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.
(adapted from Dr.Aviva Romm, MD, 2014)
I see a lot of patients that complain of weight gain, fatigue, constipation, dry skin, PMS, and complaining of always being cold. All these symptoms point to the possibility of hypothyroidism, or under active thyroid function. Sometimes, their TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone), the most common test for thyroid function, has been tested and may still fall into the “normal range”. However, TSH is only one of the markers for abnormal thyroid function, and many patients are unaware that there are other tests that can give a much better picture of thyroid health and function.
Statistically, hypothyroid is an under diagnosed condition. In fact, in the US only ½ of Americans that have hypothyroidism know it.
What is the Thyroid?
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland that sits at front of your neck and controls your metabolism. It therefore controls your weight, energy levels and also plays a role in cholesterol and hormone production.
When the thyroid is out of balance and not functioning optimally you can gain weight, have sluggish bowels, experience dry skin, have fertility problems, brain fog and feel tired…even if you have a great diet and activity level!
The Key Thyroid Tests
Thyroid tests should be easy to obtain from your primary doctor, naturopathic doctor or functional medicine doc. However thyroid tests do take some skill to interpret and some docs may be reluctant to order more than a TSH test. If this is the case, consider getting a second option by a doctor that is familiar with thyroid health and testing.
Thyroid Test #1: TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone)
TSH is the commonly order thyroid test. This hormone is produced by the pituitary gland (a small gland in your brain). TSH communicates with the thyroid to tell it to produce more thyroid hormones T3 and T4. When all is going well in the body, TSH is in a normal healthy range and so is T3 and T4. When T3 and T4 (those important thyroid hormones produced by the thyroid gland) are LOW, TSH starts to INCREASE, telling the thyroid gland to produce more T4 and T4.
The “healthy TSH range” has become a somewhat controversial topic in medicine. Most Canadian labs consider the upper range of TSH to be 4-5mU/L. However, many experts, including many conventional endocrinologists, consider the upper limit of TSH should be no higher than 2.5-3mU/L. This is based on the data collected on Americans without any hypothyroid symptoms. When they have a TSH test done, this is the common upper range.
Thyroid Tests #2 and #3: T3 (Triiodothyronine) and T4 (thyroxine)
As mentioned above, T3 and T3 are hormones produced by your thyroid gland. T4 is produced in much higher amounts by your thyroid gland, and then is converted into T3 in the periphery. This is important because T3 is the more active form of thyroid hormones and is necessary for proper metabolic function.
Thyroid Tests #4 and #5: TPO and TGAb (Thyroid Antibodies)
As mentioned previously, autoimmune hypothyroidism is the most common cause of hypothyroid. As with any other health condidition, to achieve optimal health we must look at the underlying cause of the problem. If a patient has hypothyroidism, but does not address the autoimmunity (if present), the problem will not be addressed at the root cause. Thyroid antibodies can also be measured every 6-12 months to gauge how thyroid treatment is progressing.
Thyroid Test #6: Reverse T3 (RT3)
Although there is some controversy over the usefulness of this test, I have personally found it of benefit in my practice, especially if hypothyroid symptoms are persisting despite treatment. Sometimes, when the T4 is being converted to T3, it can be converted into RT3, a less active form of T3 that the body cannot use as well as T3. This can happen is one is under a large amount of stress or is sick. If the patient it producing a large amount of RT3, certain medication or supplements can help replenish the body with T3 and encourage the body to produce T3 over RT3.
If you have an inkling that your thyroid health is sub-optimal and your doc is not open or familiar with thyroid testing, consider switching docs or having a second opinion.
Yours in Health,