Many naturally-minded health professionals have been recommending the mineral selenium to patients suffering from thyroid conditions for years. New research published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism supports the use of this critical mineral to help address thyroid conditions.
The study published this month found that selenium deficiency was linked to an increased risk of several thyroid diseases, including: autoimmune thyroiditis, hypothyroidism, subclinical hypothyroidism and an enlarged thyroid. Researchers assessed 6,152 people who underwent physical and thyroid ultrasound testing, and participated in dietary and demographic questionnaires. Blood tests were also taken to examine markers for thyroid conditions.
The researchers found a link between those who had selenium deficiencies and suffered from any one of the four thyroid diseases, while those whose selenium levels were normal had a significantly lower risk of having a thyroid disease. They also concluded that supplementing with selenium in those who are deficient may reduce the risk of various thyroid conditions.
The link between selenium and thyroid disease is not surprising considering that selenium is an important mineral for proper thyroid health. It activates an enzyme that aids in the conversion of thyroxine (T4) to triiodothyronine (T3)—two thyroid hormones. While T4 tends to be the focus of many thyroid assessments, it is a less biologically-active version of thyroid hormone than T3, which is a much more active form of thyroid hormone. Insufficient levels of T3 are implicated in many peoples’ thyroid conditions.
Industrial farming is partly responsible for selenium deficiencies. Large-scale commercial farming practices do not replenish minerals like selenium, causing the soil to become depleted and resulting in lower mineral levels in food grown in the soil over time.
Additionally, while the mineral iodine is important to thyroid function, most people get an imbalanced ratio of iodine to selenium due to the addition of iodine in salt. A combination of high iodine and low selenium levels can result in damage to the butterfly-shaped gland situated at the front of the neck. As far back as 1997 research showed that a diet high in iodine and low in selenium can result in thyroid damage, yet this is a common issue in many peoples’ diets.
Other research has shown that selenium supplementation reduces the autoimmune reaction common in thyroid conditions like autoimmune thyroiditis.
Where to Find Selenium
Selenium is predominantly found in tuna, shrimp, sardines, salmon, turkey, cod, oysters, chicken, lamb, scallops, beef and Brazil nuts.
For some people suffering from thyroid conditions, supplementation with 100 to 200 micrograms of selenium may be necessary. Excessive amounts of selenium can be dangerous, so it is important not to exceed this amount without the guidance of a nutritionist or doctor specializing in nutritional medicine.