If you were to ask your doctor what to do about your thyroid antibodies they would shrug their shoulders and tell you not to worry about them.
This is because, from their perspective, there’s nothing they can do about them.
Obviously, this isn’t the case, though, which is why we are having this discussion.
Notice I said potential here because they are by no means a guarantee.
But when your only other option is to sit around and let your own body destroy your thyroid gland, they start to look pretty appealing.
DOWNLOAD FREE RESOURCES
Foods to Avoid if you Have Thyroid Problems:
I’ve found that these 10 foods cause the most problems for thyroid patients. Learn which foods you should avoid if you have thyroid disease of any type.
The Complete List of Thyroid Lab tests:
The list includes optimal ranges, normal ranges, and the complete list of tests you need to diagnose and manage thyroid disease correctly!
Introducing Selenium: The Trace Mineral Involved in Protecting Your Thyroid Gland
One of the best treatment options out there for patients with Hashimoto’s is, without a doubt, selenium.
Selenium is a trace mineral, which means your body only needs a very small amount of it.
But don’t let the fact that you need a small amount confuse you, it’s still very important.
Its importance lies in how it impacts the function of proteins and enzymes called selenoproteins.
These selenoproteins help create DNA, protect your cells from damage and infection, and are involved in the creation and activation of thyroid hormones.
If you don’t have enough selenium, and the chances of that are pretty high, by the way, then these proteins will not work correctly and you will be susceptible to thyroid gland damage.
Selenium Deficiency: Why It Matters For Thyroid Patients
Whenever we talk about nutrient deficiencies we always have to ask ourselves “How common is it, really?”.
Because if the deficiency isn’t common, then it doesn’t matter to very many people in which case it’s probably not worth making a big fuss about.
But that’s not the case with selenium because we have some numbers on the rate of deficiency.
Worldwide, we know that roughly 500 million to 1 billion people are selenium deficient (1).
If we estimate that the world has around 8 billion people then roughly 1 out of 16 to 1 out of 8 people need more of this important trance mineral.
That’s a pretty sobering thought!
And the statistic mentioned above applies to those with a gross selenium deficiency.
That number is likely MUCH higher if we start to include people who have sub-optimal levels (but not a gross deficiency).
A sub-optimal level is one that may appear normal on testing but still causes a decline in thyroid and cellular function, sufficient to cause thyroid dysfunction and minor symptoms.
Treating Thyroid Antibodies With Selenium
So how effective is using selenium at reducing thyroid antibodies?
It depends on the study you look at:
One meta-analysis of 17 different randomized controlled trials and over 1,900 people total (2), suggested that selenium supplements were “effective in treating AITD patients, and greatly reduced levels of FT3, FT4, and TBOAb in AITD patients”.
This study of over 1,900 people highlights the fact that selenium supplements CAN and DO exert a powerful impact on both thyroid function and thyroid gland inflammation.
But the story gets a little more complicated.
Another systematic review, of over 400 people, concluded (3) that “the results of these four studies…show that evidence to support or refute the efficacy of selenium supplementation in people with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is incomplete and not reliable to help inform clinical decision-making”.
In other words, they weren’t that impressed with what they found and their advice to doctors is basically to say “You don’t need to worry about selenium right now”.
So what should you as a thyroid patient make of all of this?
It’s honestly not that complicated, here’s why:
Of course, selenium supplementation is not going to work in every person because whether or not it works is likely dependent on whether or not the person taking it is selenium deficient.
In other words, the less selenium you have in your body, the more likely it is that selenium supplementation will help you.
It’s not rocket science.
And if you understand really basic thyroid physiology, it makes perfect sense why that it is.
Here’s what I mean:
Thyroid Physiology & Why Your Thyroid Needs Protection
Selenium acts to protect your thyroid gland from oxidative stress (4).
The act of creating thyroid hormone in the thyroid gland results in the production of hydrogen peroxide which can be damaging to thyroid gland cells.
Selenium helps your body produce glutathione which acts to neutralize hydrogen peroxide (5).
You can see why this becomes a problem if you are selenium deficient:
No matter what, your body is going to produce thyroid hormone because it’s required for life.
Your body doesn’t know if glutathione is present or not to protect your thyroid gland, it just keeps producing thyroid hormone because it needs it.
When you are selenium deficient, glutathione levels fall, and the very creation of thyroid hormone results in thyroid gland damage.
These proteins then interact with your immune system and you end up with the thyroid antibodies characteristic of Hashimoto’s and Graves’ disease.
This is how it works in a nutshell.
By the way, this physiology is also why taking iodine has the potential to cause autoimmune thyroid disease.
Taking iodine triggers the creation of thyroid hormone, and if you trigger the production of thyroid hormone without the protective effects of selenium, you increase your risk of thyroid gland damage and thyroid autoimmunity.
If you are taking iodine, always make sure that you are either taking it with selenium or make sure you are not selenium-deficient BEFORE you take it.
How To Determine If You Should Use Selenium
After talking about all of this, what should you do as a thyroid patient?
Should you take selenium supplements or not?
Well, it depends on your situation but, based on my experience and research, I think that all patients with Hashimoto’s (and Graves’, by the way) should give selenium supplements a try.
#1. Just looking at the numbers, there’s a very high chance that you are selenium deficient if you are listening to this.
With roughly a 1 in 8 chance of being selenium deficient, there’s a good chance taking this trace mineral will benefit you.
And as I mentioned previously, the reason we see variability in the positive benefit from various studies is because there’s variability in selenium status among different groups of people.
The more deficient you are (as a thyroid patient or otherwise), the more benefit you will obtain when supplementing with it.
#2. It has the potential to not only improve your immune system but also to improve thyroid function.
Yes, selenium is important for protecting your thyroid gland, but it also is important for thyroid hormone conversion.
This is true for regular hypothyroidism as well as hypothyroidism from Hashimoto’s which means this supplement is beneficial for ALL low thyroid states.
#3. It’s cheap and safe.
We’re not talking about treatments that cost thousands of dollars here, we’re talking about a treatment that you can get for under $20 dollars a month.
Not only is it relatively cheap, but it’s also safe, as long as you use it correctly.
It is definitely possible to take too much selenium, though, which is why we need to have a discussion about dosing…
Selenium Dosing: How To Avoid Taking Too Much
If you are going to supplement with selenium here’s what you need to know:
The RDA for selenium is set at around 55 mcg per day but if you are taking selenium to try and treat Hashimoto’s then you’ll want a little bit more than that.
My experience suggests that dosing in the range of 75 mcg to 150 mcg is the ideal range for thyroid patients.
And even temporary doses as high as 200 mcg for a short period of time can be helpful in some patients.
This can be confusing because people without thyroid disease shouldn’t go above 100 mcg per day.
The reason for this is that there is some potential that higher doses of selenium may increase the risk of developing diabetes (6).
I don’t think this is a concern for thyroid patients, though, because the benefits of using selenium are so high that a small risk of diabetes would be washed out in terms of the pros vs cons.
But if that is a major concern for you, just be sure to keep your total selenium intake under 100 mcg per day.
If you are going to use supplements then look for organic forms of selenium such as selenomethionine, selenocysteine, or a selenium glycinate complex.
Avoid inorganic forms like selenite and selenate.
If you prefer to get your selenium from a food source then aim to get 1/4 to 1/2 of a Brazil nut each day.
I’m not a huge fan of using Brazil nuts as a sole source of selenium, though, and if you want to learn more about why then I would recommend checking out this article right now.
While Brazil nuts may be a super source of selenium, it’s easy to accidentally take too much which can cause more harm than good in the long run.
- Selenium is a trace mineral required by the body in small amounts.
- It is required for certain proteins and enzymes to function properly and these enzymes activate thyroid hormones, create DNA, and support the immune system.
- Selenium deficiency leads to thyroid problems including an increased risk of developing thyroid autoimmune diseases like Graves’ Disease and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.
- Supplementing with selenium may help reduce thyroid gland antibodies in certain people, especially if they are deficient in selenium.
- If you supplement with selenium, make sure to keep your dose around 75 mcg to 150 mcg per day to avoid unwanted side effects.
Now I want to hear from you:
Were you aware of the importance of selenium?
Did you know that it may help reduce thyroid antibodies?
Have you tried taking it to support your thyroid?
Did it help you feel better or reduce your thyroid antibodies? Why or why not?
Leave your questions or comments below!