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    The Gluten Intolerance Group of North America on Iodine and Dermatitis Herpetiformis

    Scott Adams

    The the connection between iodine and Dermatitis Herpetiformis is briefly described by the following excerpt from a resource guide of the Gluten Intolerance Group of North America:

    • Iodine can trigger eruptions in some people (with dermatitis herpetiformis). However, iodine is a essential nutrient and should not be removed from the diet without a physicians supervision.
    • Iodine does not contain gluten. Iodine can worsen the symptoms of skin lesions in patients with dermatitis herpetiformis.
    • When the deposits of IgA have been cleared from the skin over time by following a gluten free diet, iodine should no longer present any problem for dermatitis herpetiformis patients.

    As background, for those who are not familiar with Dermatitis Herpetiformis, the following description comes from a resource guide of the Gluten Intolerance Group of North America:

    • Dermatitis herpetiformis (dermatitis herpetiformis) is a chronic disease of the skin marked by groups of watery, itch blisters. The ingestion of gluten (the proteins gliadin and prolamines contained in wheat, rye, oats, and barley) triggers an immune system response that deposits a substance, IgA (immonuglobin A), under the top layer of skin. IgA is present in affected as well as unaffected skin. dermatitis herpetiformis is a hereditary autoimmune disease linked with celiac disease. If you have dermatitis herpetiformis, you always have celiac disease. With dermatitis herpetiformis the primary lesion is on the skin rather than the small intestine. The degree of damage to the small intestine is often less severe or more patchy then those with only celiac disease. Both diseases are permanent and symptoms/ damage will occur after comsuming gluten.

    When my husband was diagnosed with dermatitis herpetiformis last November, he went to visit a expert in dermatitis herpetiformis, Dr. John J. Zone, at the University of Utah (USA). The written instructions Dr. Zone gave him included the following statement:

    • The mineral iodine is known to make the disease (dermatitis herpetiformis) worse. For this reason, foods and supplements high in iodine should be avoided. Table salt which is not iodized should be used. This can be found in most grocery stores with the other salts. Avoid kelp and other seaweed products, and do not use sea salt. If you take any nutritional supplements, examine them carefully to avoid any iodine containing ingredients.

    It is not necessary for dermatitis herpetiformis patients to eliminate iodine completely from their diet, merely to avoid foods high in iodine as described above. Dr. Zone also explained that dermatitis herpetiformis patients need not avoid iodine indefinitely. Iodine is an important mineral for our bodies. dermatitis herpetiformis patients can stop avoiding iodine when their rash symptoms clear up which can take anywhere from a few months to a couple of years on a gluten-free diet.

    More about iodine:

    • Intake of large amounts of inorgana iodide is known to exacerbate symptoms and a few patients have been reported to improve on low iodide diets. However, this is not a mainstay of treatment and need only be considered if patients are consuming excessive iodide in the form of vitamin pills, kelp, or seafood. Likewise, some patients have reported exacerbation with thyroid hormone replacement therapy and thyrotoxicosis. In such cases, excessive thyroid replacement should be avoided and thyrotoxicosis treated appropriately.
    • Dermatitis Herpetiformis, John J. Zone MD, Curr Probl Dermatol, Jan/Feb 1991, p36
    • Dermatitis Herpetiformis is considered a rare skin disease.
    • The true incidence and prevalence of dermatitis herpetiformis appears to vary in different areas of the world and may vary within the same country. During 1987, 158 cases of documented dermatitis herpetiformis were identified in the state of Utah out of a population of 1.6 million, a prevalence of 9.8 per 100,000.
    • Dermatitis Herpetiformis, John J. Zone MD, Curr Probl Dermatol, Jan/Feb 1991, p15

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    Guest maria edh

    Posted

    Having been recently diagnosed. I was unaware about Iodine's role, which makes me believe that staying away from shell fish (for 20 years) has played some role in this illness. Thank you

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    An eye opener, no one ever told me about this link. I have used sea salt since diagnosis, found I have an intolerance to all seaweed products, and now I'm wondering if this is why I can't get my dermatitis to clear up. Thanks for starting this thought process!!

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    Guest Rebecca Johnson

    Posted

    I never heard about iodine before and now I will talk to my doctor about it. Thanks !!!

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    Guest Laura H.

    Posted

    I made the connection between my Dermatitis Herpetiformis and iodine 16 years ago and was able to clear up the blisters by avoiding sources of iodine. However, even after I found out I had celiac five years ago, I didn't connect the blister outbreaks to celiac until I read Dr. Green's book. When he stated that iodine was the trigger, I almost jumped out of my chair. Now everything was clear-- celiac was actually the cause, while iodine was merely the trigger. Unfortunately, because I avoided iodine for 16 years, my thyroid essentially 'died' last year, and since all thyroid meds contain iodine, I break out in blisters at the slightest gluten contamination. My back is also covered with an itchy rash, my throat is sore, and my thyroid is inflamed. My doctors seem at a loss at treating this sensitivity to iodine. So, I would like to reiterate Dr. Green's advice to not completely avoid iodine--your thyroid needs it to be healthy.

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    Guest Ursula

    Posted

    Thank you for this insightful information. I have always found that my eczema gets worse when I eat prawns and now I know why. I will definitely be on the look-out for foods high in iodine in the future so as to avoid them.

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    Guest Carol Z.

    Posted

    Really helpful. Since so many of us have thyroid problems too and must take supplements, this is a big issue. There is not much clear information out there and doctors don't seem so well informed.

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    Guest Julie M.

    Posted

    My son Andrew is 15 years old now, he was diagnosis with Dermatitis Herpetaformis at 8, has been rash-free for 5 years by being on a Gluten Free diet continuously and Iodine free diet for approximately 6 months after his initial diagnosis). He has recently relapsed, I believe he has been eating more fast foods, going through puberty, and has been in the ocean 3-4 times a week for several months now possibly absorbing iodine through his skin. I am unsure if puberty and the absorption through the skin can trigger Dermatitis Herpetaformis. He is looking and feeling terrible, so frustrating for him and me as a mother.

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    Guest Michelle E

    Posted

    At 33 years old I finally got diagnosed with celiac this year with a simple blood test (after 3 years of gut pain). To make up for my lack of vitamins - I was taking a fantastic, all inclusive vitamin religiously in addition to a gluten free diet. My gut was great, but I got wicked cases of 'poison ivy' 3 times in one summer - a record even for me. THANK YOU for this article. I switched off the vitamin, which was high in iodine and haven't had a major outbreak since. I did get a prescription for Fluocinonide .05% a topical steroid that helped before I knew to cut back on iodine. Now it seems that I can usually just cut back on shrimp intake (had a flare up on vacation when eating lots of shrimp) and that stops the rash from spreading and turning into the big bumps.

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    Usually going in the ocean soothes skin rashes. Does anyone know if it's bad for a person with Dermatitis Herpetiformis to go into the ocean?

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    Guest Katey

    Posted

    Thank you! I recently started taking kelp, and the watery blisters I got from gluten intolerance multiplied and became worse. I had no idea about the relationship between the two until now.

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