Selenium Deficiency & Thyroid Problems
Selenium is up there with iodine and zinc in terms of how important it is for your thyroid gland.
What happens if you don't have enough selenium in your body?
For starters, it increases your risk of developing autoimmune disease (Hashimoto's thyroiditis), may increase inflammation in your entire body and in your thyroid gland, and it reduces your ability to fight off oxidative stress.
Put another way, not having enough selenium increases your risk of developing several thyroid conditions.
When you add this information to the fact that your body cannot produce selenium on its own and that deficiency is quite common, we have a confluence of events that set people up for developing serious thyroid issues.
All hope is not lost, though!
Because it's actually fairly easy to supplement with selenium (provided you are using the right dose) and to replace low levels in your body.
Today we are going to talk about just that. You'll learn:
- Why selenium is so important for thyroid function
- How low levels of selenium negatively impact thyroid function at several different levels
- Why selenium is especially important for those with Hashimoto's thyroiditis
- How to make sure you aren't taking too much selenium and going toxic
Let's jump in...
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#1. Selenium ENHANCES T4 to T3 Conversion.
Without getting too technical, you should understand in a basic sense, how selenium works in the body.
Your body has certain enzymes which catalyze very important and specific reactions.
These enzymes (selenoproteins (1)) require certain ingredients to make them work properly and efficiently.
Selenium happens to be one of those ingredients and it makes these reactions work the way that they are supposed to.
If you don't have enough selenium in the body then these reactions will occur but they will occur at an impaired rate (they won't work very well).
One of these enzymes is incredibly important to thyroid function because it helps your body convert T4 into T3.
T4 to T3 conversion is one of the most important aspects of thyroid function because without enough T3 thyroid hormone you will feel the symptoms of low thyroid.
Low selenium states REDUCE how well your body converts T4 into T3 and, therefore, T3 levels.
This may result in low T3 levels in thyroid patients both on and off thyroid medication.
In states of low selenium, your body will still be able to create SOME T3 but it won't be enough selenium to really help you feel better.
Taking a thyroid supplement that contains selenium is one way to improve this process and help your body convert more T4 into T3.
#2. Selenium May Help REDUCE Thyroid Antibodies.
Another huge benefit is that the use of selenium has been shown to help reduce thyroid antibodies in cases of Hashimoto's thyroiditis.
There have been several studies that show that the use of levothyroxine (sometimes in conjunction with levothyroxine) may help lower thyroid antibodies.
And while this is known by doctors and scientists, they will come back with something along the lines of:
"Well, yes, SOME studies show that it works but plenty of other studies show that it doesn't".
In other words, it's a mixed bag in terms of results.
But what I'm telling you here is that it doesn't matter!
And here's why:
Not only is selenium incredibly safe (if used correctly), it's also a relatively cheap treatment.
So even if it only has the potential to help in some percentage of people (even a small percentage of people), it's still worth it to try for a $20-$30 supplement!
Wouldn't you be willing to pay some money out of pocket for a treatment that is completely natural and has the potential to help your thyroid function better and naturally PREVENT damage to your thyroid gland?
I'm guessing you would, especially if you are reading this right now.
Why aren't the studies showing that selenium universally helps lower thyroid antibodies in everyone?
Most likely because each person with Hashimoto's is a little bit different than the next.
Some people may have a more dire need for selenium than others and so replacing selenium is more important for these people than other people with the same condition.
But as long as taking selenium won't hurt you and only has the potential to help then it is something that you might seriously consider.
#3. Selenium May DECREASE Thyroid Inflammation.
One of the ways that selenium may help reduce thyroid antibodies is through its impact on inflammation in the thyroid gland.
It turns out that selenium is needed to help keep inflammation at a minimum in the thyroid gland.
Through everyday life and stressors, your cells naturally produce free radicals and other products which cause stress to your cells.
Under normal circumstances, your body cleans up these harmful byproducts BEFORE they can cause damage to your own body.
Selenium, if present in the right amount, helps your thyroid gland produce something called glutathione (3).
Glutathione is considered the master antioxidant and helps to clean up these free radicals to prevent damage to the thyroid gland.
It's been theorized, and I personally believe that this theory is accurate, that selenium deficiency reduces glutathione production, and this reduction in glutathione results in thyroid gland inflammation.
This inflammation then causes damage to your thyroid gland which then triggers thyroid autoimmunity and Hashimoto's thyroiditis.
This isn't the only mechanism by which Hashimoto's can be triggered but it is definitely a potential mechanism.
How do you know if you have thyroid gland inflammation?
Your throat may be sore or swollen, it may be painful to swallow, and/or you may notice changes in your voice.
Some women also tell me that their throat feels "hot".
Any of these symptoms may indicate inflammation directly in the thyroid and that is never something that you want.
Normal selenium levels help PROTECT your thyroid gland from damage and inflammation.
If you believe you have thyroid gland inflammation then supplementing with selenium is something to seriously consider.
#4. Selenium May Help REDUCE Total Body Inflammation.
Thyroid gland inflammation is obviously very important to thyroid function but total body inflammation is as well.
Total body inflammation negatively impacts thyroid function by negatively impacting T4 to T3 conversion.
Most of this T4 to T3 conversion occurs in other cells in your body and NOT in the thyroid gland itself.
So while thyroid gland inflammation is bad for the thyroid gland, total body inflammation is bad for thyroid function.
Selenium, therefore, impacts thyroid conversion in two separate ways:
The first is that it helps the enzyme responsible for thyroid conversion operate.
And the second is an indirect way by reducing inflammation.
If you can reduce inflammation in the body then you can indirectly impact thyroid conversion in other tissues.
#5. Selenium May Help BOOST Glutathione.
Many of the anti-inflammatory benefits of selenium stem from its ability to produce glutathione (4).
Glutathione helps to clean up the cells, prevent damage from free radicals, prevent damage in specific cells like your thyroid, and reduce inflammation in the entire body.
The best way to ensure that you are getting glutathione is the all-natural way - through natural production in your cells and in your body.
Your body will naturally produce glutathione as needed, provided that it has the right precursor ingredients (like selenium).
It is also possible to take glutathione in a supplement form.
Even though you can take it in supplement form, it's often best to provide your body with the nutrients it needs to create it the all-natural way.
Taking glutathione by mouth can work, though, and is something that can be considered for patients with thyroid disease such as Hashimoto's thyroiditis.
#6. Selenium Has ANTI VIRAL Properties.
Lastly, selenium has been shown to have antiviral properties.
Anti vital, of course, meaning that it can kill off or prevent viruses from damaging the body.
Why would you care about this as a thyroid patient?
Well, one of the most common triggers of Hashimoto's thyroiditis is the virus known as the Epstein Barr virus, or EBV for short.
Not only can EBV trigger Hashimoto's thyroiditis but it can also be responsible for flare-ups in Hashimoto's patients.
Certain infections, including both bacterial and viral, can trigger the onset of Hashimoto's thyroiditis in the body.
These infections, specifically the viral strains, typically stay in the body for life.
Throughout your life, it can periodically come out and wreak havoc on the body and your immune system causing thyroid problems as it does.
Taking selenium may help to prevent or suppress this opportunistic infection from coming out and causing issues in your body.
There are obviously other antiviral supplements and medications that can and should be taken if you have this problem but why not take advantage of a natural therapy if you can?
Are You Taking Too Much Selenium on Accident?
Before you run out and start taking selenium for your thyroid we need to have a discussion about your dose.
It turns out that the amount of selenium that you take is very important!
Unlike other supplements, you can relatively easily take too much selenium on accident.
And too much selenium can actually cause a number of symptoms that mimic thyroid problems (5).
In the case of selenium, having too little is just as bad as having too much.
So what's the magic number?
In my own experience, I feel that using somewhere between 75 and 150mcg of selenium per safe to be a safe dose.
Taking less than this typically doesn't have much benefit and taking more than this gets you into the range where you may start to experience the side effects of toxicity.
This is the dose that I formulate my thyroid supplements with because I've used it with great success over the years.
Having said that, some studies and some authorities do suggest that it's safe to take up to 400mcg of selenium daily and that you really don't start to see the signs of toxicity until you exceed 500 to 600mcg per day.
Even though these higher doses may be safe for MOST people, it's always better to get away with less if possible because most people don't account for the amount of selenium that they consume in their diet.
This is especially true for people who consume brazil nuts on a frequent basis.
Brazil nuts are notoriously high in selenium and eating just a few can push you over the edge if you are already taking a higher dose of selenium.
You'll know if you take too much selenium because you may start to experience symptoms such as fatigue, low T3 levels, hair loss, nausea, brittle nails, and/or gut symptoms such as an upset stomach.
Reducing your dose of selenium should help quickly to reverse these symptoms.
Wrapping it Up
Selenium plays a very important role in regulating several different aspects of thyroid function.
Selenium deficiency, which is quite common among thyroid patients, can lead to problems including thyroid gland inflammation, an increased risk of developing thyroid autoimmunity, and changes to your free thyroid hormone levels.
The good news is that supplementing is relatively cheap, safe, and effective.
If you have thyroid disease of any type, but especially those with Hashimoto's, then considering supplementing with selenium is a great idea.
My recommended dose of selenium is between 75 and 150mcg of selenium in the selenomethionine form taken each and every day.
This dose provides the most benefit with the least amount of risk.
If you are going to supplement with selenium then I would recommend using a supplement such as this one which contains selenium in addition to other ingredients that help support thyroid conversion and function.
Now I want to hear from you:
Do you think that your selenium level is optimal?
Are you currently taking selenium?
If so, did you notice any benefits from taking selenium?
If not, are you thinking about adding selenium to your routine?
Leave your questions or comments below!
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