Selenium is a trace element that has potent antioxidant properties in the body, and is essential for optimal thyroid health, immune system health, and optimal metabolic functions. For this reason, selenium deficiency and/or inadequate selenium intake can lead to many detrimental health effects. It can promote DNA damage, cancer formation, muscle dysfunction, mood changes, build up of free radicals in the cells leading to weight gain and even metabolic syndrome. It can also contribute to spontaneous abortions, infertility, low sperm count, low testosterone, and can make the immune system weaker and/or can make the immune system more reactive to your own organs, a phenomenon autoimmunity.
When it comes to the thyroid system, selenium is of paramount importance for prevention of thyroid disease and maintaining a healthy and optimally functioning thyroid gland. Not only is it crucial for the manufacture of thyroid hormone but it prevents damage to thyroid cells. For this reason, selenium deficiency, or inadequate selenium intake, can lead to goiter formation and even low thyroid. Selenium deficiency can also promote immune system reactivity and autoimmune thyroid disease such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis or Graves’ disease. Selenium is also crucial for the conversion of T4 to the most active form of thyroid hormone, T3, so that when you are selenium deficient, your T3 levels will automatically go down and the reverse T3 (inactive form of thyroid hormone) will go up and this causes the body to be hypothyroid even if your thyroid gland has managed to produce the right amount of thyroid hormones.
Clearly, paying attention to your selenium intake is of prime importance for your overall health and particularly for your thyroid health and especially if you have a thyroid condition such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Graves’ disease, or hypothyroidism. Foods rich in selenium include seafood, poultry, meat, dairy, lentils, brown rice, beans, mushrooms, oatmeal, and spinach. However, the selenium content in food depends on the soil where foods are produced. So even if you eat foods that are supposed to contain selenium, if the source of the food is derived from an area that is selenium deficient, you may end up having selenium deficiency. You can also become selenium deficient if you are not absorbing selenium. For instance, you may have absorption issues of selenium because of intestinal inflammation, bacterial overgrowth, inflammatory condition likes Chron’s disease or ulcerative colitis. You also need to know that the processing of foods may result in the reduction of the selenium content of that food.
Now you understand why you could be selenium deficient and not know it. For this reason, you should consider taking the right amount of selenium supplementation on a consistent basis to avoid deficiency of selenium in your body. This applies to everybody particularly if you have an autoimmune thyroid disease.
Scientific research has shown that selenium supplementation using roughly 200 micrograms of selenium helps reducing thyroid antibody in patients with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Research has also shown that taking selenium supplementation helps achieving remission of Graves’ disease and also helps prevent relapse of hyperthyroidism in patients with Graves’ disease. Selenium supplementation also helps improving post-partum thyroiditis.
Because the public has recently become more familiar with the benefits of selenium supplementation, the consumption of selenium supplements has become more widespread and more popular. However, many people end up taking the wrong amount and the wrong form of selenium. You need to know that taking too much selenium can lead to serious toxic effects such as nausea, irritability, skin rash, nervous system dysfunction, and even heart and kidney problems. Toxicity seems to occur when the daily intake of selenium exceeds 400 micrograms. For this reason, to be on the safe side, I advocate selenium supplementation ranging between 120 and 150 micrograms daily because the average daily intake of selenium from foods ranges roughly between 40 micrograms and 80 micrograms.
Selenium is not the only micronutrient that is essential for optimal thyroid health, immune system health, and metabolism. Many other vitamins and antioxidants should be taken in the right amounts for optimal health. When you select a thyroid supplement or a multivitamin, look carefully at the amounts and form of individual ingredients included in the supplement. I recommend that you take selenomethionine which is one of the best absorbed forms of selenium and that will give you the most consistent levels, and I urge you to avoid other forms of selenium supplementation. ThyroLife Optima, the supplement that I designed for thyroid patients, includes 125 micrograms of L-selenomethionine, as well as 31 other ingredients in well balanced amounts to provide you with the most optimal thyroid and immune system health benefits.