We’ve all been told that we need fluoride for our teeth. Our toothpaste tubes claim fluoride as the active ingredient that protects against tooth decay. Our water is fluoridated. Some dentists even prescribe fluoride pills. Unfortunately, though, fluoride appears to do much more harm than good. You might suppose that I’m on the fringe here, but the movement against fluoride–particularly the fluoridation of water–is gaining momentum. Some countries that previously fluoridated their water have stopped the practice. Many others have always refused to fluoridate.
So why do Americans drink fluoridated water? Well, it sounds to me like good ol’ American enthusiasm. After preliminary seemingly positive results, we poured it into our drinking water without sufficient testing. Sound familiar? Reminds me of genetically modified foods…
But I digress.
I avoid fluoride for the sake of my thyroid. Both of my parents have Hashimoto’s Disease, an autoimmune thyroid disorder that causes hypothyroidism (insufficient thyroid hormone production), and I have “normal” hypothyroidism myself. Thus, I’m always on the lookout for ways to give my poor little thyroid gland a fighting chance.
Where does fluoride fit into this picture? I first learned about the connection between fluoride and hypothyroidism from a book called Iodine: Why You Need It Why You Can’t Live Without It. Despite its desperate need of a good editor, I still highly recommend this book. You may already know that the thyroid must have iodine to function. When we talk about T3 (Triiodothyronine) and T4 (Thyroxine), we are distinguishing between thyroid hormones with 3 iodine attached versus thyroid hormones with 4 iodine attached. See the capital letters I in the diagrams below? They represent iodine. Note that everything else in the structure of T3 and T4 is the same.
Okay, so we need iodine for our thyroid hormones. Enough said. Here’s where the fluoride comes in to play–er, wreck everything. Fluoride falls on the periodic table into the same column as iodine, and so do bromine and chlorine. Check it out (they’re in the second column from the right):
These elements, together with astatine, form the group of gases known as the halogens. Why are they all halogens? Simply put, they all bond the same way and to the same kinds of receptors. This means that you could switch out a fluoride or a bromine for that precious iodine. Not good.
So what happens when your body gets an overabundance of fluorine, bromine, and chlorine and a paltry supply of iodine? Not only do you become iodine deficient, the receptors that should be available to bond iodine are already full of other (toxic) halogens. Yikes!
Now, in case you’re thinking, “Okay, so that makes sense on paper, but what about in the real world?” I’ve got some compelling research for you to review. The following summary comes from www.fluoridealert.org:
According to the US National Research Council, “several lines of information indicate an effect of fluoride exposure on thyroid function.”
Fluoride’s potential to impair thyroid function is perhaps best illustrated by the fact that — up until the 1970s — European doctors used fluoride as a thyroid-suppressing medicationfor patients with HYPER-thyroidism (over-active thyroid). Fluoride was utilized because it was found to be effective at reducing the activity of the thyroid gland – even at doses as low as 2 mg/day.
Today, many people living in fluoridated communities are ingesting doses of fluoride (1.6-6.6 mg/day) that fall within the range of doses (2 to 10 mg/day) once used by doctors to reduce thyroid activity in hyperthyroid patients.
While it may be that the thyroid in a patient with hyperthyroidism is particularly susceptible to the anti-thyroid actions of fluoride, there is concern that current fluoride exposuresmay be playing a role in the widespread incidence of HYPO-thyroidism (under-active thyroid) in the U.S.
Hypothyrodisim, most commonly diagnosed in womenover 40, is a serious condition with a diverse range of symptoms including: fatigue, depression, weight gain, hair loss, muscle pains, increased levels of “bad” cholesterol (LDL), and heart disease.. The drug (Synthroid) used to treat hypothyroidism is now one of the top five prescribed drugs in the U.S.
As recommended by the US National Research Council: “The effects of fluoride on various aspects of endocrine function should be examined further, particularly with respect to a possible role in the development of several diseases or mental states in the United States.”
(To read the references and studies supporting the above conclusion, go here.)
While the reasons for avoiding fluorine don’t stop here, I am running out of time. Please investigate this issue further for yourself. Keep in mind that any ill effects on adults will be many times worse on infants and children, including the unborn. I highly recommend exploring the Fluoride Action Network website, particularly the 50 Reasons to Oppose Fluoridation section and the Fluoride Health Effects Database section. The latter is especially disturbing, with fluoridation implicated in brain damage, hormone impairment, cancer, gastrointestinal problems, and kidney malfunction.
But what about our teeth? If we avoid fluoride because of its negative side effects, will we end up with dozens of cavities? Probably not. In fact, fluoride, upon reexamination, does not seem to prevent tooth decay at all! It is true true that cavity rates dropped since the introduction of fluoride to the water supply, but it appears to be an unrelated trend. Consider the following evidence found at www.fluoridealert.org (you can read their full list of 50 reasons to oppose fluoridation here):
3) Fluoridation’s role in the decline of tooth decay is in serious doubt. The largest survey ever conducted in the US (over 39,000 children from 84 communities) by the National Institute of Dental Research showed little difference in tooth decay among children in fluoridated and non-fluoridated communities (Hileman 1989). According to NIDR researchers, the study found an average difference of only 0.6 DMFS (Decayed Missing and Filled Surfaces) in the permanent teeth of children aged 5-17 residing in either fluoridated or unfluoridated areas (Brunelle and Carlos, 1990). This difference is less than one tooth surface! There are 128 tooth surfaces in a child’s mouth. This result was not shown to be statistically significant. In a review commissioned by the Ontario government, Dr. David Locker concluded:
“The magnitude of [fluoridation's] effect is not large in absolute terms, is often not statistically significant and may not be of clinical significance” (Locker 1999).
4) Where fluoridation has been discontinuedin communities from Canada, the former East Germany, Cuba and Finland, dental decay has not increased but has actually decreased (Maupome 2001; Kunzel and Fischer,1997,2000; Kunzel 2000 and Seppa 2000).
5) There have been numerous recent reports of dental crises in US cities (e.g. Boston, Cincinnati, New York City) which have been fluoridated for over 20 years. There appears to be a far greater (inverse) relationship between tooth decay and income level than with water fluoride levels.
6) Modern research (e.g. Diesendorf 1986; Colquhoun 1997, and De Liefde, 1998) shows that decay rates were coming down before fluoridation was introduced and have continued to decline even after its benefits would have been maximized. Many other factors influence tooth decay. Some recent studies have found that tooth decay actually increases as the fluoride concentration in the water increases (Olsson 1979; Retief 1979; Mann 1987, 1990; Steelink 1992; Teotia 1994; Grobleri 2001; Awadia 2002 and Ekanayake 2002).
Furthermore, too much fluoride can actually cause tooth problems. It’s an unsightly condition called dental fluorosis:
Oh, and just so you know, I spared you the really awful photographs. You can Google them yourself if you’ve got a sick mind.
Whew! Now that was a long post. Hopefully I’ve provided some food for thought, even if you’re not yet convinced. Next, I’ll write about the steps I take to avoid fluoride. A little bit further down the road, I’ll talk about iodine. And salt. And cancer. And milk too. Stay tuned