Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is an autoimmune disorder characterized by auto-antibodies that attack normal thyroid cells. The initial result is bouts of hyperthyroidism, followed by a consistent hypothyroidism that usually requires thyroid hormone replacement. The exact cause is unknown; however, some doctors have speculated that a viral infection might precipitate a normal antibody response that eventually transforms into auto-antibodies that attack the thyroid gland. Immune specialists and endocrinologists have recently investigated the effects of selenium in Hashimoto’s disease. Selenium is a mineral with known immune benefits, leaving scientists asking if it could treat Hashimoto’s disease.
Selenium Reduces Auto-antibody Levels
Auto-antibodies are made by B-cells and target normal cells and tissues. In the case of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, they target the thyroid gland and eventually cause low thyroid hormone production. Selenium supplementation has been shown to reduce the levels of circulating auto-antibodies in Hashimoto’s disease. The end result could be improvements in thyroid function as well. During a 2013 study, researchers analyzed four independent studies all assessing the effects of selenium on the serum levels of auto-antibodies. The average dose of selenium was 200 micrograms a day, in addition to thyroid hormone replacement with levothyroxine. Selenium in all four studies significantly reduced the levels of auto-antibodies. Additionally, there was a significant improvement in subjective well-being in one study. Adding selenium to thyroid replacement did not increase adverse events.1 Nevertheless, the authors warned that significant differences among subjects in the studies made drawing any definitive conclusions impossible. However, they did note that enough information had been gained from the analysis to warrant further testing on selenium.1
Different Forms of Selenium Supplements
Selenium is a trace mineral that is essential to optimal health. Few people — including physicians — realize that selenium is available in several different forms. Each form of selenium acts along a different pathway to support healthy cells and tissues, including the thyroid gland.2 For optimized selenium support, one should supplement with all three of the following forms of selenium:
The current review looked at studies that used L-selenomethionine exclusively. But it’s best to go ahead and supplement with a comprehensive selenium product.
What You Need to Know
Thyroid diseases occur about five times more frequently in women than in men. As many as 20% of women over 60 years old have subclinical hypothyroidism.3 If untreated, chronic hypothyroidism can result in life-threatening consequences, like coma and heart failure. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is the most common form of hypothyroidism in the United States and is characterized by the tissue destroying auto-antibodies. Selenium supplementation may in fact reduce levels of the auto-antibodies and help to improve thyroid function.
Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2013 Jun 6;6:CD010223.
National Institutes of Health. http://ods.od.nih.gov/ factsheets/ Selenium-HealthProfessional
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