We recently discussed the importance of iodine for thyroid health. We’ve also talked about vitamin D and iron and their affects on the gland, but one mineral that hasn’t gotten as much publicity is selenium. This mineral is a vital part of optimal thyroid function and may even prove to be extremely beneficial for those suffering with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, an autoimmune disease.
Selenium is a mineral that exists in two forms: inorganic and organic. Soils contain the inorganic form which plants convert to the organic form. It is naturally found in certain foods and added to others in effort to prevent selenium deficiency. While selenium deficiency is not believed to be common among healthy adults, it is most likely to be found in individuals that suffer from digestive issues that cause poor absorption of nutrients, as well as individuals with inflammation caused by chronic infection. Other factors include smoking, regular alcohol consumption, and taking birth control pills. The symptoms associated with selenium deficiency include,
- Low immunity
- Poor concentration (brain fog)
- Fertility/reproductive issues
- Heart problems
- And more!
It’s interesting that these symptoms are similar to those associated with hypothyroidism…
While it is fine-and-dandy to read about various minerals, you are probably wondering what role selenium plays in thyroid function and the answer is: a very big one! Selenium is a component that helps make up the enzymes that remove the iodine molecules from T4, thus making it T3. Meaning selenium is vital in the conversion of the inactive to the active form of the thyroid hormones. Another responsibility of the mineral is the protection of the thyroid from oxidative damage. The thyroid makes hydrogen peroxide which is used to make thyroid hormones; however, these reactions can lead to oxidative damage. If the individual has low levels of selenium, the thyroid will suffer.
There are many studies available showing the connection between low selenium levels and thyroid disease, and others supporting the idea of selenium supplementation in certain thyroid conditions. For instance, an observational study was conducted in China in 20151. It included over 6,000 participants ranging in age from 18-70 years of age. These individuals completed questionnaires discussing their diet and underwent clinical examinations. The study concluded that the risk of thyroid disease was 69% higher for those living in low-selenium areas versus those in the adequate-selenium areas.
Another study published in 2002 discussed selenium’s affect on TPO (thyroid peroxidase) antibodies2. The researchers reported that they gave 200mcg of sodium selenite on a daily basis to individuals suffering from Hashimoto’s disease that had high levels of TPO antibodies. After three months, the participants’ levels were redrawn and there was a decrease of the TPO antibody value by 66.4%. Only nine of participants’ levels returned to normal.
There are many other studies that show the wonderful affects of selenium; however, this does not mean you should run out and start self-supplementing. Studies are still being conducted to determine if there are long-term health risks involved in supplementation and even if long-term supplementation is necessary.
There are a few foods you can try to improve your selenium levels slightly. These include,
- Red meat
- Wheat germ
While all of these are great, Brazil nuts are selenium-rich and can help boost levels by consuming just a few a day.
Selenium levels may be something to discuss with your doctor especially if you suffer from thyroid disease. Ask your treating physician to add it to your next round of blood work and ask about their thoughts on selenium supplementation.
1. Qian Wu, Margaret P. Rayman, Hongjun Lv, Lutz Schomburg, Bo Cui, Chuqi Gao, Pu Chen, Guihua Zhuang, Zhenan Zhang, Xiaogang Peng, Hua Li, Yang Zhao, Xiaohong He, Gaoyuan Zeng, Fei Qin, Peng Hou, and Bingyin Shi-Low Population Selenium Status Is Associated With Increased Prevalence of Thyroid Disease
2. Gärtner R1, Gasnier BC, Dietrich JW, Krebs B, Angstwurm MW. Selenium supplementation in patients with autoimmune thyroiditis decreases thyroid peroxidase antibodies concentrations.