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Is Your Bread Slowly Poisoning You?

Clifton Sheets, MD October 7, 2011Nutrition

I am working on a blog post on IODINE , a trace element critical to overall health. Iodine is found in every cell in the body and is essential for the normal hormone receptor functioning for every hormone you have. Hormones make things happen in your body. They control your metabolism, your blood pressure, your blood sugar, when you wake up and when you go to sleep, how you respond to stress and your sexual functioning among other things.

Most Americans are not getting enough iodine in their diet. To make matters worse, we are exposed to a lot of bromides, often on a daily basis through occupational, environmental and food exposures. For you chemistry buffs, you will know that bromine and iodine have similar chemical properties and are classified as Halides, along with chlorine and fluorine. Since their chemical properties are similar, they compete for the same receptors in the body. Bromine displaces iodine from your body and is a major contributor to iodine deficiency.

Think of a hormone as a key and the hormone receptor as a lock; a grossly simplified analogy perhaps but a very important concept. When the key is in the lock, it can turn the lock and open the door. When a hormone binds to its receptor, stuff happens (i.e. the door opens, your blood pressure rises, you digest your food, you wake up, etc.). But what happens if you have the wrong lock or the lock has been tampered with? The key may fit in the lock, but can’t unlock to door to open it. This is exactly what happens when bromides get into your body. Bromides compete with Iodine and bind to the iodine sites, and important metabolic functions are disrupted (the lock does not work).

Bromides serve no natural function in the body and in fact have been classified as potential carcinogens. For example, bromides concentrate in breast tissue and have been implicated as a possible cause of breast cancer. Bromide is carcinogenic in rats and kidney toxic in both man and experimental animals when given orally.

Symptoms of bromide toxicity are varied and include rashes and acne, diarrhea or digestive problems, headache, fatigue, sluggishness, impaired memory and concentration, irritability, emotional instability, insomnia and depression among others.

Bromides are found in flame retardants, hydro-spa sanitizers, and even some medicines!

A major source of human bromide exposure comes from the breads we eat. Potassium bromate has been used as a food additive for over 80 years. When added to dough, it stiffens the bread and helps prevent falling of the dough. Because of health concerns, bromates have been banned in numerous countries, including England in 1990, Canada in 1994 and even China in 2005. In addition, in 1991, California declared bromate a carcinogen under the state’s Proposition 65. Baked goods sold in California have to bear a cancer warning if they contain more than a certain level of bromate.

Many commercial bakers, including Best Foods, Inc. (maker of Arnold, Entenmann’s, and Orowheat brand breads and rolls), Pepperidge Farm, and Pillsbury, have switched to bromate-free processes. Also, some supermarket chains, including Giant, Jewel, Ralph’s, and Von’s, do not use bromate. Some breads are now being labeled bromate free. If you see “enhanced flour” on the list of ingredients be suspicious that it contains potassium bromate.

Brominated vegetable oil (BVO) is found in many consumer citrus flavored soft drink products such as Mountain Dew, some Gatorade and some Powerade, Orange Fanta, Orange Crush, Sun Drop, Squirt and Fresca. BVO can be found in some bakery products and brands of pasta as well. The FDA requires that products containing brominated vegetable oil list it as an additive on the ingredient label, so check labels before you buy!

So the long and the short of it is, you want to avoid bromides whenever you can. Bromine excretion can be measured in 24 hr urine collections by reference labs. High urinary excretion correlates with high tissue levels. To detoxify bromides I would suggest you enlist the help of a provider knowledgeable in alternative therapy to avoid and manage side effects that can occur during treatment.

If you think you may need detox from bromine exposure be sure to speak with your doctor about it. If you do not have a primary care provider and would like to see one of our providers, simply download the new patient form on our website and mark it “Bromine” and one of our staff will contact you to set up an appointment with someone comfortable diagnosing and managing this condition.

Disclaimer: My blog posts on the Prime Care website are meant for informational purposes only and are not intended to be considered as medical advice or as a diagnostic tool. Seek prompt medical attention if you have health concerns.