Proper thyroid function is critical to having a healthy body. Because it is so highly integrated with many bodily systems, it is not surprising that there are many factors involved in keeping the thyroid working efficiently. Balancing all the various elements can be difficult. In part, this is because people are often under-educated on the elements that promote good thyroid health. As January is Thyroid Awareness Month, it is a perfect time to become more knowledgeable on this critical system that has such great impact on the body.
The Thyroid and Selenium
Even if one has not been diagnosed with an autoimmune or thyroid condition it is important to be aware of what this small gland does. Some of the most basic functions of the thyroid include:
- Maintaining and regulating metabolism
- Assisting in the breakdown and usage of carbohydrates and fats
- Regulating cholesterol
- Managing appetite
- Influencing blood pressure
- And many more
Nutrient deficiencies, as well as various environmental factors, can reduce thyroid functionality. One important nutrients to be aware of is selenium. This mineral can be found in organic or inorganic forms. Plants convert the soil based inorganic selenium into its organic form that is usable by our bodies. This conversion is important as only organic forms of selenium are capable of altering serum levels in the body due to its bioavailability.
Selenium is necessary for producing thyroid hormones and also acts as a protective antioxidant. Proper thyroid function requires balanced levels of various thyroid hormones including but not limited to T4, T3, and Reverse T3. Studies have found an association with reduced selenium levels and low levels of T4, Free T4, and Reverse T3. To achieve appropriate balance, inactive thyroid hormone must be converted into the active form. Conversion is completed by removing an iodine atom from T4, thereby turning it into the active and useable thyroid hormone, T3. This process is impossible without deiodinase enzymes, which requires selenium to be produced. Inadequate levels of T3, caused by selenium deficiency or otherwise, can lead to an underactive thyroid.
Not only does selenium facilitate the production of hormones but it also defends against the biological byproducts. During hormone production, the thyroid manufactures hydrogen peroxide which is needed for hormone synthesis. Unfortunately, this chemical is toxic to other cells in the body. To counteract this, the body utilizes selenium to combat oxidative damage. Selenium helps break down excess hydrogen peroxide, which prevents cell damage and necrosis of thyrocytes. In addition to combatting oxidative stressors in the body, selenium can be a preventative measure against heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and some cancers.
Although selenium deficiency is uncommon in adults it does still occur. There are several reasons why one may experience a selenium deficit. Conditions such as Crohn’s or celiac disease which damages the digestive system, inflammation caused by chronic infection, or having a gastric bypass surgery can inhibit nutrient absorption. Additionally, activities such as smoking, regular consumption of alcohol, and using birth control can further reduce absorption rates.
In a broader sense, people may experience selenium deficiency due to soil being sapped of numerous nutrients because of environmental toxins. As one ages, selenium levels severely drop and many medications including antidepressants, and hormone-replacement treatments can reduce selenium levels. Signs of deficiency, which are shared with symptoms of hypothyroidism, include:
- Reduced immunity
- Inhibited cognitive function
- Heart issues
- Fertility or reproductive problems
- And more
When the body experiences a deficiency of this mineral, all available selenium is redirected to the thyroid to maintain functionality. This may be the reason one experiences poor cognitive ability because the brain is not getting a sufficient amount.
Autoimmunity and Selenium
Recent studies suggest that this mineral may help lower risk of autoimmune conditions such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Selenium deficiency is usually not the primary reason one experiences an autoimmune condition, but it facilitates it. Weakening of the body’s immune system increases the chance one will be incapable of repelling biochemical and infectious stressors.
Those with weak immune systems tend to avoid foods such as bread, pasta, and grains, which can agitate and intensify the body’s immune response. Unfortunately, foods such as these are often enriched with selenium which can cause those who avoid them to become selenium deficient. Implementation of a selenium supplement can prevent aggravation of the small intestine, where 90% of the body’s immune system is located, while providing the necessary amounts of this important mineral.
Selenium Sources and Supplements
Because selenium is not produced by the body, it is necessary to acquire it through the foods we eat or nutritional supplements. If one is looking to get adequate selenium through their diet alone there are a several foods that are rich with the mineral. Some popular foods choices include:
- Red meat
- Cremini and Shiitake mushrooms
Additionally, Brazil nuts are an excellent source of selenium. So much so that eating two to four per day is enough to positively impact one’s immune function.
Regardless if one has dietary constraints, poor absorption, or other selenium inhibitors, one may benefit from supplementation. Thyro Rx, a product of HoltraCeuticals, is an excellent way to provide one’s body and thyroid with the selenium it needs. In addition to the many benefits of selenium noted in the above sections, Thyro Rx is formulated to assist thyroid function and aid in bringing hormone levels back into balance. An organic form of selenium (selenomethionine) found in this supplement boasts an absorption rate of 90% while also having a reduced risk of toxicity.
Cautions and Concerns
Although keeping one’s selenium levels up is important, it can be dangerous to raise them too high. Speak with a physician before implementing a selenium supplement. In addition, having one’s levels tested after roughly a month of treatment reduces the risk of over dosage and toxicity. Long term consumption of excessive amounts of selenium may cause gastrointestinal issues, fatigue, irritability, hair loss and mild nerve damage. Additional research is needed to gauge the lasting effects of selenium.
Knowing What We Need
Because the thyroid is so complex, it can be feel like a daunting task to maintain proper thyroid function. By reading and learning more during Thyroid Awareness Month one can move forward in understanding the condition of their thyroid and treat it appropriately. Taking measures, even as simple as educating oneself on the thyroid, altering one’s diet, or utilizing proper supplementation can lead to greater thyroid health and improved quality of life.