Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is an autoimmune condition that affects the thyroid gland and leads to long-term damage if left untreated. The damage is caused by immune cells that infiltrate the thyroid when the body mistakes thyroid tissue for foreign invaders like viruses or bacteria.
Hashimoto’s often develops over time and may not even produce symptoms in its early stages. When symptoms do occur, they often vacillate between those consistent with hyperthyroidism (such as rapid heartbeat, anxiety, and insomnia) and those consistent with hypothyroidism (such as fatigue, cold extremities, constipation, and depression – get the complete hypothyroid symptom list here).
Eventually, the thyroid cannot produce adequate amounts of thyroid hormone, leading to chronic hypothyroidism which requires thyroid hormone replacement.
Five stages of Hashimoto’s have been elucidated, yet many individuals go undiagnosed until the final stages. That is why it is so important to find a doctor willing to do a thorough investigation of your thyroid function, including a full thyroid panel that tests thyroid antibodies (not just TSH!). The earlier Hashimoto’s is diagnosed, the better the chances of recovering before damage to the thyroid becomes permanent!
Selenium has become a nutrient of interest in thyroid function. Those with Hashimoto’s may benefit from supplementation with selenium, as it has been shown in clinical trials to reduce thyroid antibodies by as much as 50%! In fact, selenium deficiency has even been considered to be one of the risk factors for developing Hashimoto’s in the first place.
This trace mineral supports immune function and plays an important role in thyroid hormone production. It is also involved in liver, brain, heart, digestive, musculoskeletal, and hormone health.
While iodine tends to get a lot of attention in regards to thyroid function, selenium is just as important – learn more about iodine’s role in the body here. Without adequate selenium, iodine becomes toxic to the body due to the free radicals that are produced during the conversion to its usable form. Selenium acts as an antioxidant to neutralize the byproduct hydrogen peroxide. When hydrogen peroxide goes unchecked, lymphocytes infiltrate thyroid tissue and thyroid antibodies are produced.
Selenium also acts as a catalyst in the conversion of the thyroid hormone T4 to the active form T3. Glutathione peroxidase, the body’s major endogenous antioxidant, is also dependent on selenium.
Foods with higher selenium content include sunflower seeds, fish, beef liver, eggs, and chia seeds. Brazil nuts are particularly high in selenium. However, the selenium content of foods varies depending on geographical location, since the soil in different areas contains different amounts of selenium. Selenium deficiency is more common in areas known to have low soil content. Because of this, it may be difficult for those with suboptimal selenium levels to get enough from food alone.
A therapeutic dose of selenium has been shown to be greater than the amount in most multivitamins as well. Significant antibody reduction has been demonstrated at dosages above 200 mcg per day.
Thyro Rx by Holtraceuticals supplies 400 mcg per day as well as other nutrients and herbs to support healthy thyroid function in the context of the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal-thyroid axis. Very high doses of selenium for a long period of time may cause toxicity, particularly if an individual is low in iodine since these two minerals work together. So it is important to work with a healthcare provider to determine your individual needs.
With a healthcare system that emphasizes pharmaceuticals to minimize symptoms of disease rather than address root causes, it is easy to forget how important something as basic as vitamins and minerals are to proper functioning of the body – thyroid function is highly dependent on not just selenium, but also iodine, zinc, iron, and a few other nutrients.
Selenium supplementation is often a simple and inexpensive way to help support the thyroid and lower antibodies in those with Hashimoto’s.