Selenium and Thyroid Hormone Conversion
Selenium is a huge part of the thyroid hormone conversion process and I believe warrants a bit of a closer look. Here I'd like to share some of what I've learned and how I'm taking that information and using it in my own treatment regime.
Perhaps it will expand on your own knowledge and research and help you to make decisions on things that you might do with your diet and supplements to help improve your body's ability to convert thyroid hormones.
aka Topper (Linda)
Selenium is a naturally occurring mineral found in most parts of the world. In areas where foods are grown naturally, without the supposed 'benefits' of modern agriculture, selenium levels in the soil are sufficient to allow plants to absorb this valuable mineral during their growth process. We then ate those plants, or food-producing animals ate them, and we were then able to ingest the selenium ourselves. No problem.
There are a few areas on the planet where the land is low in selenium in it's natural state. But with the use of modern agricultural practices, chemical fertilizers, mono-culture, intensive planting, etc. those areas are not the only ones any more where we have to be aware of the fact that many of us are deficient in this vital nutrient.
Folks that eat organically grown foods are much less likely to have be concerned by a deficiency of selenium in their diets. Another good reason to start up a garden in your yard and learn to grow healthy, organic produce!
How do we add Selenium back into our systems?
Bar none, the best way is to obtain it from our food. But for a good many of us that isn't an easy task. It's pretty much a given that you are buying the foods you eat from a grocery store and it's quite likely that anything not listed as 'organic' has been produced on a 'modern commercial agriculture' type farm. The type of farm that uses chemical based fertilizers to promote rapid growth of plants without much concern for their nutritional value (sorry, sore subject for me, I am bitter about it), and even worst thought is those farms that are now using GMO type plants, but that is a completely independent topic.
Some foods are naturally higher in selenium than others, but it's still going to depend on what levels, if any, are still in the soil in which they are grown.
One food that is naturally high in selenium, and likely always will be, is Brazil Nuts.
These trees grow in areas that are in their original state, rich in natural nutrients. The plants are so sensitive to their environment and growing conditions that, so far, no one has been able to transplant them or propagate them in other parts of the world.
Only 3 to 4 brazil nuts a day will give you the selenium you need to have healthy thyroid hormone conversion.
.. provided, of course, you body is converting thyroid hormone properly.
I take Selenium as a tablet... I'd like to take brazils... a better, more natural source.. but they are next to impossible to find in my area unless they are in a mixed nut package.
For thyroid hormone conversion to work right.. to allow your body to make enough T3 you have to have everything needed for the chemical process...
Enough T4 in your tissues, so that means having a thyroid replacement dose large enough to allow your body to store enough. Since we can't measure what is actually stored in the tissues we go by testing what is free and available in our blood.. the Free T4 test... if that level is high enough we stand a decent chance of being able to store enough to be available to convert.
You need energy in the blood to make the conversion happen.. that's where the mini-meals that I talk so much about come in... small regular meals that keep the energy levels in the blood consistent so that conversion can take place continually.
Skipping meals is the WORST thing we can do for our thyroid recovery...
if the energy level drops, conversion stops! Breakfast is HUGELY important.. it not only eases the burden on the adrenals, it gives us the energy to kick off our conversion so that we can function.
You need the selenium. Selenium is like a pair of pliers during conversion. The Selenium molecule attaches to one of the four iodine molecules that are in a T4 molecule.... then the energy available in the blood stream yanks that selenium molecule back which in turn yanks off an iodine molecule... Now that T4 molecule, that was being stored, has been converted into a T3 molecule. The molecule that our body can use to do all the marvelous things that it does to keep us alive and happy and well.
Short review of requirements for conversion
T4 levels too low... not enough to convert
Not enough selenium in the system, can't convert
Not enough energy in the system, can't convert.
It all works together. If one part is lacking the conversion isn't working on a high enough level to give us the active hormone, T3, to be well.....
That same conversion process converts some of that T3 that was made into T2... that's used for metabolism..... and some of the T2 that was made is converted into T1... that's used for our brain function.
Adding supplemental T3
For those of us that have 'broken converters' adding T3 allows the conversion that we do have to work on the other hormones, T2 and T1... and just top off what we need for T3....
There are a couple of ways to do that:
For those that are taking T4 only medications, such as Synthroid and it's generics, you can use a natural thyroid med, such as Armour (or it's generics), or you can add synthetic T3, such as Cytomel.
For those that are already on natural thyroid, Armour, etc... you can add direct T3 in the form a Cytomel (or it's generics), a synthetic T3 supplement.
How much Selenium?
200 to 400 mcg of Selenium per day is a good range... I take 400 mcg most of the time... taking amounts of 600 mcg and over, for more than 2 weeks, can build up to toxic levels and can be fatal... So you want to take enough to help your body, but not so much as to harm.
Remember to take into consideration what types of foods you eat as well. If you eat more organically you'll obviously need less selenium in a supplement (pill) form.
Selenium used to be common in the foods we eat. But the way that the big commercial farms work now, using chemical fertilizers, the soil is pretty much stripped of selenium.. Some folks say that the increase in folks with thyroid problems might be linked to our diets being so poor in natural selenium... Something to consider.
How to best take Selenium as a supplement
There are two things to keep in mind when taking Selenium...
First, if you take anything containing vitamin C at the same time you take the selenium you MUST take it with food. Selenium and vitamin C will bind together and become unusable if you don't. If you eat at the same time the selenium is able to 'hide' in the chemistry of the digesting food and doesn't get stuck to the vitamin C and you get the benefit of both.
The other thing is the source of selenium when buying tablets... there is a whole chemistry name thing involved.. one form of selenium isn't as easily used by the body.. so think of it as less efficient.. the other is more easily absorbed and used by the body.... think of it as more of it for the money you spent and the effort you made to take it.... The easiest way, for me, to remember the good from the bad... the good is grown using yeast... So if the ingredient label says that it includes yeast.. it's the good stuff.
Some folks have to be wary of yeast, be it an allergy situation or another type of sensitivity issue they can't ingest supplements containing yeast, for them they have to use the other type of selenium and be more vigilant dosing.
My personal dosing plan
How and when I choose to take the selenium is the same as for all my supps:
anything in a capsule that can't be split and doesn't bind with thyroid hormone is taken in the morning
All tablets and caplets that can be split get split into four doses,
except for multi-vitamins, I split those into 8 ths
Anything that binds with thyroid hormone or otherwise affects it (calcium, iron, etc) is taken at night.
All supps are taken with a meal.
(you can see more about how I set up my doses of meds and supps on the page I set up to show my pill paks: ThyroGeek's Pill Paks)
So my selenium is taken a quarter tab at a time, four times a day... I have this theory that spreading stuff out gives us better absorption... Just like with food, how mini meal eating seems to make it easier for our bodies to process and digest food and absorb nutrients more efficiently.
Not everybody thinks that way... so it's okay to do it in one dose, I just say how I happen to do it....
Your doctor should be able to check your selenium levels to determine if you are in need of supplementation.
Remember ---- It's always best to have the tests run first!