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The impact of selenium on thyroid function

Team AckoApr 4, 2023

The thyroid plays an important role in the body, regulating vital functions such as metabolism, heart rate and body temperature. In order for it to function properly, the thyroid requires the correct levels of both iodine and selenium. Selenium acts as a protective agent against thyroid damage, with research suggesting it can reduce the risk of hypothyroidism and goitres, thus it is essential for the maintenance of a healthy thyroid. In this article, we'll explore the role of selenium in thyroid function, and how it affects the body.

The impact of selenium on thyroid function

Contents

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The role of selenium in thyroid function

Selenium is a trace mineral found in small quantities in many foods, including seafood, meats, poultry and certain types of grains, nuts and seeds. It’s an essential part of the human body’s thyroid hormones, and is necessary for the production of thyroxine, the major hormone produced by the thyroid. 

Selenium contributes to the processing and delivery of the hormone and helps regulate its production. It is also thought to be necessary for the body to use the hormone in order to keep cells and metabolic processes working properly.

Selenium also helps boost the immune system, which helps protect against thyroid diseases. A large-scale study from the University of North Carolina School of Medicine revealed that individuals with normal selenium levels had lower levels of thyroid antibodies. The same study found that increasing selenium levels significantly reduced the risk for hypothyroidism and goitres. 

Sources of selenium

Here are some foods rich in selenium, which can help keep your thyroid healthy.

  • Brazil Nuts

  • Mushrooms

  • Fish fillets

  • Oysters and other shellfish

  • Chicken

  • Turkey

  • Brown rice

  • Oats

  • Sunflower and pumpkin seeds

  • Eggs

  • Garlic

  • Peas

  • Carrots

  • Kale

  • Spinach

In some cases, doctors may suggest taking a supplement, particularly for individuals with an existing thyroid disorder. However, it’s important to note that too much selenium can be toxic, so it’s always best to speak to your doctor before increasing your selenium intake.

The benefits of selenium

The main benefit of including selenium in your diet is its ability to protect the thyroid. Studies have found that higher levels of selenium may be associated with reduced risk of some types of thyroid diseases, including goitres and hypothyroidism. 

Studies also suggest that selenium may have positive effects on other conditions, including asthma and arthritis, although further research is needed to explore these potential benefits.

Risk factors for low selenium levels

Individuals who are at an increased risk for low selenium levels include the following.

  • Pregnant women

  • Infants

  • People with Crohn's disease or Celiac disease

  • Individuals on extreme diets, or those with eating disorders

  • Heavy drinkers

If you fall into any of these categories, it’s important to talk to your doctor about the best ways to ensure you’re getting the right level of selenium in your diet.

The impact of selenium on autoimmune diseases

Selenium is an antioxidant which is thought to reduce oxidative stress, which occurs if there’s an imbalance between the production of reactive oxygen species and the body's ability to remove them. It’s thought to play a role in the development of autoimmune diseases, including Hashimoto's thyroiditis. As selenium has antioxidant properties, research suggests that taking it in supplement form may help reduce instances of thyroiditis, although further research is needed to explore this potential benefit.

Essential mineral

Selenium is an essential mineral for the maintenance of healthy thyroid function. It acts as a protective agent against thyroid damage, helping reduce the risk of goitres and hypothyroidism. 

It’s essential to include selenium in your diet, with foods such as Brazil nuts, eggs, fish and mushrooms particularly valuable sources. Supplements can also be taken, although it’s important to speak to your doctor about the correct dose for you. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Below are the answers to frequently asked questions regarding to the impact of selenium on thyroid function

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What is Selenium?

Selenium is a trace mineral found in many foods, including seafood, meats, poultry and certain types of grains, nuts and seeds. It’s an essential part of the human body’s thyroid hormones, and is necessary for the production of thyroxine, the major hormone produced by the thyroid.

What are the benefits of selenium?

The main benefit of including selenium in your diet is its ability to protect the thyroid, contributing to the production of thyroid hormones and helping reduce the risk of goiters and hypothyroidism. Selenium may also have positive effects on other conditions, including asthma and arthritis.

Who is at risk for low selenium levels?

Individuals who are at an increased risk for low selenium levels include pregnant women, infants, people with Crohn's disease or Celiac disease, those on extreme diets and heavy drinkers.

How can low selenium levels be managed?

In order to manage low selenium levels, it’s important to ensure that you’re including selenium-rich foods in your diet and taking selenium supplements, if needed. However, it’s important to speak to your doctor before increasing your selenium intake, as too much selenium can be toxic.

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