrease your dosage without your physician's approval. Inform your doctor if you had unusual or allergic reactions to potassium iodide.

Remember that there are no adequate studies in women for determining infant risk when using potassium iodide supplements while breastfeeding, so if you are, stay on the side of caution and don't take potassium iodide supplements. Potassium iodide can trigger skin rash and thyroid problems in infants, so pediatric use of this supplement isn't recommended.16,17

Keep the supplement in the container that it came in, tightly closed and out of reach of children. Store at room temperature and away from light, excess heat and moisture, preferably not in the bathroom. Dispose of unused potassium iodide to ensure that pets, children and other people cannot consume them. Avoid flushing potassium iodide supplements down the toilet. Instead, dispose of it through a take-back program.18

Side Effects of Potassium Iodide

Side effects can occur if you take potassium iodide. Although some complications are considered less common, consult your doctor if you notice these:

  • Hives
  • Joint pain
  • Swelling of the arms, face, legs, lips, tongue and/or throat
  • Swelling of lymph glands

Other side effects that can occur because of potassium iodide supplements are diarrhea, nausea or vomiting and stomach pain. However, these do not usually need medical attention and usually go away once the body adjusts to the supplement. Unfortunately, however, long-term use of potassium iodide supplement can trigger side effects such as:19

  • Burning of the mouth or throat
  • Increased watering of the mouth
  • Metallic taste in the mouth
  • Numbness, tingling, pain or weakness in the hands or feet
  • Weakness or heaviness of the legs
  • Sores on the skin
  • Soreness of teeth and gums
  • Symptoms of head cold
  • Unusual tiredness
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Severe headache
  • Confusion

Avoid taking potassium iodide supplements alongside these medicines because of possible interactions:

  • Acenocoumarol
  • Anisindione
  • Dicumarol
  • Phenindione
  • Phenprocoumon
  • Warfarin

Meanwhile, people with the following conditions must use potassium iodide supplements with caution because of possible reactions:20,21

  • People on a low-potassium diet
  • Multinodular goiter
  • Graves' disease
  • Autoimmune thyroiditis
  • Hyperkalemia (high blood levels of potassium)
  • Myotonia congenita

On the other hand, people with these diseases must avoid potassium iodide at all costs:22,23

  • Iodine sensitivity
  • People with dermatitis herpetiformis and hypocomplementemic vasculitis (extremely rare conditions linked to an increased risk of iodine hypersensitivity)
  • People with nodular thyroid with heart disease
  • Tuberculosis (potassium iodide can worsen this condition)
  • Kidney disease (potassium iodide can increase the amount of potassium in the blood)
  • People with an overactive thyroid, unless you are taking potassium iodide for this medical problem (prolonged use can be harmful to the thyroid gland)

Ideally, potassium iodide must be taken alongside food. Avoid using alcohol or tobacco when taking potassium iodide supplements because this can lead to adverse reactions.24 Lastly, avoid using table salt or food as a substitute for potassium iodide and dietary supplements that contain iodine. These can be harmful and nonefficacious.25

Why Potassium Iodide May Be Ideal for Your Health

Although it's not a supplement many are familiar with, potassium iodide has shown potential in helping improve overall health and well-being, especially if you or someone you know is dealing with thyroid-related problems, hormonal issues or a radiation exposure emergency.

However, taking potassium iodide requires careful consideration, because studies on potassium iodide's capabilities are somewhat limited, and there are numerous side effects linked to it. Talking to your doctor about potential potassium iodide intake is important, so you'll be able to know if you need to take it and gauge how much potassium iodide your body can handle.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Potassium Iodide

Q: Is potassium iodide an electrolyte?

A: Yes, the book "The Complete Guide to Medications During Pregnancy and Breastfeeding," notes that potassium iodide is an electrolyte.26

Q: Is potassium iodide ionic or covalent?

A: Potassium iodide is considered an ionic bond.27

Q: Is potassium iodide soluble in water?

A: Yes. According to the National Institutes of Health's National Center for Biotechnology Information, potassium iodide is an odorless white solid that sinks and mixes with water.28

Q: Where can you buy potassium iodide?

A: Potassium iodide supplements can be bought over-the-counter or through websites.29

Q: How much potassium iodide should you take daily?

A: There is no specific amount for a potassium iodide dosage. Ideally, check with your doctor to know how much potassium iodide you should be taking. Patients who take this supplement must follow the quantity specified on the package. Do not take more or less than the prescribed dosage, and make sure to take this supplement with food.

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