Maintaining Thyroid Health: The Role of Selenium

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Over the last few years, the importance of the thyroid in maintaining overall health has become increasingly apparent. Research has implicated the disruption of thyroid function in a wide range of diseases and conditions, and population estimates indicate that about 20 million Americans have some sort of thyroid disease or disorder. Thyroid conditions are especially common among women, with one in eight women developing some form of thyroid disorder during her lifetime, according to the American Thyroid Association.

Some thyroid conditions require prescription medication or even surgery, but there is growing evidence that selenium — a key micronutrient that is found in many foods and is available as a dietary supplement — can help protect against thyroid disease and reduce symptoms in patients who have already developed thyroid conditions. Read on to learn more about this crucial micronutrient and how to incorporate it into a healthy diet that supports thyroid health.

How Selenium Supports Thyroid Health

Of all the organs in the body, the thyroid is the one with the highest concentration of selenium, and for good reason — selenium plays an important role in two cellular processes that are essential for thyroid health. Specifically, it is incorporated into certain proteins — called “selenoproteins” — that play one of two major roles:

  • Some selenoproteins act as antioxidants to protect the thyroid from damage. When making thyroid hormones, the cells of the thyroid generate free radicals, such as hydrogen peroxide. Certain types of selenoproteins can get rid of these dangerous substances, which can otherwise damage or even destroy the cells of the thyroid gland, severely disrupting its function.
  • Other selenoproteins are involved in the proper metabolism of thyroid hormones. Specifically, a family of enzymes called iodothyrine deiodonases contain selenium, and they are involved in the activation and deactivation of the thyroid hormones. Without selenium, these enzymes may not function properly, which means that thyroid hormones may send the wrong signals to your body. As a result, you may experience symptoms of hyper- or hypothyroidism.

Daily Intake of Selenium

According to the Office of Dietary Supplements at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), selenium is an essential micronutrient, which means that your body cannot make its on its own. Instead, you have to get it through your diet. The following are the recommended dietary allowances (RDAs) of selenium for each age group:

  • Birth to six months: 15 mcg
  • 7 – 12 months: 20 mcg
  • 1 – 3 years: 20 mcg
  • 4 – 8 years: 30 mcg
  • 9 – 13 years: 40 mcg
  • 14 – 18 years: 55 mcg
  • 19 – 50 years: 55 mcg
  • 55+ years: 55 mcg

It is also important to note that the RDA for women during pregnancy is 60 mcg, and during lactation, it rises to 70 mcg.

Dietary Supplements and Real Food Sources of Selenium

There are many foods that contain selenium, as well as dietary supplements that provide this essential micronutrient. Depending on the food or source, selenium is available in both organic and inorganic forms: the two organic forms are seleno-methionine and seleno-cysteine, and the two inorganic forms are selenite and selenate.

If you are thinking about trying a selenium supplement, seleno-methionine is the way to go. Because selenium is incorporated into proteins in place of a common amino acid, methionine, it is the most bioavailable form of selenium. Also, unlike inorganic forms of selenium, the presence of vitamin C does not interfere with the absorption of seleno-methionine.

You can also increase your intake of selenium by eating foods that are rich in the micronutrient. You can get selenomethionine by eating vegetable sources, and you can get seleno-cysteine by eating animal products. Here are a few foods that are particularly high in selenium, as well as some tips for incorporating them into your diet.

  • Brazil nuts. Brazil nuts are probably the best-known selenium-rich food, because they contain almost 10 times the RDA for an average adult. In a single one-ounce serving of brazil nuts — just 6 to 8 nuts! — you can get 544 mcg of selenium. Brazil nuts are also a convenient snack. Keep a container of these nuts at your desk to help you curb afternoon cravings
  • Tuna. Tuna is the other food that offers more than 100 percent of the RDA for selenium in a single serving: there are 92 mcg in only 3 ounces of cooked yellowfin tuna. You can put tuna on your sandwich, serve it as a main dish for dinner, or even sprinkle it on top of your salad to boost both selenium and protein content!
  • Pasta, rice, and cereal. Foods in the grain group are also high in selenium, and they offer a vegetarian source of seleno-methionine. One cup of macaroni has 37 mcg, one cup of long-grain brown rice has 19 mcg, and one cup of puffed-wheat ready-to-eat cereal has 15 mcg.

Atlanta Chiropractic and Wellness offers integrative care for thyroid problems, including nutritional counseling and a seleno-methionine supplement. Contact us today to set up an appointment and learn more about our products and services!

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