What Can Selenium Do For Your Thyroid?
When the Thyroid gland malfunctions, it affects the body at a cellular level.
In some cases, the Thyroid gland can start to produce too many hormones. In other cases, the Thyroid’s ability to produce enough hormones can be impaired.
Thus, keeping the Thyroid healthy should be an important part of every person’s life.
One of the most important factors in the maintenance of a healthy Thyroid lies within a person’s diet.
This can lead to changes in the number of both Thyroxine and Triiodothyronine hormones in an affected individual’s body.
In this post, we want to focus on one particular nutrient that is essential for the well-being of the Thyroid gland.
The nutrient is called Selenium and is considered the second most important nutrient following Iodine, a mineral that is only utilized by cells of the Thyroid gland.
We will take a look at what Selenium really is, how it works and, more importantly, why this mineral is so important for the Thyroid gland.
What Is The Function Of The Thyroid Gland?
The endocrine system comprises of various glands that release hormones.
These hormones have different functions in the human body. Essentially, they all work together to contribute to a healthy body. The Thyroid gland is considered a vital part of this system and produces different hormones that have a direct relation to the growth of the body1.
The primary functions of Thyroid hormones lie within the body’s metabolism, but every single cell in the human body has a receptor that responds to these hormones. Apart from metabolism, other functions have also been linked to these hormones.
When energy is needed, for example, Thyroid hormones play a part in ensuring extra energy can be produced to help a person get through a situation.
There are two primary categories of Thyroid disorders that can develop.
These include hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism is somewhat more common than hyperthyroidism, and both of these diseases are most often diagnosed in women.
Understanding what each disease is and what it does to the body is important.
A condition where the Thyroid gland produces too many hormones.
This causes metabolism to become increased and can cause an affected patient to experience a number of unpleasant symptoms.
The opposite of hyperthyroidism. Patients with this disease have a Thyroid gland that is unable to produce enough hormones.
This, of course, causes metabolism to slow down and can also lead to various symptoms.
Both of these Thyroid diseases can be harmful, and there are various potential causes linked to them. Early detection is vital as untreated, both of these diseases can lead to possible complications that can further harm the affected patient.
Symptoms Of Thyroid Dysfunction
Understanding the symptoms of Thyroid dysfunctions is important as this can help a patient detect the presence of such a condition early on.
The earlier treatment is administered to a patient, the more successful the outcome of the treatment – and the lower the risk of potentially dangerous complications developing.
The most common symptom associated with both of the Thyroid diseases we mentioned above is weight fluctuation. With hyperthyroidism, people tend to lose weight quickly and often unexpectedly, even when they maintain their “usual” diet.
Hypothyroidism, on the other hand, usually causes people to gain weight, which is caused by their metabolism becoming slower.
Other symptoms associated with these diseases may include:
- A change in appetite
- Muscle weakness
- Increased perspiration
- Heart palpitations
- Breathing problems
- Fertility issues
- Missed periods
- Changes in vision
- Problems with memory function
- Higher sensitivity to cold temperatures
- Muscle weakness
- Dry skin
- Muscle aches
- Join pain
- Irregular menstruation
- Thinning hair
- Signs of depression
- A slower heart rate
- High blood cholesterol
What Is The Role Of Selenium In Thyroid Function?
Even though there are many treatments available for Thyroid diseases, it is known that physicians often find it hard to achieve the perfect dose of these medicines for patients.
A large number of individuals who are only starting to experience symptoms of Thyroid dysfunction and finding that they may be developing a condition that affects their Thyroid gland are looking for ways they can support the well-being of this gland.
Selenium is classified as a micronutrient. It is one of the most essential nutrients that the body requires for optimal function but often overlooked.
This is not only a nutrient in particular but also a very powerful antioxidant that helps the body fight against free radical damage – which contributes to many illnesses, including cancer.
Selenium is considered especially important for a healthy Thyroid. In fact, even though it is commonly known that Iodine is required for the production of Thyroid hormones, many people do not realize that the Thyroid heavily relies on the presence of Selenium in a person’s body for the optimal synthesis of these particular hormones.
There are two particular reasons why Selenium is so important for the Thyroid gland:
- Selenium is part of enzymes that are utilized by the body to help remove the iodine molecules that are present in Thyroxine. These iodine molecules are then converted into Triiodothyronine, the “active” form of Thyroid hormone that is responsible for the majority of functions associated with Thyroid hormones.
- The antioxidant activity of Selenium also plays a major part in keeping the Thyroid healthy. Hydrogen peroxide is a component that is generated by the Thyroid gland, which is, in turn, used to assist in the production of Thyroid hormones. Unfortunately, the hydrogen peroxide is known to cause the Thyroid to suffer from oxidative stress. Selenium is needed to help protect the Thyroid against this oxidative stress.
Additionally, it is also important to note that when Selenium levels in the Thyroid gland is not adequate, it causes excessive amounts of Iodine to build up in the gland.
In turn, the Iodine can then cause the cells of the Thyroid gland to become damaged.
One study4 published in the International Journal of Endocrinology has proven higher intakes of Selenium to be beneficial for Thyroid function, in both healthy individuals and those with diagnosed Thyroid diseases.
The study particularly noted that Selenium might assist with improving hypothyroidism in patients where the immune system is causing the disease. This condition is also known as autoimmune thyroiditis.
The study noted that an increased Selenium intake leads to lower levels of thyroperoxidase antibodies. Ultrasound features of the Thyroid gland also seem to improve. Furthermore, participants of the study who were provided with a Selenium supplement reported significant improvements in their overall quality of life.
Additional Benefits Of Selenium
The antioxidant activity of Selenium is well-known, and often one of the primary reasons why people tend to opt for supplements that contain this particular micronutrient.
The antioxidant properties of this nutrient help to protect cells throughout the body against free radical damage. When oxidative stress in the human body is reduced, the risk of cancer, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease and, of course, cancer tend to decline.
Selenium has also been linked to a lower risk of mental decline. Mental decline often occurs among the elderly but can start to kick in while a person is still at a relatively young age.
Furthermore, links have also been established that supports the benefits of Selenium for cardiovascular health.
In particular, the combined anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory effects of this particular micronutrient may assist with reducing swelling of the arteries and lower levels of cholesterol; thus reducing a patient’s risk of developing atherosclerosis.
How Can Intake Of Selenium Be Increased?
When Thyroid function declines and a patient has a low level of Selenium in tier body, increasing the intake of this micronutrient may help them experience improvements in their Thyroid’s ability to produce the right amount of hormones to support their metabolism and the other functions in their body that relies on the nutrient.
Fortunately, there is a significant number of ways that a person can obtain more Selenium.
One of the best ways to do this is by incorporating more foods that are high in Selenium into a persons’ daily diet plan. These particular food options should ideally include5:
- Brazil nuts
- Yellowfin tuna
- Cottage Cheese
- Brown Rice
Since there is a wide selection of different foods that are rich in Selenium, individuals should not find it difficult to maintain a healthy level of this micronutrient in their diet. There are various dishes that can be prepared that takes advantage of these foods.
Additionally, many of these foods, such as cashews and Brazil nuts, are eaten raw, which means they will make the perfect snack for in-between meals when a person gets hungry – plus they are much healthier choices that packets of potato chips or chocolate bars.
Apart from being readily available in foods, there are some areas where Selenium deficiencies are relatively common.
In such areas, individuals are advised to consider relying on a supplement that contains Selenium. While not from a whole-food source, these supplements will still greatly benefit the Thyroid gland.
Is It Possible To Get Too Much Selenium?
There are various factors that affect the exact amount of Selenium a person needs to consume every day.
This can make it difficult to ensure adequate intake of the nutrient, as well as to avoid potential overdoses. Adults between the ages of 19 to 50 years, for example, are advised to consume approximately 55 mcg per day6.
Even though rare, it is important to consider the fact that it is possible to consume too much Selenium. This is why the intake of this particular micronutrient should be monitored when increased specifically to benefit the Thyroid gland.
Symptoms that may be experienced when Selenium toxicity is experienced may include7:
- Joint pain
- Hair loss
- Nail discoloration
- Nail brittleness
More serious symptoms may develop when concentrations of Selenium remain too high in the bloodstream for a significant period of time.
The Thyroid gland is a vital part of the endocrine system, delivering essential hormones to cells that assist with metabolic functions.
Without a proper diet that is rich in certain nutrients, the function of the Thyroid can become impaired. This may lead to symptoms such as fluctuations in weight, as well as various other health concerns.
Thyroid dysfunction can be treated through a number of pharmaceutical drugs, but many people find that a diet that comprises of appropriate nutrients can assist them in restoring a healthier Thyroid.
Improvements in Thyroid function can help to reduce the severity of symptoms caused by conditions such as hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism.
1 How does the thyroid gland work? PubMed Health. 19 April 2018. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0072572/
2 K.M. Milas. Hyperthyroidism Symptoms. EndocrineWeb. https://www.endocrineweb.com/conditions/hyperthyroidism/hyperthyroidism-symptoms
3 Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid). Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hypothyroidism/symptoms-causes/syc-20350284
4 M. Ventura, M. Melo, and F. Carrilho. Selenium and Thyroid Disease: From Pathophysiology to Treatment. International Journal of Endocrinology. 31 January 2017. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5307254/
5 N. Olsen. 20 Foods Rich in Selenium. 16 January 2018. https://www.healthline.com/health/selenium-foods
6 Selenium. National Institutes of Health. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Selenium-HealthProfessional/
7 Multiple Authors. Acute Selenium Toxicity Associated With a Dietary Supplement. HHS Public Access. 28 November 2011. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3225252/