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Will Selenium Boost Thyroid Function?

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Feeling tired, down, and losing hair? You might be suffering from a thyroid problem caused by low selenium levels. Read on to see how selenium is used in the thyroid and how increasing selenium levels can benefit your thyroid function.

Selenium is an essential mineral that comes out of the soil. It is also found in a few foods, including garlic, brazil nuts, seafood, and sunflower seeds. The concentration of selenium in food, however, is dependant on the soil in which the food was grown.

Soil lacking in selenium will produce food lacking in selenium even if the food is known for containing high levels of selenium. Researchers estimate that about 1 billion people worldwide suffer from a selenium deficiency. Even though it is a widespread problem, few people realize they are deficient in the mineral or even what selenium does for the body. Read on to find out how selenium affects the body from the metabolism to reducing the risk for anemia.

Signs of a Selenium Deficiency

Selenium deficiency is common, but few people recognize the signs of this common disorder. If you are suffering from any of the following signs, you might just be low in selenium.

Hair Loss and Discolored Fingernails

Hair loss or discolored fingernails can mean various things, but if seen together, there is a good chance that selenium deficiency could be to blame. Common hallmarks of selenium deficiency include sudden hair loss from all over the head. Fingernails with white skin beds are signs of a chronically low selenium intake.

Reproductive Problems

Recurring miscarriages not attributed to other causes just might be influenced by selenium levels. A study from 2002 published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology found that selenium deficiency is " a risk factor for recurrent pregnancy loss." Low selenium levels can interfere with a woman's monthly cycle and may harm sperm motility in men.

Brain Fog

If you have trouble remembering details or always feel like your brain is foggy, low selenium could be to blame. Increasing selenium intake has been associated with reducing anxiety and irritability and boosting mental function.

Low Immunity

Selenium is required to make the antioxidant glutathione peroxidase. Low levels of this antioxidant lead to a compromised immune system making it easier for you to catch viral infections. Fatigue If you are tired for no explainable reason, there are likely many factors in play, but low selenium is also likely to be a factor. Selenium helps work with other nutrients to keep your energy levels up, particularly B vitamins.

Sluggish Thyroid

Your thyroid controls many functions in the body through the release of hormones. One notable function is metabolism, or how fast your body uses the fuel you give it. A lack of selenium leads to a sluggish thyroid, making it harder to maintain a healthy weight.

Selenium and Your Thyroid

Without enough selenium in your diet, your thyroid cannot function properly. Selenium is directly involved in the management of your thyroid hormones, which means that without selenium, the operation of your thyroid is off kilter and will cause problems (usually a sluggish thyroid).

The thyroid is home to one of the highest concentrations of selenium in the body. The thyroid gland produces a protein called thyroglobulin that connects iodine and tyrosine to form the hormone T4. When this process happens, free radicals are also produced, which must be deactivated to prevent damage to the thyroid gland. Your body makes an antioxidant called glutathione peroxidase, which requires selenium to produce.

This antioxidant directly attacks the free radicals produced in the thyroid, preventing damage to the thyroid gland. Without selenium, the thyroid continues to get damaged, leading to a host of problems.

What Happens When Selenium is Low?

Proper thyroid function is essential to your body's health, which is one reason why unbalanced thyroid problems can be such a big issue. If you suffer from low selenium levels, your body is forced to prioritize some processes above others.

Your body will use selenium from everywhere else in the body to fuel the thyroid and your brain. When a selenium deficiency is present, first, your thyroid function will slow. Then, your thyroid will become inflamed (due to the high presence of free radicals), at the last stages, your thyroid will trigger an autoimmune response where your body creates autoantibodies to try and get rid of the free radicals. This condition is known as autoimmune thyroiditis.

Even lower levels of selenium are likely to lead to cancer. Low selenium levels may be to blame for many thyroid problems. A study from 2010 published in Clinical Endocrinology found that giving selenium supplements to individuals with autoimmune thyroiditis started to reverse the problem in just a few weeks.

How Much Selenium Do You Need?

Selenium is a trace mineral, meaning that you don't need much. In fact, too much selenium can have unfortunate side effects. The recommended dietary allowance for selenium is about 55 mcg of selenium per day. However, you have to consume quite a bit more than that to see any negative health consequences.

A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2010 found that doses up to 3,200 mcg of selenium per day had no toxic side effects. However, other studies indicate that doses between 200 mcg and 300 mcg per day are enough to benefit thyroid function.

Other Benefits of Selenium

Selenium is used all over the body (mainly in the thyroid and brain, however) and it's role is important wherever it is used. Studies indicate that optimal selenium levels are necessary to maintain a healthy immune system, fight cancer, and fight bacterial infections.

Cancer Risk

Low selenium levels are tied with a higher risk for cancer. A 2006 study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that low selenium levels increase the chances that a person will die from cancer. High selenium levels are linked with a reduced risk of getting colorectal cancer, lung cancer, breast cancer, stomach cancer, prostate cancer, bladder cancer, and esophageal cancer.

Immune Support

Selenium is a strong antioxidant, but it also boosts the immune function, which may be why it is so effective at fighting cancer cells. Selenium has been found in studies to reduce the odds of catching viral and bacterial infections (and even reducing the number of hospitalizations in AIDS patients). Selenium also helps reduce inflammation and prevent the worsening of autoimmune disorders and inflammatory diseases.

Anemia

Many of the symptoms of a selenium deficiency and anemia overlap. Anemia is a common condition that indicates you have too-little hemoglobin. Selenium also helps with selenium production, and anemia can be triggered by a lack of selenium in the diet.

Where to Get Selenium

Selenium is helpful in supplement form, but selenium is also important to get through dietary sources. You can find selenium in:

Foods High In Selenium 
  • Eggs
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Liver
  • Chia seeds
  • Mushrooms
  • Chicken
  • Turkey
  • Brazil nuts
  • Salmon
  • Sardines

Of course, the important thing to remember is that it is the selenium quality of the ground in which the food was grown (or raised) that really determines the selenium content of food. The United States has fairly high levels of selenium in the soil, so if you eat foods grown in the United States you will have a greater chance of getting enough selenium through food (if you regularly eat the above foods).

However, the Atlantic Coast, Great Lakes region, New England, and the Pacific Northwest are also deficient in soil selenium. Smoking, drinking, Crohn's disease, and ulcerative colitis will also make it harder to get enough selenium in your diet. Adding a selenium supplement will address any underlying deficiencies you might have.

Selenium Overdosing

Strangely, the symptoms of a selenium overdose are similar to that of a deficiency. If you are taking selenium supplements for several weeks or more and still have the signs of selenium deficiency (along with gastronomical distress), you may be overdosing. Try cutting back to a half or quarter dose of selenium until symptoms subside.

Selenium and the Thyroid

Your thyroid requires selenium to function properly and facilitate weight loss and hormone regulation. Without selenium, your body suffers at all levels. If you suspect a selenium deficiency might be interfering with your thyroid, take steps today to add dietary sources of selenium and consider taking a selenium supplement along with other nutrients that support thyroid health until your body is back on track.

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