It can seem like there are more and more people being diagnosed with some form of thyroid disease these days. Much of this has to do with the advancement of technology and the ability of medical professionals to find abnormalities, such as nodules with a thyroid ultrasound. Many people who come down with thyroid disease have some sort of autoimmune disease at the root. Although diagnoses of thyroid cancer are on the rise, maintaining a healthy lifestyle is one way to reduce your risk. Another is the use of healthy amounts of supplements such as selenium for thyroid health.
What Is Selenium?
Selenium, identified on the periodic table as Se with the atomic number 34, is an element that can be found in the soil, parts of the human body, and even in certain foods. Small amounts of this material are necessary for maintaining good health, especially in the thyroid. In the human body, Selenium is mostly found in the kidneys, liver, and thyroid. Although seemingly a very small piece to a much larger puzzle, selenium is necessary to proper thyroid hormone regulation.
Selenium and the Thyroid
To understand the importance of selenium in the body, it’s necessary to understand how your thyroid functions. The thyroid is responsible for regulating the metabolic rate of your body, in addition to functions related to the heart, digestive system, muscles, bones, and brain development. Metabolism is the use of energy in order for your body to do things. The thyroid helps in the speed and efficiency at which energy is used in the body. However, the thyroid isn’t smart enough to do this on its own; it needs the help of enzymes.
The thyroid hormone in the human body is known as T4. Its activation and deactivation is governed by types I, II, and II of the enzymes known as iodothyronine de-iodinases. These enzymes are simply referred to as IDI, IDII, and IDIII. IDI changes T4 to T3, which is used to determine your body’s metabolic rate. Your brain can also activate T4 and use IDII to change T4 to T3. IDIII is the enzyme that helps slow down your metabolism by converting T4 to what is known as inactive reverse T3, or it converts T3 to T2.
How is this related to selenium? Selenium is an essential requirement for these three enzymes to function. Without selenium, the enzymes cannot properly set or slow down a metabolic rate, and your thyroid doesn’t know what to do. Thus, the biggest benefits to the taking of selenium is that it can assist with the proper regulation of thyroid hormone to stabilize metabolism, especially in those with a selenium deficiency.
Perhaps more importantly, scientists and health professionals agree that the taking of selenium makes an enormous difference when it comes to preventing thyroid disease.
Selenium is essential to healthy thyroid function, but it can also help in other areas of the body. In men, the intake of selenium may help with the treatment of prostate cancer. It also has nutritional benefits for maintaining a healthy heart with better cholesterol levels. The element also has excellent antioxidant properties that are beneficial to the regeneration of vitamins C and E, which can help with skin aging. It’s most important benefits appear to be linked to the immune system, however, as it has been found to fight against:
Viral and bacterial infections
Where Can You Get Selenium?
It is possible to take a selenium supplement if you feel you are deficient or you are advised to do so by a healthcare professional. In addition to supplement bottles, the element is also found in meats, poultry, seafood, oats, brown rice, and Brazil nuts.
How Much Should You Take?
Studies have shown that it certainly doesn’t hurt to take a little extra selenium in supplement form, but how much is too much? There have been studies that monitored the taking of anywhere from 50 mcg per day to 3,200 mcg per day. While some of these studies seemed to indicate that there were not necessarily any bad side effects regarding toxicity in those who took large amounts, there also did not appear to be any additional benefits. However, there have not yet been any studies performed to determine the best intake amount for healthy thyroid function.
For anyone who is considering adding selenium to a daily supplement regimen, a dose of 200-300 mcg per day seems to be an appropriate amount. A recent study for the prevention of cancer showed that participants who took 200 mcg of selenium per day had a 25 percent reduction to their cancer risk. The taking of 400 mcg, however, did not reduce this risk. Therefore, 200-300 mcg appears to be a healthy amount for optimum function of the immune system.
Although it is not a cure for thyroid disease or any underlying autoimmune disease affecting the thyroid, selenium has clear immune system benefits and is a vital component to healthy regulation of thyroid hormone. Studies have even linked it to a reduction in cancer risk. If you are considering adding a selenium supplement to your repertoire, consult with your doctor to determine the proper amount to take.