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Selenium and Its Role in Thyroid Function

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Many factors influence your thyroid function, including dietary changes, iodine, stress, and much more. Nutrient intake also plays a major role in maintaining proper thyroid function, especially Selenium.

Selenium is a micronutrient found in foods, such as mushrooms, beef, halibut, sunflower seeds, tuna, Brazil nuts, and soybeans. This trace mineral is found in soil too. It plays an active role in enhancing the immunity and metabolism.

It also improves fertility and reduces the risk of autoimmune disease and cancer, in addition to thyroid disease. Of the various benefits, the role of selenium in regulating the thyroid function is of specific significance to us. Let us look into this aspect in more detail.

How selenium impacts thyroid function

Selenium forms the main component in seleno-proteins, which are needed by the body to form thyroid hormones and to use them. When selenium levels are low, you will have symptoms, including pain or weakness in muscles, fingernail bed whitening, and discoloration of skin and hair.

Low selenium level affects the thyroid gland, resulting in reduced hormone secretion and the conversion of the hormone to the form required for body functions. The various ways in which the nutrient affects thyroid function include:

  • The regulation of thyroid hormone production
  • Boosts conversion of T4 to T3
  • Protects thyroid gland when oxidative changes affect it
  • Regulates levels of thyroid hormone in the body

The enzymeseleno-de-iodinase formed with selenium helps control the level of T3 in organs including brain, kidney, and liver. Glutathione peroxidase is another selenium enzyme that helps balance the level of T4 and prevents it from increasing above its normal limit.

Deficiency of Selenium is more in individuals with digestive issues, such as celiac or Crohn’s disease. Inflammation triggered by chronic infection can also cause a deficiency. With low levels of selenium, the body’s resistance to illness is lowered.

Further, by treating the deficiency, it was found to improve the production of thyroid hormone and the general metabolism of the body. Selenium also provides adequate protection to thyroid gland from high iodine exposure.

A study published in Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism in 2002 indicates that even mild deficiency of selenium can lead to autoimmune disease in the thyroid.

By supplementing Selenium, the inflammation and damage to thyroid tissue were found to be reduced. This is attributed to the higher level of glutathione peroxidase activity and that of the enzyme thioridoxinereductase. Lower levels of hydrogen peroxide occur with the synthesis of thyroid hormone due to selenium treatment.

Iodine and selenium

Selenium also plays a significant role in iodine levels in the body. It helps recycle iodine inside the body. When a person has low levels of both the nutrients, there is a high possibility of imbalance in thyroid function to occur. In such cases, it is recommended to treat the deficiency of both nutrients to get the thyroid back to the normal condition.

Vital T4 –T3 conversion with selenium

Low levels of T3 (the active thyroid hormonal form), which leads to hypothyroid condition, can be treated by selenium supplementation. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 1999 indicates that supplementation improved conversion to T3 from T4. This is because seleno-proteins play a vital role in T3 conversion. Deficiency of selenium can thus cause the hypothyroid condition.

Significance of maintaining selenium levels

As an important micronutrient found in many proteins necessary for the proper functioning of the body, Selenium levels have to be sufficient enough to ensure proper thyroid hormone metabolism and for good antioxidant function. A review done on Pubmed regarding thyroid conditions and the role of selenium found that the nutrient had a strong relation to autoimmune disorders.

Supplementation of selenium in individuals who have autoimmune thyroiditis results in the reduction of anti-thyro-peroxidase levels and better improvement of the condition and life quality.

The review found that the supplementation of selenium resulted in improved eye condition in Graves’ orbitopathy and led to the delayed progress of ocular conditions. The review noted that selenium taken in organic form had more effectiveness.

By ensuring the optimal levels of selenium in the body, it is possible to avoid thyroid disease and also preserve the health of the body in general.

Key takeaway

As you can see restoring selenium to the normal level in the body is an apt way to counter problematic thyroid function. However, you have to be cautious about taking selenium for a long-term and that too in high doses.

Side effects, such as fatigue, hair loss, gastric upset, irritability, and more, can occur. Furthermore, adding selenium in a thyroid condition, where iodine level is low, can also worsen hypothyroidism. Hence, proper diagnosis of the thyroid condition and prudent application of selenium supplementation is necessary to benefit from the addition of selenium.

Given the direct relation of selenium to thyroid function, including organic sources of selenium, such as Brazil nuts, tuna, salmon, eggs, lamb, and chicken, is a good way to restore proper function of the thyroid as well as the immunity of the whole body.

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