Selenium is a mineral found in the soil, and is naturally occurring in very small amounts in some foods and water. Although our bodies require very small amounts of selenium, certain parts of the world have now been found to have selenium deficient soil, and thus lead to more selenium deficient foods. Recent research shows that selenium may be helpful in treating Hypothyroidism. Here’s why.
1. In areas where the soil is low in selenium, it has been shown that people are more likely to develop Hashimoto’s disease, one of the most common forms of Hypothyroidism in North America.
2. In one study, when patients suffering from various forms of thyroid disease were tested for selenium levels, all were found to be lower than normal healthy people without thyroid disease.
3. The thyroid contains more selenium by weight than any other organ. Selenium is a key part of the enzymes that remove iodine molecules from the thyroid hormoneT4 converting it into the active thyroid hormone T3. Therefore without selenium there would be no activation of thyroid hormone. Additionally, selenium plays a important role in protecting the thyroid gland against oxidative damage.
4. Do you take iodine? Without adequate selenium, high iodine levels can lead to destruction of the thyroid gland cells.
In a placebo controlled study published in 2002, German researchers reported on an experiment in which they gave 200 mcg of selenium daily to patients with Hashimoto’s disease and high levels of thyroid peroxidase antibodies (Read more about thyroid testing and antibodies here). After three months, the thyroid peroxidase antibody levels of the patients taking selenium were decreased by 66.4% compared to their pre-treatment values, and antibody levels returned to normal in nine of the selenium treated patients. However, in 2008 researchers in Austria reported that they were not able to duplicate the results of the earlier study. They suggested that selenium supplementation might be of greater benefit to patients with higher disease activity, or higher levels of antibodies prior to starting the selenium therapy.
Foods high in selenium include:
- Brazil nuts
- Yellowfin Tuna
- Grass Fed Meat
However, as mentioned above, selenium levels in our food sources may have decreased, or may vary greatly. If you are struggling with thyroid disease, talk to your health care provider to see if selenium may be helpful for you!
Yours in Health,
- Gärtner R, Gasnier BC, Dietrich JW, Krebs B, Angstwurm MW. Selenium supplementation in patients with autoimmune thyroiditis decreases thyroid peroxidase antibodies concentrations. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2002 Apr;87(4):1687-91.
- Karanikas G, Schuetz M, Kontur S, et al. No immunological benefit of selenium in consecutive patients with autoimmune thyroiditis. Thyroid. 2008 Jan;18(1):7-12.
- Kohrle J. The trace element selenium and the thyroid gland. Biochimie. 1999 May;81(5):527-33.
- Kucharzewski M, Braziewicz J, Majewska U, Góźdź S. Concentration of selenium in the whole blood and the thyroid tissue of patients with various thyroid diseases. Biol Trace Elem Res. 2002 Jul;88(1):https://emilylipinski.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post-new.php25-30.
- Köhrle J. The trace element selenium and the thyroid gland. Biochimie. 1999 May;81(5):527-33.
- Lifeextension, “Thyroid Regulation” accessed November 2017.
- Mazokopakis EE, Chatzipavlidou V. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and the role of selenium. Current concepts. Hell J Nucl Med. 2007 Jan-Apr;10(1):6-8.
- Zimmermann MB, Köhrle J. The impact of iron and selenium deficiencies on iodine and thyroid metabolism: biochemistry and relevance to public health. Thyroid. 2002 Oct;12(10):867-78.
One of my passions is treating thyroid disease.
Optimizing thyroid function, especially if you have Hashimoto’s or other autoimmune thyroid disease, requires some good detective work including testing for all the important markers of thyroid health. If you haven’t read my blog on thyroid tests, you can find it here.
Next month, I will be giving a talk to other doctors and dentists on “The Clinical Management of Weight Reduction in Oral Sleep Apnea”. While reviewing my notes and creating my presentation I came across some interesting research regarding the thyroid and sleep apnea. Before I tell you about this research, it is important to note that many of my patients with thyroid troubles have disordered sleep patterns but this does not necessarily mean that have sleep apnea. One of the key signs that the thyroid has began to under function is feeling tired. In fact, many of my patients report wanting to sleep 9, 10, 11, or even 12 hours at a time- and still feeling fatigued!. On the other end of the spectrum, sometimes sleep can be disturbed when thyroid hormones are out of balance. These patients may feel tired because they have been up many times during the night, which could be a result of hormone imbalance.
Sleep Apnea, is a chronic health condition that is characterized by pauses in breathing while sleeping. These pauses in breathing and lack of oxygen wake people up during the night and the result is un-refreshing, fragmented sleep. The symptoms of sleep apnea include: snoring, restless sleep, gasping for air while sleeping, fatigue, daytime sleepiness, and nasal congestion. Sleep apnea has also been correlated to weight gain, high blood sugar levels and high blood pressure. So how does sleep apnea relate to thyroid disease? Interestingly enough, studies have found that 25-35% of people with hypothyroidism also have sleep apnea AND sleep apnea may be a disk factor for the development of autoimmune thyroid disease! Research that was reported in a 2012 study published in Endocrine journal revealed that over 50% of people with Obstructive Sleep Apnea (otherwise known as OSA) tested positive for thyroid antibodies (TPO or TG antibodies). These people still had normal levels of TSH, the “gold standard” marker for determining thyroid disease. However, thyroid antibodies can be positive long before TSH changes, and can be an early marker of thyroid dysfunction- especially if the patient has symptoms of thyroid disease!
Testing for sleep apnea requires having your breathing monitored overnight in a sleep lab. As unpleasant as this may sound early detection and early treatment significantly improves health outcomes. Remember, sleep apnea can cause weight gain, high blood pressure and high blood sugar. If you are diagnosed with sleep apnea, using CPAP or Oral Dental Appliance can improve fatigue and increase energy. If you are overweight, working to reduce weight can also be key in reducing symptoms.
If you have symptoms of hypothyroid such as:
- Easy weight gain
- Puffy face
- Intolerance to cold
- Heavy periods
- Dry skin
- Brittle nails
I would encourage you to ask your doctor, or work with another healthcare practitioner to have multiple thyroid tests run including TSH, T4, T3 and TPO.
I believe wellness requires working with a physician (medical or naturopathic) that is willing to get to the root cause of your symptoms. Don’t be shy to ask questions about your health- taking charge of your health is empowering!