Dear Mark: Glucosamine, Chondroitin, and MSM; Iodine for Thyroid

Today’s edition of Dear Mark is a relatively focused one, with just two topics. I spend the bulk of my time discussing the merits of glucosamine, chondroitin, and methylsulfonylmethane supplementation when it comes to treating osteoarthritis. This is a tough subject, because while these joint supplements are some of the most commonly taken, the evidence for their efficacy is mixed. It seems like people have one of three reactions to these particular supplements. Either they find them completely and utterly indispensable, completely and utterly useless, or kinda sorta helpful in a “but I’m not too sure” kind of way. Next, I discuss whether or not iodine supplementation is required on a Primal Blueprint eating plan.

Let’s get going, shall we?


I’ve searched through the site and surprisingly I’m hitting a wall while trying to find any information in regards to Glucosamine and Chondroitin, MSM. I did find a few bone health articles where you suggest using it, but do not go much further with details. Can you give us the ins and outs of these supplements? I’ve heard quite a bit about the benefits of each, however I’ve also heard quite a bit in regards to this being some kind of placebo effect that is doing nothing to improve joint function. I would love to hear your take on this.


Glucosamine, chondroitin, and MSM are all separate compounds, though they are grouped together in supplements so often that the names kind of blend together. Let’s go over each of them.

Glucosamine is a structural component of bone, exoskeletons, shells, and fungi cellular walls.

Chondroitin is a structural component of cartilage.

Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) is an organosulfur compound (remember those?) found, in limited quantities, in certain plants.

Most of the studies are either inconclusive or indicate that neither glucosamine, chondroitin, nor MSM have much, if any, effect on humans with osteoarthritis. The latest one said as much. That’s it, then, right? It doesn’t work. And if it does work, it’s a placebo. Period. Throw away your supplements and start mainlining liquefied NSAIDs. How could anyone be so stupid as to use a supplement?

Eh, not so fast.

Some animal studies suggest that glucosamine, chondroitin, and MSM might work pretty well. And although animals are smarter than we often credit them, dogs, horses, and rats don’t get placebo effects. When I give Buddha a pill surrounded by raw ground beef, he’s just happy to eat some meat. He has no clue that I’m secretly giving him a glucosamine tablet, and even if he saw the tablet, he wouldn’t be affected by a “placebo” effect. For a placebo effect to occur, the patient must be aware of treatment. Dogs don’t really get the idea of treatment or medicine. They might enjoy and benefit from your hand rubbing their necks while they take a pill or get treated by the vet, but it’s not the same thing.

Let’s talk about humans, though. The main study cited in meta-analyses that conclude neither glucosamine nor chondroitin sulfate do anything for human osteoarthritis is the GAIT trial, a multicenter, placebo-controlled, double-blind study. Overall, the GAIT trial found that neither supplement, whether alone or in concert, performed better than placebo. However, in the “moderate-to-severe pain subgroup” of patients, a combination of glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate was far more effective than placebo at reducing osteoarthritis-related pain. But because the subgroup was relatively small, its results weren’t enough to affect the overall conclusion.

If glucosamine works, how does it work? The popular conception is that it, being a raw building block of bone, gets directly incorporated into damaged connective tissue. You eat the stuff and it somehow magically makes it to the afflicted areas. That’s how detractors eager to combat a strawman put it, but the funny thing is that the “strawman” might actually have some merit. A study found that 1500 mg of glucosamine sulfate crystalline powder taken orally appeared in the synovial fluid (a fluid found in joints that has a yolk-like consistency; scrambled synovia, anyone?) of osteoarthritic patients. Since synovial fluid provides lubrication and nutrients to and removes waste from articular cartilage, having higher levels of glucosamine (a precursor for the glycosaminoglycans which make up cartilage) could prove useful and even increase glycosaminoglycan production. Another interesting piece is that a later study found that glucosamine sulfate was more effective than glucosamine hydrochloride at showing up in synovial fluid after oral dosing. Perhaps if the GAIT trial had used glucosamine sulfate instead of glucosamine hydrochloride, the effects would been more pronounced.

Another idea is that glucosamine works by binding to free tissue transglutaminase (tTG) in the gut, thus preventing plant proteins (like gluten) from joining with tTG to form harmful inflammatory compounds that induce autoimmune disorders (like arthritis). This study seems to suggest that glucosamine can actually bind to lectins. Maybe it’s gut-mediated. Interesting stuff.

As for chondroitin sulfate, it’s usually paired with glucosamine, but there was a recent randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind study that used only chondroitin sulfate. It found that patients with osteoarthritis of the knee experienced a reduction in cartilage loss and bone marrow lesions after just six months of chondroitin sulfate supplementation. They used 800 mg of chondroitin sulfate daily, and the results were confirmed via MRI. Pretty neat.

As for MSM, the evidence is mixed, but it appears at least mildly effective on knee osteoarthritis. It sounds like if it does work, it works best in conjunction with glucosamine.

In my experience, G/C/MSM (I’m getting tired of writing the full names) can work on humans, but not every one of them in every situation. People are unique. People’s contexts are unique. Their reasons for having knee pain are unique. Is it physical wear and tear from improper movement causing structural damage? Is it increased inflammation from grains and refined sugar? Is it a deficiency in micronutrients? How bad is it? Mild, moderate, severe? These all matter, but the studies won’t really tell you how.

Although the clinical evidence for G/C/MSM is equivocal, I still think it’s worth trying. I’ve seen it work for some but not for others. Since osteoarthritis really, really stinks, especially when it occurs in a joint attached to a prime mover, like the knee, located on a prime mover, like a Primal enthusiast, I say go for it – even if the evidence is mixed. And if you’d rather not spend money on more supplements, you could always eat connective tissue, make stock, and gnaw on joints. This “treatment” works for dogs, too.

I am new to the Primal lifestyle (2 weeks to the day) and have already obtained energy and lost weight. I’ve just started reading The Primal Blueprint and so far really enjoyed it. I was told by some others, who eat very similar, and they advised me to start taking Iodine for my thyroid to help metabolize the fats that I now consume. I just wanted to know what your take on take this was?

Your newest primate-


I’ve always wanted a pet primate.

Well, iodine is a vital component in the production of thyroid hormone, and thyroid hormone in part controls your metabolic rate as well as energy metabolism. So in a roundabout way, yes, iodine can support the metabolism of fats (as well as other forms of energy, like protein and carbohydrate) by providing the substrate for production of thyroid hormone. But just because you went Primal doesn’t mean you need to start popping iodine.

Of course, since you’re no longer eating processed food rich in iodized salt, which is where many people get their iodine, you may be missing out. And if you’ve switched from iodized table salt to unrefined sea salt – as many Primal eaters do – you’ve just removed another rich source of iodine in their diets. Instead of popping iodine or going back on the junk food, just eat foods rich in iodine. Seaweed, shellfish, and other seafood, seeing as how they spend most of their waking lives fully immersed in iodine-rich sea water, are excellent sources of iodine. Vegetables and the animals that eat them can also be good sources of iodine, but if the soil is iodine-depleted, so is the food that grows and eats there. The sea will most likely always be a good source.

Unless you’re actually hypothyroid and are working with a practitioner, I wouldn’t launch right into iodine supplementation. If you’re doing well on the Primal lifestyle, eating iodine-rich foods like seaweed, fish, shellfish, and pastured eggs, and you seem to be handling your dietary energy with grace and aplomb, I doubt you need to supplement. If you’re suffering and you don’t feel like your metabolism is able to handle the food you’re throwing its way, then it might be worth getting a thyroid panel done. While you’re at it, test for iodine deficiency.

And if you determine that iodine supplementation is right for you, make sure to get enough selenium before you begin supplementing, as selenium is also required for thyroid hormone synthesis. Get your selenium from foods like Brazil nuts (just one or two a day), wild salmon, kidneys, crimini and shiitake mushrooms, lamb, turkey, shrimp, cod, halibut, and egg yolks. For more info on selenium and thyroid health, check out Chris Kresser’s recent (and awesome) post on the subject.

Let me know how it goes, Mason!

Well, that’s it for this week’s installment of Dear Mark. Keep sending in the questions and I’ll do my best to get to them. Thanks for reading!

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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144 thoughts on “Dear Mark: Glucosamine, Chondroitin, and MSM; Iodine for Thyroid”

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    1. I do – we have a huge Asian market outside of Austin that has an enormous selection of seaweed. Even made seaweed cookies – sounds crazy but they were delicious.

    2. Try ‘Seasnax’ – just seaweed and olive oil – Costo/Amazon have them.

    3. Asian markets sell it dried in bags of all sizes (you soak it to rehydrate it). Wakame is my favorite along with Nori. Near NW Chicago there is Asi Plaza and Super-H Mart. Here’s my fav quick salad idea:

      1/2 to 1 ounce dried wakame
      3 tablespoons
      3 tablespoons rice vinegar
      2 tablespoons sesame oil
      2 scallions, thinly sliced
      1 teaspoon finely grated ginger
      1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
      As much cucumber as you like (cut super thin or spiral cut in a slice)

      Soak the dried wakame in warm water for about 5-8 minutes then drain it. Dunk into a bowl of cold water to shock it for a sec then quickly remove and put in a bowl.

      Dressing: Mix vinegar, tamari, sesame oil, and ginger in a bowl. Mix wakame and cucumber and dressing together. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and scallions and eat!

      Can get creative with a splash of orange or any other flavor you’d like. If you like it sweeter add a drop of agave or a pinch of stevia.

      Enjoy 🙂

        1. I also love the seaweed salad that most sushi restaurants serve and would love to find a recipe to replicate it at home..anyone have one???

        2. Seaweed salad is one of the greatest things in the world but I have only enjoyed it once in my life… just after Primal Con was over last year!

    4. Natural food stores have bags of seaweeds in the Asian section. I also found a mix of sea salt and kelp flakes (from Maine) for the salt shaker.

      I munch kombu kelp (in moderation) and nori sheets right out of the bag.

    5. If you are in Chicago, there are Korean markets. Go there! There are three main types – pre-roasted nori sheets in full size for wrapping sushi or salted and cut snack size. The snack size ones are the ones that have made an appearance at Costco and Trader Joes.

      There is big thick pieces of seaweed used for stock – you add it to water with some dried anchovy to make a seafood-based broth. Then you can either discard it or eat it.

      Then there is the smaller pieces for seaweed soup, a favorite of all Koreans. This is first pre-soaked, then choped up and used in a soup with itself as the broth flavor, or with added beef brisket.

      If you go to the market, ask someone to show you which is which. Search for Korean seaweed soup on Youtube for step-by-step recipes. I don’t want to link here cuz link screening takes too long.

      1. I may very well be staying in Chicago starting in March for a few weeks or so. There is a Trader Joe’s within a mile from my brothers place whom lives in Wrigleyville. I’ll have to look there and checkout an Asian market as well since they are all over I am sure.

        Do you live in Chicago? Are you a member of the Primal Chicago meetup group?!

        1. I don’t but I saw you mentioned Chicago. The Korean markets will have lots of premade salads and other foods in their deli section – no need to make your own seaweed salad – it’s always there!

        2. out here in the napervillearea there is super-h mart they have a lot of seaweed based foods. They even have seaweed noodles in a bag that have made an occasional pasta substitute.

    6. I buy 50 lb. bags of organic, feed grade kelp for my cows. I keep a jar of it in the cupboard and eat a spoonful most days. Much cheaper than the little kelp pill supplements.

    7. do like I did… marry a Okinawan girl and let her get the good seaweed. Down side to this approach and primal life is the arguments over rice… epic… Wakame soup is great … or you can get the dry sprinkles to put on salads … Furukake

    8. When you’re at the Asian stores in the seaweed section (it also goes by the names kelp and laver and nori), try the pre-roasted, seasoned, and cut packages of nori. Mostly from Japan and Korea, they’re usually treated with sesame oil and sea salt and are awesome when you want something salty. I’m addicted to them. For some reason, kids really dig them, too.

    9. Every Friday is my “cheat” day where I get sushi for lunch. I avoid feeling guilty about the rice because of the fish and seaweed 😉
      Also, anywhere you can get sushi you can typically buy seaweed salad as well. So yummy!

    10. I get it at the asian grocery store, and to prepare it I say “Look out, here I come.”

    11. Our whole family have shredded kelp ‘pepper’ on our food a few times per week, which is harvested locally, and dried in the sun. We live in New Zealand, which is mostly devoid of Iodine, and Selenium. The standard way around this is to take iodised salt,but as we don’t eat salt, the kelp pepper is the best way to go. Goitre is very common here, so we wish to avoid that if at all possible.

  1. One word…..sushi!

    Wrap sashimi in a seaweed cone and go to town.

    1. i use kelp(atlantic kombu) in long-cooking soups and stews. it dissolves into the broth and no one knows its there…good for family members who wouldnt go for the idea.

  2. I’ve been eating primal for 2 months now and don’t used iodized salt (I use sea salt). I had my thyroid levels checked a week ago and everything was normal. I don’t feel the need to supplement. As for the Glucosamine, I’m really glad someone asked this question bc my husband takes this. I’ll have to let him know about using glucosamine sulfate. Thanks for the info!

  3. A caution to those with hypo thyroid problems….Be careful taking iodine, kelp, lots of seafood, etc. That can contribute to an autoimmune response that aggravates the thyroid and raises inflammation and antibodies. Iodine is no friend to those with Hashimoto’s!

    1. iodine doesn’t have a negative affect in the presence of sufficient selenium. Kresser’s updated stance is pretty cutting-edge.

      1. An example of the positive side of selenium’s ability to lower antibodies produced with auto-immune thyroid disorder.

      2. Kresser does say that there are some autoimmune thyroid patients who can’t tolerate iodine at all, though, even with selenium, so some caution is warranted.

        1. Caution is always warranted. There are some people even with normal thyroids who can’t tolerate iodine/iodide. Any substance is capable of producing allergies/tolerance issues in some people.

  4. Good information Mark, I have experienced personal success using Glucosamine Sulphate powder for an arthritic soccer toe.

    I would add that MSM’s sister compound, DMSO should also be included in your article as it has many great effects including pain relief, is anti-inflammatory and is a strong anti-oxidant with low toxicity (to name a few). It is an excellent transdermal carrier and ironically because of this should also be treated with respect (as contaminants can also be carried through the skin if application is not aseptic and controlled).

    1. I’m glad you added that last bit, because we use DMSO as a solvent in my lab and “treat it with respect,” as you say, for that reason.

    2. Good addition – DSMO. I don’t know about the current status – but I had DMSO therapy when the only FDA approved usage was for interstitial cystitis. Turns out, that diagnosis was wrong – but I did get great symptom relief when it was badly needed until I got the right diagnosis and treatment.

    3. Do you also take it internally? After I read your post, I looked it up and saw many pros and cons with using DMSO. I am tempted to try it but would be curious about your input.
      Thank you,


  5. Thanks for publishing a post on g/c/msm Mark.

    My left knee has been falling apart over the past few months – from high-school football injuries – and while it looks like I may not be able to avoid surgery on it after all, I’m happy to keep taking the g/c/msm supp I started taking a few months ago, at the very least for my non-injured knee which is supposedly low on synovial fluid.

    — Anthony

    1. Yep. The non-injured knee needs support as it will often compensate for the other knee. It may eventually be the one with functional issues/pain without adequate support.

    2. You might ask your ortho about Hyalgan injections. I had a synovectomy 10 years ago, and have pretty much no cartilage left in either knee at this point. I had a round of five done on each knee last July. combined with some pretty intensive PT to make sure everything was in the right place while the injections were settling in, I was able to subsequently do activities pain-free that I didn’t think I’d be able to, like hiking with notable elevation gains (I hadn’t been able to do this because coming down I’d have to sidestep the whole way because I couldn’t do the deep knee bends required to step down) and skiing bumps and crud. A month after my injections, I was not only able to do those down steps, I was able to jump down steps of 18 inches to 2 feet with no pain, which was something I hadn’t been able to do in several years.

      The injections are just starting to wear off (they’re supposed to last 6 months to 2 years, and since I beat the crap out of my knees on a regular basis I’m feeling lucky to have gotten 8 months pain-free), but I still have much better pain relief in my knees than I had before the injections. I think I’m going to try to hold out to have my next round right before ski season starts so I can ski through the whole season with no pain.

      The injections HURT – there’s no getting around that – but the relief is tremendous.

      I’m also considering Regenexx-SD. Regrowth of meniscus tissue using your own stem cells, yum!

    3. I know this is a little old, but if you need more synovial fluid, the thing to try is hyaluronic acid, available as a supplement, and also sublingual liquid. It’s the same stuff the inject into knee cartilage (or near it) during surgery.

  6. A few months ago I read an article in “Natural Awakenings”, a health food/holistic health magazine, discussing a link between Glu/Chon supplements and certain types of cancer. I didn’t delve any further into the topic, but it was an interesting find.

  7. I have bursitis in my hips. Glu/Chon is the only help I’ve found for the inflamtion/pain.

  8. I always knew that hormones and the endocrine system were complex topics. I’m also discovering that iodine/iodide supplementation is a surprisingly complicated and controversial topic in and of itself.

    There doesn’t seem to be a consensus amongst experts – medical or naturopathic practitioners or research scientists – on this topic.

    For instance, some claim that any form of iodine/iodide is absolutely contraindicated for anyone with – or genetically at risk for – auto immune thyroid. Chris Kresser would belong to this group.

    Other practitioners, such as Dr. David Brownstein, take a very different approach to iodine/iodide supplementation. Brownstein has successfully treated patients with autoimmune thyroiditis – Hashimoto’s – with iodine/iodide supplementation.

    Then there is the issue of organic iodine as compared to inorganic iodide. Iodized salt has potassium iodide, btw. There is some concern about sea kelp being contaminated by the industrial halides (bromide, fluoride, etc) that block iodine uptake. I am currently searching to find information about testing of kelp for human consumption.

    Some practitioners, like Brownstein, advocate a specific ratio combination of iodine and iodide supplementation, along with selenium and vitamins C and B2.

    Selenium can interfere with antibody production involved in autoimmune thyroiditis, thus producing a false negative diagnostic test result. In other words, selenium can lower the antibody count to the normal range even when the person DOES have auto-immune thyroid disorder. So, this person will be then told that they have a normal, heathy thyroid when they don’t.

    Interpreting a thyroid panel is as much a art as a science – and not all labs employ the same ranges and not all doctors follow the same interpretation protocols. Moreover, no single test or panel interpretation has proven to be truly useful in and of itself to date. Diagnosis involves many sources of data, including self- report and basal temp.

    Plus, any inquiry into thyroid function that indicates a disorder also needs to include evaluation of adrenal function. Medication and supplementation for thyroid function is impacted by adrenal function as well – and vice versa.

    Iodine/iodide supplementation can potentially support both the thyroid and the adrenals – as well as many other body systems. For example, breast tissue utilizes much more iodine than the thyroid. A deficiency in iodine can lead to fibrocystic breasts. The same thing happens with the ovary.

    As I said, the subject is complex and controversial.

    1. i was going to mention that MANY tissues need adequate iodine, not just the thyroid, but rarebird beat me to it. 🙂 if i remember, EVERY cell has iodine receptors….

      Kresser, btw, USED to be opposed to iodine supplementation for Hashis’ sufferers, but since Mario contributed his outstanding articles, he has moderated his opinions. he realizes that selenium inadequacy wasn’t addressed in those studies which showed negative affects of iodine supplementation.

      1. Thank you so much for updating and elaborating on my comment. There is so much to stay abreast of on this topic, isn’t there?!

        You are right, every cell has iodine receptors – they are just concentrated in the glands. Another area of higher concentration – although not as high as the glands – is the mucosal linings of the GI tract. And, these receptors can all be blocked by the other halides – thus limiting iodine uptake.

        Reversing this process by increasing iodine results in detoxing the cells – flushing the other halides and pollutants like mercury out of the system. That’s why vitamins C & B2 are used – to help reduce the detox symptoms.

        Also, some practitioners utilize the titration method rather than starting with a single high dose and letting the body work things out. The starting dose is about 1/4 what the final dose will usually be and is increased one month at a time.

      2. Btw, I am glad to learn that Kresser has moderated his opinion this way. That was the same conclusion that I had come to, regarding the selenium. Will revisit this topic on his site.

        Eventually, after a lot of thought and reviewing my own medical history, I concluded that I was most likely running an iodine deficit much of my life – even with the supplements and dietary efforts that I had made. They were necessary but not sufficient.

        My current/local doctor does not do iodine testing. I debated about having the testing done anyway and/or seeing Dr. Brownstein, who is located very near to my home in Michigan. I may see him eventually.

        But, I opted for doing the titration method and monitoring how my body responded. That’s the bottom line anyway, after all else is said and done.

        I made this decision after satisfying myself that my adrenal function is fine. I am still in the first month of iodine/iodide supplementation – but so far its been interesting.

        The first few days I felt a bit nauseous and tired. Then, those feelings cleared and I started feeling distinctly better than before. More energy, more focus, and a bit warmer.

        I tend to run a low normal basal temp – have my whole life – and don’t mind that. The cold doesn’t bother me and my extremities don’t feel cold to the touch. But, the slightly increased sense of internal warmth was nice – not harsh like a hot flash. My basal temp went up a little – about .4 degree. Now, this status is like a new norm.

        Still low normal metabolically overall. But, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Evidently people who live long lives tend to be low normal metabolically. See Nora Gedgaudas, and others, on that topic.

        1. Rarebird:
          I last saw Dr. Brownstein, last month, and as of then they were not taking new patients. I tried to get my nephew in.

    2. I am a patient of Dr. Brownstein’s (who pretty much advocates a primal lifestyle without labeling it as such). I have read his book on iodine and I take Iodoral, as prescribed by him, along with some other complementary supplements, monitored by Dr B. Before taking the iodine he did extensive testing, including checking iodine levels. While he believes iodine is very important for a lot of us (especially in the Midwest, aka the goiter-belt), I believe he would say good health is achieved by a combination of things (diet being foremost), not by taking whichever one or two “supplements/superfoods” that are popular at any given moment. I have been guilty of this.

      Dr. Mercola interviewed Dr. Brownstein about iodine supplementation shortly after last year’s earthquake/tsunami in Japan. It may still be on Mercola’s web site.

      Brownstein frequently tests any supplements his office carries for contaminants, and since the Japan disaster there have been some concerns, of the general supplement-taking public, about supplements and foods from Japan, including seaweed. I was at Whole Foods awhile back wanting to get some kombu, and stopped myself knowing that the brand I usually get is from Japan. I talked with one of the employees, wondering if they had heard anything about seaweed coming out of Japan, if they test, etc. The store clerk didn’t know but the conversation made me think twice, and grab a different brand, one from Iceland. I’m not saying that the stuff from Japan is contaminated, or the stuff from Iceland is pristine but I think we need to not go overboard on anything, including what we think is healthy, and to ask a lot of questions about food sourcing.

      1. Hey, Ellen –

        Its great to hear from someone with first hand experience with Dr. Brownstein and with iodine supplementation (among other things). I also saw your note to me about his not taking any new patients as of a month ago. I would not assume that about any doctor anyway and would call first – even though his website does say they are taking new patients. At this point, I am not planning to see him or any doctor for this issue anytime soon. I am also considering doing independent lab testing on my own first. But, now may be a good time to check on future availability regardless.


  9. So funny, I started reading the line about the placebo effect and immediately thought of my rottweiler, who had surgery on his leg at 6 yrs old to remove an osteosarcoma tumor and developed very bad arthritis as a result. Glucosamine/condrotin had him good as new and that was clearly not a placebo effect!

    My dad also swears by the stuff, he had bad knees his whole life, but after falling off a roof at 52, he was unable to do most of the things he loved, like biking, tennis anymore. Lots of surgeries and PT later, one of the theraists suggested glucosamine and he hasn’t missed a day of tennis since and routinely does biking tours involving 75+ miles in the saddle (he’s 66 now)

    1. So happy for both of them that they benefit this way!

      My old mastiff-rottweiler mix (120 lbs, 11 years old) has long standing serious joint issues, especially in his elbows. He had them when we adopted him as a rescue. His radiographs would break any dog lover’s heart.

      His vet says that many dogs would not even attempt to use a limb that involved. Yet, for years he was active and reasonably pain free with only salmon oil, glu/chon, and a heated bed. He doesn’t seem to tolerate MSM very well.

      He has only recently needed a low dose of an NSAID – and only once a day not twice. He also has had low grade Mast cell cancer for 9 months, so I don’t think that palliative care is a bad idea anyway.

      1. Rarebird, hello again: Have you tried the Migun heated mats for your dog? They use a far-infared source of heat (like the far-infared saunas that are popular with us health conscious. This is supposed to better than a regular heating pad. I have the Migun mini-mat for my 14+ year-old dog. There’s a Migun center in Ann Arbor (used to be one in West Bloomfield, by Dr. B, but I don’t know what happened to it.)

        1. Hey, Ellen –

          Thanks again. No, I haven’t tried a far-infared mat for my dog. But, I have used that therapy myself. Have Ceragem massage beds – so I know how much it helps. The small dogs and cats love to get on the Ceragem with me – its a joke in our house. All I have to do is to say the word “Ceragem” and they come running.

          Anyway, he LOVES his bed – its a super large bed with extra thick orthopedic foam with sensor controlled heat – it only heats in response to pressure and focuses the heat on the joints that tend to be pressure points. He knows how to use it to his advantage. When he gets too hot – heavy double coat – he gets up and lays on the area rug next to his bed.

          I’ve been wondering what I’d do if I ever had to replace that bed since its not being made any more. Now, I have my answer :-).

        2. Ellen – it sounds like you and I are neighbors. Do you use the forum here? I’d like to visit with you there more privately if you are willing.

      2. Rarebird: I would be happy to try communicating with you on one of the MDA forums if I can figure out how to use them. Just tell me which one.

        1. There’s just one forum. Click on the “forum” link on the menu bar above. You’ll need to register as a new user. Then, the netiquette is to make an intro post in that thread. Mark has also provided a “start here” section with some guidance.

          Here is the link to the iodine discussion. Once i see you posting on the iodine discussion I’ll “friend” you. We’ll both have to figure out how to use that part of the forum format – but maybe someone there will help us out.

        2. There’s just one forum. Click on the “forum” link on the menu bar above. You’ll need to register as a new user. Then, the netiquette is to make an intro post in that thread. Mark has also provided a “start here” section with some guidance.

          The original version of this comment is awaiting moderation due to an included link to the iodine discussion at the forum. If you go to the next page on this article, you’ll find the same link shared by Grizz. When I see you post to the iodine thread I’ll reply and we’ll do the “friend” thing.

  10. …and i need to point out, the salt in processed foods is usually NOT iodized — so people who think they’re getting iodine in their chips and soups, AREN’T.

    1. So true! Add to that the increased amount of iodine blocking halide pollution over the past 30 years and we can see why iodine deficiency is on the rise.

  11. Had anyone ever supplemented the soil in their garden to increase the iodine in their vegetables? I’m getting my garden ready right now, and if that’s a possibility, and since I still need to add some compost, it would be the perfect time.

    1. YES! I use kelp in my garden and it makes a noticeable difference in the plants. It increases many trace elements besides iodine. Kelp sold for soil amendment is usually sold by the bale or large bag and is much cheaper than food grade.

  12. I took high grade/high dose glucosamine and chondroitin supplements – both with and without MSM – for many years after they first hit the market.

    I have multiple old joint and spine injuries, including a knee that is a potential candidate for surgery. I was trying to prevent/avoid osteoarthritis, pain, and surgery rather than to reverse them.

    When I started having acid reflux problems – after taking these supplements for years – I stopped all supplements for a period of time. I then reintroduced them one at a time, based on their supposed tendency to cause GI issues. The glu/chon really tore up my stomach so I never resumed them.

    I also don’t take MSM as a general rule anymore but keep it around for any inflammatory issues that may arise. MSM was a great help when my husband developed plantar fasciitis – oral and topical MSM and a change of footwear was all that he needed.

    I haven’t noticed that stopping the glu/chon has made any difference for my own joint health. But, I also have always had a diet naturally high in these items so maybe I get all that I need that way.

    And, btw – the placebo effect involves more than expectations of efficacy. It can also involve an element of simple attention – which dogs do benefit from – even if they don’t have efficacy expectations.

  13. i took Cosamin DS (brand name) for a while, and i went Primal and lost weight, all about the same time. my joints dont hurt, and are not swollen anymore. i’m not sure what helped the most, but i am just glad not to take that expensive supplement anymore!

  14. I was just trying to explain Glucosamine to my MIL yesterday…actually all weekend. She’s got horrible joint pain in her should and all down her arm, she won’t try Paleo but I did get her to agree trying some Cod Liver Oil and a G/chrondroitin/MSM supplement.

  15. Regarding osteoarthritis, I have been reading a lot lately about the relationship of proper posture and muscle imbalances causing muscle and joint pain. I think there is a lot to it.

    I’ve tried to be a barefoot runner for years, but I’ve been unable to increase miles much due to knee, hip, and IT band pain. I have come close to completely quitting running a few times, but then I read a new article about running and I get excited and try it again. I’ve been slowly giving up all hope of ever being able to run again, at 29 years old.

    Recently, I was diagnosed with an impinged rotator cuff after doing a kettlebell workout. This is the second time my rotator cuff has acted up. After trying physical therapy was worthless, again, I found a book recommended by Pete Egoscue called Pain Free. The basis of it is that joints and muscle pains are quite often due to opposing muscle groups, and even uneven posture from the left to right and front to back, that starts a cascade of problems inculding joint pain, limited range of motion, and muscles that have been inactivated due to poor posture and lack of use.

    I only mention it because the obook is fascinating, and claims it can “fix” everted feet, which are a sign often of hip dysfunction from sitting too much. Glucosamine may help rebuild cartilidge, but wouldn’t it be best to not lose cartilidge in the first place? There are several clinics throughout the country and even online that can show you the problems with your posture, and recommend daily exercises to fix them. They claim a 95% success rate. The biggest problem seems to be the amount of time the exercises take a day (could be an hour or more).

    I hate to sound like an infomercial, but just wanted to pass the info along in case it could help someone as much as it has already helped me.

    1. Thank you for sharing. Will look at the book. What you say makes a lot of sense to me – based on my own experience. I had tried several different approaches to PT over a period of decades – with varying degrees of success – before finally finding a PT who used a method aimed at making the corrections that you describe. Worked wonders even for my middle aged body.

    2. My husband is a chiropractor who is certified in Muscle Activation Technique. It’s designed to fix exactly what your talking about. It helps restore range of motion, and corrects inhingement issues and muscular imbalances. You can’t really perform it on yourself so you need to find a qualified practicioner, but it’s definitely worth it. My husband has had patients improve ROM by 50% in one treatment and many rate their pain as a 0 or 1 (from a 6-9 range) after only one session as well.

      1. I just looked at the MAT online and found that it has a lot of similarity to the PT that I mentioned above. My PT is also a Stotts Pilates instructor and she is the director of a sports medicine facility that focuses on biomechanics.

        I had her design an exercise program for me – was mostly but not exclusively pilates mat based – to work with the other PT treatments. The other treatments were mainly traction and deep tissue massage, with occasional moist heat.

        I was not trying to “fix” an acute injury but to restructure my biomechanics and to educate myself about the best form of exercise for my age and goals. I got exactly what I had hoped for and more – and also want to continue to learn about new techniques and exercises.

        I would love to find a local chiro who uses this method.

      2. I tried MAT for muscle/joint pain a few years ago. After two sessions I realized it was making me worse! Quite possibly it was the fault of the practitioner who didn’t seem to know much about the anatomy. There are a lot of people out there who jump on the latest bandwagon with the intention of making money, but they lack the proper training (i.e. quacks). Be careful who you go to.

        I’ve also used (and still use) the Egoscue exercises and also the Gokhale posture correction techniques. I’ve found both to be very helpful.

  16. Arthritis and other joint related ailments have long run in my family. A nutrition book I read once recommended that taking daily doses of glucosamine and condroitin would help stave of the onset of these problems before they occur. I discounted the advice but now after reading this I may have to re-think it.

  17. Mark, if you haven’t already I suggest you check out the fascinating findings of the Iodine Project pioneered by Dr. Guy Abraham (much of it is here: This is by far the most extensive and carefully researched experience with iodine supplementation since “iodophobia” virtually drove it out of medical practice.

    This evidence base shows remarkable benefits and very high safety of iodine supplementation at doses several orders of magnitude higher than the RDA, in the context of a holistic nutritional program that includes selenium.

    1. Thanks so much for sharing. Dr. Brownstein follows Abraham’s approach.

  18. I don’t have arthritis, as far as I know, but if I don’t take my gluc/cond regularly ski season is a little more painful. I love my teles too much to go w/o!

  19. Aside from the question of iodine supplementation, Mason’s question raises the issue of low carb/high fat metabolism in general.

    “I was told by some others, who eat very similar, and they advised me to start taking Iodine for my thyroid to help metabolize the fats that I now consume.”

    Most of us have been indoctrinated with the notion that a high/fast metabolism is desirable. After all, that’s how we stay slim, right?

    Part and parcel of that notion is the justification for eating whole grains. They keep your metabolism “carbed up” – but with a slower burn than simple carbs. Right?

    I recently saw a guest fitness expert on the Dr. Oz show promoting this idea – and Dr. Oz was right there with a strong second on the notion as good for the thyroid.

    Well, its information like this kind that made me hesitant to stop all grains (and legumes). I didn’t have gluten issues, didn’t eat gluten grains anyway, have no known grain allergies, etc. etc.

    I did have a recent diagnosis of mild hypothyroid (NOT the autoimmune form). Have a low normal basal temp and blood pressure, stubborn midsection body fat to lose, and elevating lipids. The LAST thing that I wanted to do was to reduce my thyroid function and/or slow my metabolism. Right?

    Well, I did it anyway. I cleaned EVERY SINGLE grain and legume product out of my house and never touched the stuff again. Period. Only way to get to the bottom of this issue, IMO.

    Its too soon to know all the results of that decision – but what I do know so far indicates that I am moving in the right direction for my health.

    As I read further about primal/ancestral lifestyle, I discover that maybe the Holy Grail of fast metabolism isn’t so important after all. Low carb eating is similar to calorie restricted eating – promotes low metabolism thought to lead to longevity.

    According to Nora Gedgaudas, in “Primal Body, Primal Mind” – one of the factors that centenarians all over the world have in common is low insulin – which is associated with (among other things) “reduced thyroid levels” (pg. 210).

    And, many of my life long questions about my own odd metabolism – as well as about the many long lived family member’s health/metabolism – are starting to be answered.

    What I had most recently arrived at is that while I don’t worry any more about a reduced thyroid function in the conventional sense, I do feel that an iodine deficiency explains a LOT for me.

    Wiping away the high carb/low fat – high metabolism is the Holy Grail – 98.6 body temp is the only way to go – veil of dogma is revealing what for me are the core issues – both pro and con.

    I want to stop fighting against my body’s natural tendencies and to start supporting them instead. That means, in part, increased iodine/iodide and sleeping when I feel sleepy early in the evening – such sleepiness indicating the normal daily cortisol cycles.

  20. You should not supplement with iodine unless you have been tested to show a deficiency in iodine. Most people can support their iodine intake through seafood. Iodized salt and processed foods of course should not be eaten as the fortification of foods with iodine is not an appropriate source. As someone with hypothyroidism and an iodine deficiency, I take iodine supplements as well as natural thyroid hormones, but only under the care and regulation of a doctor.

    1. Has your doctor shed any light on the subject/interaction of low carb/high fat diet, thyroid function, and iodine supplementation that might address Mason’s question?

  21. We saved ourselves over $5000 by skipping the surgery our vet suggested for our Bichon and using Glucosamine and MSM instead! Her back legs recovered from an “unrecoverable” accident (chasing squirrels – twice) in under a month. She is now almost 12 and runs around like she is a puppy. I’m not sure if this proves anything (except maybe the vet was/is a crook 🙂 ), but it sure is worth a try!

  22. On the seaweed front, I put pieces of dulse in my Big “A” salads. Delicious. It’s usually available in refrigerated bags in the seafood area. Has great shelf life.

  23. I have a question…Has this diet ever cured ANY disease like the Gerson Therapy has? Just curious if anyone can answer that?

    1. Well, I may regret it – but OK, I’ll bite….one time anyway….

      If the Gerson Institute can actually lay valid claim to any CURE, then why are the Gerson Clinics located outside the US (Mexico & Hungary) while the Gerson HQ is in San Diego?


      If you are genuinely seeking an answer to your question, then you might start by reading the success stories in the archive. You could even start with the story this past Friday – allergies (like Gerson Therapy has).

      1. The reason the Gerson clinics are located outside of the United States is because of the fact that it is ILLEGAL to treat cancer with Nutrition or anything other than chemotherapy, radiation, or surgery for that matter (the treatment of cancer being the primary modality of the Gerson clinics/therapy).

    2. My meat supplier (he used to grow GMO corn, now switched to pastured pigs and cows) had late stage prostate cancer.
      He cured himself with the WAPF diet…but without ANY grains.
      He was/is basically eating Paleo/Primal and doesn’t know it…he followed the WAPF recommendations for curing cancer.
      Weston A. Price Foundation.

  24. Another question isn’t anyone worried about the body becoming highly acidic? Then having to leach Calcium to buffer the acids.

    1. I use pH test strips for saliva and urine to monitor the effects of any diet – or medication, lifestyle change, etc. I adjust my diet/behavior accordingly to maintain optimal pH. I noticed that I tended to run more acidic systemically on a high carb diet than I do on the primal diet, so far. Still exploring primal cuisine, though.

    2. The reason why cows grow a deadly strain of e-coli is because of grains.
      Same goes for humans/dogs/cats…

      The more grains and man-made sugars you eat, the more acidic you become.

      This also sucks bio-organic sodium (alkaline lining of stomach and intestines) off the intestinal walls…the body then has to take this slimey liquid from the joints to make up for the loss in the digestive tract.
      Joints get dry, damage occurs —> arthritis pain.

  25. My dog had a little bit of osteoarthritis so I gave him glucosamine which helped. When I switched his food from the processed gluten-filled garbage to a premixed raw meat, liver and a few vegetables his arthritis got better and I noticed it had no effect.

    I think glucosamine and the other lectin binding sugars are only theraputic in this regard. The lectins in wheat, corn and soy bind to glucosamine. What’s worse is glucosamine is part of the bacterial membrane, so these lectins can direct bacteria into the bloodstream and transport them throughout.

    1. WOW! Now, that’s a thought! Glucosamine as a chelating agent to detox lectins.

      So, if I understand you right, you are saying that endogenous glucosamine act as a membrane transport in the presence of lectins? And, supplementing with exogenous glucosamine acts to draw these lectins away from the membrane barrier?

      Of course, reduce/eliminate lectins and there is little/no need for this action. Might explain some of the individual variation in therapeutic benefit.

  26. This may be an urban legend but I’ve heard that shark cartilage is used to make chondroitin. Is this true? If so, considering the current conservation status of sharks, I think it would be a product to avoid (being primal/green/natural etc. all goes hand-in-hand to me). If not then what IS it made from?

    1. Some chondroitin comes from chitin – found in the exoskeleton of shellfish. That’s why the label on these supplements warns about shellfish allergies.

      But, there are plenty of other sources for chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine besides shark fin – including primal bone broth, soups made with animal joints of any kind – my favorite is traditional chicken stock made with chicken feet. Canned salmon and sardine with skin and bones in.

      Basically what we’re looking for is cartilage and connective tissue, which is why chicken feet are such a good source of both – plus collagen, and various trace elements.

      Besides, what’s greener than utilizing a chicken part that is usually discarded?

      1. Opps – need to clarify/correct myself a bit.

        I meant to say that ~glucosamine~ is sometimes derived from chitin. But, its also found in bones and bone marrow.

        Chondroitin sulfate is found in the cartilage and connective tissues.

        When we made bone broth using a knuckle/joint, we get both. Chicken feet are nearly all bone, cartilage, and connective tissue.

      2. I’m sure I read somewhere that chicken necks are the best for chicken bone broth – they usually have the thyroid still attached apparently (not sure what this provides, iodine??), plus they are all fine bone and cartilage and completely break down when they’re boiled up…

        Does anyone know more about necks?

        1. Its all good – necks make a good stock, too. Most traditional chicken stock recipes follow the Weston A. Price method of using the head, neck, feet, and wing tips. All high connective tissue ratios, too. You’ll find a number of variations on that theme based on cultural and individual preferences. Stocks made 100% from feet tend to have a different feel – they are the most thick and gelatinous. Properly made, a spoon will stand up in the finished stock.

    2. Oh – and its not an urban legend – shark cartilage is sold as a supplement and paired with glucosamine. I think if you read the label you can avoid products with shark cartilage pretty easily.

  27. Be sure to check the ingredients on any seaweed purchased at Asian markets – MSG is common as well as sugar, especially if it is marketed as a snack.

  28. Perhaps all those reported benefits came from the sulphate molecule, not chondroitin or glucosamine?!

    1. Could be. Both chondroitin and glucosamine are sulphates. Probably why they are paired with MSM.

  29. Been having various random thoughts for awhile about primal diet, thyroid function, and metabolism. I wondered if one of reasons that some people seem to have more success losing weight on the primal diet is that they eat more foods that contain iodine than they normally do – and that supports thyroid health.

    Another thought was about the improved quality and quantity of protein that comes along for many people on a primal diet. I looked into that aspect and found that the amino acid tyrosine supports thyroid function.

    Tyrosine is synthesized in the body from phenylalanine. Primal sources would include: Chicken, turkey, fish, almonds, avocados, milk, cheese, yogurt, cottage cheese, pumpkin seeds, and sesame seeds.

  30. Some great info on thyroid and iodine! My friend is having some thyroid issues so I’ll definitely be telling him to read this asap

  31. Warning to those that are insulin resistant – Glucosamine is a protein sugar, and can exacerbate insulin resistance. I used it quite successfully to help reduce my back pain (two herniated discs) and it worked, but not as well as reducing my weight did. Once I’m back down to a good weight, I may use it again to help with the various injuries that happened while being an active youth.

  32. Anyone interested in the iodine topic would be well advised to read Mark’s iodine primer. Its in the “related posts” links above. I just finished reading it and I thought he did a good job of addressing several points.

  33. I’ve been taking 25mg of potassium iodide every day for a while now. I have experimented with the dose over the past few months. When I first started taking it, I was taking 50mg. I went all in, no gradual ramping up for me. At this dose I would feel very warm inside, but it was summer so it could be a coincidence. I was also losing weight well. People warned me this was too much so I started taking only 12.5mg. I felt colder but it was winter. I hit a plateau on my weight loss at the same time. Recently I started taking 25mg and also adding 200mcg of selenium. It’s still winter but I’m a whole lot warmer. Every night I wake up a few hours after my dose feeling very warm. I’m also losing weight again.

    I’m low carb almost all the time with random spikes in my carbs now and then. I have never been diagnosed with hypothyroid but doctors have always said I am probably hypothyroid. Their tests always come out low normal for whatever they test, which rules out treatment. My temperature is usually only 97.6 at the doctor’s office. I’ve always avoided salt in my diet not for health reasons but because I never liked a salty taste. It’s possible I’ve been deficient in iodine for many years.

    I have heard that uterine fibroids are a symptom of iodine deficiency. I had a hysterectomy 7 years ago for fibroids. I’ve also heard that iodine deficiency leads to a low sex drive. Still waiting on that one. I thought something was stirring a few months ago, but it hasn’t come back.

    I’m happy to have possibly found a way to support my thyroid through diet and supplements. When my KI runs out, I will try a supplement that has both iodide and iodine because I hear that some parts of your body favor iodide and others favor iodine.

    1. Sounds like 25 mg (with 200 mcg selenium) may be your “sweet spot” :-). As I mentioned below, my supplementation source – a research physician – says that most people do quite well with 25 mg.

      I am seeing surprisingly rapid response to 12.5 mg – warmer and pinker, among other things – and would be surprised if I ever needed more than 25mg. I may actually eventually maintain well on 12.5 mg, after sufficiently clearing my body of toxic halides and other pollutants that block iodine uptake.

      You may also find that in time – after fully detoxing – that 25 mgs gives you all the support that you could wish for, Oh, and don’t overlook that there is more to iodine/iodide supplemental context than selenium. Vit C complex and vit B complex are also helpful.

  34. N-Acetyl-Glucosamine has been researched for gut health. It works better and muscle-tests better on the gut than Glucosamine Sulfate. Check it out.
    Regarding iodine and thyroid, you DO NOT want to supplement with Iodine until you have had blood tests to confirm that you do NOT have Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. This is extremely common, and is auto-immune thyroid. Iodine can make it flare up badly.

  35. If people are looking for solutions to joint issues, something that has done wonders for me is both PRP and Prolo. I used to take all the joint supplements but have since stopped since using this natural treatment. A treatment usually lasts me 6-10 months. These have been done by athletes to get back faster and strengthen joints and it absolutely worked for me!

  36. Great information, as always. Before going primal, I took glucosamine that was a liquid (put it in my water). It worked awesomely but even more awesome was that after a mere two weeks of serious primal eating, my knees and hips quit hurting. The knee was injured when I was 12 (almost 52 now) and I couldn’t even take the steps at work. No longer true! I have been directing everyone to MDA and just told them to search and read. Keeps me from sounding preachy and they know where to find me. Cannot say enough good things about this way of life.

    1. We are in a similar boat (14, and 59 – left knee). I notice that while I wasn’t having a lot of joint issues before, that I feel even better in that regard now that I am eating primal.

      Like your approach to directing without being overly directive :-).

  37. This subject is perfect timing for me.

    4 yrs ago I was diagnosed with moderate hip arthrits (I was 54). MRI’s bone scans, the whole bit (was having lots of pain). Dr. also suspected early avascular necrosis and warned that I would eventually have to have a full hip replacement/and or core decompression. Forget that! I started an exercise program (cardio burnout), low fat, high carb (grains etc). Lost some weight, felt better, until 4-5 mos ago. Horrible pain. Dr. started me on Meloxicam which I only took when the pain was really bad because of the side effects. Then he wanted me to start on cymbalta. Didn’t want to go down that path either. Discovered Primal Blueprint about a month ago and have learned so much about controlling inflamation of the joints through elimination of grains and other foods. A friend recommended tumeric as an anti-inflmatory and I don’t know if its placebo or not, but I don’t care but now I’m on no pain meds, no NSAID’s. I just had another MRI done and have an appt with orthopedist on Wednesday. My avascular necrosis (AVN) has worsened. Without the AVN I could probably get by for awhile without surgical intervention as I am feeling much better.

  38. I have taken G/C/MSM for many years and I think it helps. I went to a talk one evening where 3 Orthopedic surgeons said G/C does not work and was useless, so I quit taking it for a month or so. Not a good idea. I felt more aches and pains in my knees and back. So I started back on it. My general practice doc says to take it, he says his patients benefit from using it, and take the recommended dose on the bottle. Want to add that with my Paleo diet, I now mostly have NO discomfort in the right knee, and generally feel pretty good most of the time, in regards to arthritis aches. G/C/MSM DOES take 4-6 weeks before you start to notice the benefit.

  39. I take MSM, and though I don’t notice any difference in joint pain, it has helped tremendously with interstitial cystitis. If I forget to take the MSM or my high strength B vit complex, I notice a return of symptoms – in fact its how I know I forgot!

  40. There is already a great deal of misinformation here.
    1) EVERYONE is severely iodine deficient. Every cell in the body has iodine receptors that have been filled with toxic chemicals which kick out the iodine. We live in a sea of these toxic chemicals in our food, water & furniture.
    2) Iodine is ESSENTIAL to human health. It is NOT optional.
    3) A few yummy seaweed dishes a week is just not enough to detoxify the nasty chemicals that have filled our iodine receptors.
    4) The book,”Why Everyone needs iodine” by Dr. Brownstien should be used to detox our bodies, and restore proper iodine levels.

    5) See our iodine thread for more:

    6) Detox symptoms are many and shocking. See our iodine thread for more.


    1. Thanks so much, Grizz :-). I was planning on checking the forum soon for just such a thread.

      At this point, I don’t know that I’d go so far as to say that “everyone” is “severely” deficient -but I would say with growing confidence that the average person is very likely to be clinically deficient – based on the pollutants alone not to mention dietary deficiencies.

      And, I do have Brownstein’s book(s). The plan that I am following was developed by one of his colleagues who is also a fellow iodine researcher – only varies by the use of titration rather that a top down detox using the full 50 mg.

      I always made a point to get what I thought was sufficient iodide and iodine, both, from various sources. Am now realizing what “sufficient” really means where iodine is concerned.

  41. The topic of thyroid and iodine is really timely. I’m currently dealing with thyroid cancer. As far as iodine goes, my endocrine surgeon told me that it’s extremely difficult to have an iodine deficiency. According to, the major support website for thyroid cancer, when preparing for radioactive iodine treatment you need to drastically reduce iodine consumption two weeks before the treatment to help it work. The list is pretty extensive and I’m wondering what the heck I’m going to be able to eat for those two weeks. I’m including it so you can see the foods that contain iodine. It appears to be everything I currently eat.

    The foods and additives that you have to avoid are below. I’m only including the ones that are relevant. Other items on the list are commercial bakery products, all the food dyes, soy products, etc., so I didn’t include the rest of the list. I was surprised to see sea salt on the list of things to avoid. It never occurred to me that it would be high in iodine.

    • Iodized salt and sea salt and any foods containing iodized salt or sea salt. Non-iodized salt may be used. For example, Kosher salt is okay unless the label says that it is iodized or sea salt. The reason to avoid sea salt is that all products from the ocean tend to be high in iodine. You can usually find plain, non-iodized salt next to the iodized salt at your grocer. Read the label. (One teaspoon of iodized salt has 400 mcg of iodine.)
    • Seafood and sea products (fish, shellfish, seaweed, seaweed tablets, kelp). These are all very high in iodine and should be avoided.
    • Foods or products that contain these sea-based additives: carrageenan, agar-agar, algin, alginate, nori (these food additives are seaweed by-products).
    • Dairy products (milk, cheese, cream, yogurt, butter, ice cream, powdered dairy creamers, whey, casein, other dairy products). Note: Nondairy creamers often have iodine-containing ingredients, too. A study published in 2004 in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism reported on tests of 18 brands of milk in the Boston, Massachusetts area. It reported that 250 ml of milk (about 8 ounces, or 1 cup, or 16 Tablespoons) contained from 88 to 168 micrograms of iodine and averaged 115 mcg. It noted that sources of iodine in milk include iodine in cattle feed, the products containing iodine used to clean teats and udders, and a small amount from equipment cleaning products. (Some low-iodine diets allow very small amounts of milk or other dairy, if not listed in the first three ingredients on a label. There is no dairy in any of the recipes in this cookbook.)
    • Egg yolks or whole eggs or foods containing whole eggs. Egg whites are acceptable, because they contain little or no iodine. (Some low- iodine diets allow foods with very small amounts of eggs, if not listed in the first three ingredients on a label. The recipes in this cookbook use only egg whites.)
    • Most Chocolate (for its milk content). Cocoa powder and some dark chocolates are permitted. Check the label for other ingredients not allowed on the low-iodine diet. The ThyCa cookbook has recipes with permitted chocolate.
    • Some diets diets say to avoid rhubarb and potato skins. The inside of the potato is fine.
    • Iodine-Containing Vitamins, and Food Supplements. Also products containing iodate or iodide. Check the label and ingredients and discontinue completely if iodine is included. Most vitamins with minerals contain iodine.
    Then there’s the foods to limit. I didn’t include the paragraphs on grains/rice for obvious reasons, but this one is going to be hard:
    • Fresh meats. Up to 5 ounces per day of fresh meats such as chicken, beef, pork, lamb, and veal are fine on the low-iodine diet. (Up to 6 ounces, according to one of the researchers, who noted that meat contains 25-130 mcg of iodine per pound.) Whole cuts tend to contain less iodine than do ground meats. Also, check the package label on meats, including whole turkeys, turkey breasts, turkey cutlets, chicken, and all pork products. Many food makers inject broths into turkey or chicken or pork. The label may not indicate whether the broth contains iodized salt. If you are not sure, go to your local butcher for fresh turkey, pork, or chicken.
    I’m almost 57 years old and have been at or just above 200 pounds most of my adult life, topping 230 when I was pregnant with my daughter. After eight months of eating a low-carb, mostly primal diet I’m down almost 50 pounds, my cholesterol has dropped from 200 to 159, my HDL is over 50 for the first time ever, my triglycerides are down from 190 to 124. My A1C went from 6.1 to 5.7 and I’m off one of the three diabetes meds I was on. I’m also on half the blood pressure medicine I was on a year ago and will shortly have to decrease that again. After a lifetime of being a total sugar/carb-aholic, I can’t even stand the thought of eating any of that crap again and I’m really at a loss to figure out how I’m going to eat.

    1. Oh, boy, Kim – I am about to REALLY step in it big time and do something I really hesitate to do but here goes…

      First of all – a Big Congrats on the progress you have made with weight, blood work, meds and the like. That is HUGE! Gives me a lot of encouragement as a 59 yo female.

      About that thyroid cancer & treatment…I am so sorry that you are now dealing with such a serious health issue – especially when you could be celebrating your health victories.

      Would you consider looking at other treatment approaches as complementary or alternative? There are people who have been in your shoes who have a lot to share about their experiences with thyroid cancer.

      And, you might want to read what Grizz has posted above. I don’t know about “everyone” but Dr. Brownstein (who is a board certified family practice MD) says that 90% of the patients that he sees are iodine deficient.

      The iodine content in food is only half the picture, at best. We may put plenty of iodine into our mouths – but how much is actually taken up by the receptors? Many pollutants block iodine uptake – some on a continual basis.

      Have you actually been tested for your iodine level?

      1. Thanks. I will check out the post again. All help and info at this point is welcome. After tomorrow my thyroid will be gone and I’m sure there will be other issues to contend with. But I am certainly interested in getting the best care from this point forward. Thanks for the info.

        1. Kim,

          Please come join us at the MDA forum. Use the link that Grizz has provided in the comment above to find the iodine thread.

          Its a big thread so just go to the last page and post to let us know that you are there. We will share the resources that we have and we are in the process of finding new resources as well.

          Best of everything with your medical procedure – hope that all goes well.

  42. I’m confused about why iodine supplementation is supposedly so “dangerous” or requires caution when every cell in your body needs/uses iodine? That doesn’t make sense.

    Either way I don’t have to worry about iodine supplementation ruining my thyroid because I don’t have one anymore. I have no concerns about supplementing outside of serious bromide detox (no symptoms yet), and every reason to do it (migraine, fibroids, ovarian cysts, and breast cancer are rampant in my family… all signs of iodine deficiency).

    1. Aside from the few instances where a person is intolerant/allergic, or in the case of massive/chronic overdose, I don’t see either how either organic iodine or inorganic iodide is dangerous.

      For me the issue has been to determine what exactly the safe dosing range would be. As Bill pointed out here in a comment yesterday, we have more or less rampant “iodophobia” in society these days.

      In Mark’s “iodine primer” (see related posts) he draws the analogy to vitamin D. That’s exactly what I was thinking while exploring the option of iodine/iodide supplementation.

      I am old enough that I remember when there were warnings about the various dire consequences of developing vitamin D toxicity via supplementation. The RDA was then set at 200 iu – just enough to prevent rickets. Mark’s primer explains the RDA and the problems with it.

      I always took such warnings to heart in those days. Fortunately, I was also into sunbathing and other regular outdoor activities – and lived in a southern latitude – so vitamin D supplementation wasn’t an issue for me anyway.

      And, the official word on vitamin D at that time was that almost no one was at risk of deficiency.

      Then, we had the dire warnings about sunbathing….And, the official word on vitamin D at that time was still that almost no one was at risk of deficiency.

      Anyway, a few years later and now we have an “epidemic” of vitamin D deficiency. Huh?

      Conventional doctors are prescribing up to 10,000 iu oral, daily – and giving injections weekly of 50,000 iu.

      I take 10,000 iu year round and get sufficient sun exposure in the warm months – and at 25-OH, D3 37 ng/mL I am no where near toxicity levels. So much for dire warnings…..

      So, now when I look at the claims that iodine deficiency is rare in the US and at the pitiful RDA for iodine – as Mark points out only enough to prevent goiter – I am reminded of all the dire warnings about vitamin D toxicity and claims of rare deficiencies.

      Dr. Brownstein routinely prescribes 50 mg per day of an iodine/iodide supplement – in the context of a supplementation program with appropriate adjuncts like selenium. He rarely sees serious detox or toxicity issues.

      I am taking the 12.5 mg dose, per month, up to 50 mg approach. I would rather detox more slowly, thankyouverymuch.

      My hunch is, based on my reactions so far, that I may only need 25 mgs supplementation anyway. Evidently, according my supplementation source – a research physician – most people do well on 25 mgs.

      I am also weaning myself off of the low dose – .05 mg – levothyroxine. T4 medication keeps my TSH in range but that’s about all it does. And, my doctor refused to do a full thyroid panel at the time she did the TSH. I’ve since changed doctors – but am still not satisfied that I am in my medical home as yet.

      Anyway, once I have been off the levothyroxine and on iodine supplementation long enough, I plan to get retested with a full thyroid panel and for iodine level. Will probably see Dr. Brownstein for that.

      Meanwhile, I know the symptoms of detox, the symptoms of intolerance/allergy/overdose – and the symptoms of deficiency. I am watching carefully.

      As a doctor – who was annoyed with my questioning his advice – once told me….”You are taking your own life into your own hands!”

      My response? “Well, yes, I am – aren’t I?”

      1. Well that makes alot more sense than iodine being dangerous. I just thought it was odd that so many of the commenters said that.

        No chance of me getting off the levothyroxine, but my doc has agreed to test my T3 levels and if I ever need to add T3 to my dosage he’s willing to do that, so that’s good.

        Considering the overwhelming number of iodine deficiency symptoms in myself and my entire family, I didn’t even bother with testing myself. I’m not taking a high dose, I know the symptoms of detox, and I’m taking sufficient selenium and Vit C.

        1. Please see Grizz’s comment above – and consider visiting the iodine thread at the forum that he shared the link for.

          Have you read the book “Stop the Thyroid Madness”?

  43. Mason’s question was about being new to eating a higher fat diet. My go-to for that issue would not start with thyroid or iodine, rather with dietary enzymes that breakdown fat i.e. lipase.

  44. The conclusions for Glucosamine seems to be inconclusive and the jury is still out on whether it helps with bone and joint structure and strength. I have always supplemented Glucosamine in pill form alongside some heavy running training – fortunately no serious bone/joint injuries for now. Some of this is down to moving to a mor minimal/barefoot style of running from cushioned heel striking shoes I expect (and a balanced diet!).

  45. The best seaweed supplier is Larch Hanson out of Maine. He is an unbelievable man with great stories and wisdom. He can be found at and Look him up you wont regret it.

  46. Another good source of seaweed is from Ryan Drum in Waldron, WA. I have had it and it is tasty. He has a web site.

  47. Larch Hanson & Ryan Drum – what fabulous resources! And, the public invited to stay overnight for free at Hanson’s in Maine. Sounds like a great mini vacation!

    That’s one of the things that I love about this blog – so many wonderful people sharing their truly valuable resources – simply for the love of it!

    Big Thanks!

  48. i began taking over the counter joint and cartilige supplements and then a few months later had my left shoulder seize up on me..i literally couldn’t lift it above the plane of my shoulder..or even force it up any a sports medicine physician went in and scraped a band of some kinda rough gritty stuff out of my shoulder joint..then after therapy i regained all of my range of motion..I am still not able to lay on the shoulder and there is sometimes pain associated w/ too much or too little activity…this has made me wonder if the supplement could have accumulated in the joint area causing the freezing of the joint..sinc e then i have taken no joint suplements…this is purely anectdotal and my doctor simply said “who knows”…keep an open mind and pay attention to any changes as you use always “common sense”

  49. I used chondroitin for a year after knee surgery for a torn meniscus and it worked great. Didn’t notice anything until after 6 months though. I’ve stopped now for a few years and my symptoms are back.

  50. About MSM. I take MSM usually with chondroitin and glucosamine to stop leg cramps. It is very effective.

  51. Impressive article. After long time found like this information. Great job!

  52. I take MSM daily (3-6g) with collagen hydrolysate and regular unsweetened gelatin. I believe they work synergistically to fight inflammation and rebuild tissue. Within 2-3 weeks of doing this my back pain vanished, my skin completely cleared up, and I felt more vitality.

    I would prefer broth but the problem is in the summer time I can’t being myself to slurp on a bowl of hot soup.

  53. I have had chronic low back pain for a couple of yrs now. I’m a fairly healthy middle aged woman,same stable healthy weight for 20 yrs, good diet though not primal. I tried everything to manage the pain – acupuncture, chiro, neurologist, spine dr, orthopedist, PT, MRI, xrays, RX meds, creams, salves, herbs, NSAIDS, shots. Oy! Out of desperation I went to a new spine dr on Oct 24 who prescribed me 4 Alieve a day for 2 weeks “and let’s see how that works!” Gah! My liver would cry I think! I finally tried MSM – sulfur. I went above the dose recommended on the bottle by quite a bit. I could not BELIEVE the sheer pain relief I felt within 3 days. Not just in my low back, but overall. No morning stiffness, so much more flexible, around the clock relief. I find that several tsp a day does the trick, and I can tell when I go lower than that, the pain will creep back in. I’m hoping that all this sulfur isn’t bad for me, because I am loving not thinking about how to manage pain on a daily basis. I wonder if I am throwing any other minerals off, or what I need to balance out this intake. I have a small appetite, so I cannot stuff myself with excess fruits/veggies/meats any more than I already so. Any thoughts?

  54. You need to use a supplement that has both glucosamine and MSM – especially if you are lifting weights at the gym. Glucosamine support strength of connective tissue and MSM is a natural source of sulfur needed for optimal connective tissue health and joint support. Since I turned 32 (5x a week weight lifter), I use the Dr Max Powers Joing Support supplement – it has both of these ingredients, and I have never had any problems with my joints or lifting heavy. Recommended by my doctor because I was claiming about soreness and lack of mobility – but the Dr max Supplements just took that away within a week.

  55. The actual effect of glucosamine is the interference with any degenerative agglutinins that are primary part of a subject’s diet. As the the general western diet has been established, glucosamine, as N-acetylglucosamine, is one of the 8 essential carbohydrates that occurs in the human body. It’s found in the brain, thyroid, liver, small intestine, testes, epithelial cells of the endocrine and sebaceous glands, and endothelial cells of blood vessels. Epithelial cells mucosal cells also occur in abundance at the joints on the surface of ligaments, the respiratory system and the digestive tract.

    When WGA (Wheat Germ Agglutinin) is introduced into the blood stream by the consumption of various grains (the agglutinin was first discovered in wheat; however wheat is not the only grain that produces it), it is deposited at any cells that produce N-acetylglucosamine. Within minutes, obvious symptoms include coughing, watery eyes and painful joints, from the agglutination of WGA and direct apoptosis of cells in those areas.

    Glucosamine has been suggested as a supplement by indirect observation. Certain symptoms seem to subside, but because most subjects do not understand the reason why, nor the initial cause of the symptoms, the positive effects seem random. To directly interfere with the action of WGA, the glucosamine supplements must be taken within minutes prior to consuming foods that contain WGA or WGA-like agglutinins. Otherwise, the glucosamine becomes metabolized and is generally not useful for the intended purpose.

    It is more sensible to stop consuming foods that contain WGA and WGA-like agglutinins instead of taking the supplement. There is no grain that is “good” for the human metabolism.

  56. I had Graves Disease in 2008 and was given the radioactive pill which killed the thyroid so then I became hypo.
    I am currently on 150 Mcg of levothyroxine
    Through the years I also developed osteoarthritis in my hands, with swollen joints on fingers.
    Can I take G/C/MSM for the pain and swelling of my fingers? Or does this interact with the Levothyroxine