Is Selenium Supplementation Helpful or Harmful for Autoimmune Thyroid Disease?

If you have hypothyroid and you’re taking a natural approach to healing, then you’ve probably heard that selenium is an ideal supplement to support your thyroid. While there is scientific data to support this, there is also evidence that contradicts this idea.

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Selenium

Is Selenium Supplementation Helpful or Harmful for Autoimmune Thyroid Disease?

If you have hypothyroid and you’re taking a natural approach to healing, then you’ve probably heard that selenium is an ideal supplement to support your thyroid. Studies have shown benefit with selenium supplementation due to its abilities to lower thyroid antibodies and to help with thyroid function by assisting with conversion of T4 to T3.

While there is scientific data to support this, there is also evidence that contradicts this idea. A recent systematic review with meta-analysis (high level study) was published that found no effect of selenium supplementation on thyroid stimulating hormone, health-related quality of life, or thyroid ultrasound.

This study evaluated the effects of selenium supplementation in patients with chronic autoimmune thyroiditis. Controlled trials in adults (≥18 years) with autoimmune thyroiditis comparing selenium with or without levothyroxine substitution versus placebo and/or levothyroxine substitution were eligible for inclusion.

Eleven studies published between 2002 and 2015 were included in the systematic review, and reported data from nine trials with 679 individuals.

What does this mean?

While this seems to be discouraging news, we do need to put it in perspective and look at the big picture. There was another meta-analysis of four trials that did find benefit with selenium supplementation, but the treatment duration was for a shorter period.

One key finding is that in this review, when they looked at studies that were up to three months in duration, they showed benefits with selenium. However, the 6-month and 12-month studies did not show benefits.

What this may mean is that selenium supplementation in the short-term is beneficial for autoimmune thyroid disease, but it’s not needed long-term.

Selenium in the short-term may be helping to decrease inflammation and replete any subtle deficiencies of selenium. Once you get past that therapeutic window of a couple months, then you may not need to supplement with selenium.

To supplement or not to supplement?

While there is convincing evidence that selenium supplementation may not provide benefit to autoimmune thyroid disease, you still want to have an evidence-based, not evidence-limited mindset.

You and your practitioner need to use the evidence available, but not be limited by it. When you evaluate the data more closely, you can see there may be an optimum window of about three months in which selenium supplementation may be helpful in supporting thyroid function.

This is good news, because it means that selenium is a supplement you won’t need to be on forever. Work with your doctor to determine a short-term treatment duration, and then reassess with lab work and symptom evaluation. Then start to dose down and wean yourself off selenium and continue to evaluate your symptoms.

Summary

According to a recent systematic review with meta-analysis, long-term selenium supplementation was not found to be beneficial in autoimmune thyroid disease. However, short-term use of about three months may offer benefit.

Supplementation with selenium is still justified, however…

  • Be objective; look for clear improvements in labs or symptoms.
  • Aim for short-term use and then try to wean off after three months.
  • A previous meta-analysis based upon 4 trials did show benefit, however these studies only looked at a three month window.

To learn more about selenium supplementation, check out our video here.

Supplement Protocol*

Click on the supplement names for more information.

Name Dose Times Per Day With Food Notes
Selenium 1 pill 1x Yes

*Disclaimer: This content is for informational purposes only. You should consult with your doctor before using any of these products.


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What do you think? I would like to hear your thoughts or experience with this.

Dr. Ruscio is your leading functional and integrative doctor specializing in gut related disorders such as SIBO, leaky gut, Celiac, IBS and in thyroid disorders such as hypothyroid and hyperthyroid. For more information on how to become a patient, please contact our office. Serving the San Francisco bay area and distance patients via phone and Skype.

Discussion

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14 thoughts on “Is Selenium Supplementation Helpful or Harmful for Autoimmune Thyroid Disease?

  1. Hi Dr Ruscio.
    Is this true if you have Graves’ disease? If the antibody level is down in Graves is it recommended that you also stop the selenium?
    Thanks

  2. Hi Dr Ruscio.
    Is this true if you have Graves’ disease? If the antibody level is down in Graves is it recommended that you also stop the selenium?
    Thanks

    1. Hi Cindy,
      There is less data on Graves’ and I don’t know we have an exact answer to this question. That being said I would be inclined to think the same rules apply.

  3. We can supplement with pills, preferably only short term; or we can “supplement,” especially long term, with foods we might not otherwise not be eating but which contain plentiful amounts of whatever nutrient(s) we apparently need more of.

    In my own case, just to make sure I always get enough selenium, I make a point of including at least one Brazil nut in the handful of mixed nuts that I eat every evening. A little more extreme than that, I clearly need more zinc than I traditionally was getting in my diet, but instead of popping pills I simply have made a habit cooking and eating a single pre-hulled oyster every morning as part of my daily startup routine. Since it cooks while I’m doing other things, altogether including cleanup it adds a total of about one minute to my morning routine.

    Pills may be a tiny bit more convenient and perhaps even a bit cheaper (e.g., each of my oysters costs about 75 cents, which I’m sure is more that a supplement pill would cost), but whenever possible I try to get the nutrients I need from real food, on the theory that my body is more likely to know how to get the best use of them in that form.

  4. We can supplement with pills, preferably only short term; or we can “supplement,” especially long term, with foods we might not otherwise not be eating but which contain plentiful amounts of whatever nutrient(s) we apparently need more of.

    In my own case, just to make sure I always get enough selenium, I make a point of including at least one Brazil nut in the handful of mixed nuts that I eat every evening. A little more extreme than that, I clearly need more zinc than I traditionally was getting in my diet, but instead of popping pills I simply have made a habit cooking and eating a single pre-hulled oyster every morning as part of my daily startup routine. Since it cooks while I’m doing other things, altogether including cleanup it adds a total of about one minute to my morning routine.

    Pills may be a tiny bit more convenient and perhaps even a bit cheaper (e.g., each of my oysters costs about 75 cents, which I’m sure is more that a supplement pill would cost), but whenever possible I try to get the nutrients I need from real food, on the theory that my body is more likely to know how to get the best use of them in that form.

  5. I have been suffering from tsh and chronic anemia last 10 years. For anemia i have to take ” wheat grass ” powder regularly. But now my tsh fluctuating. Is it the reason of taking ” wheat grass powder ” ?

  6. I have been suffering from tsh and chronic anemia last 10 years. For anemia i have to take ” wheat grass ” powder regularly. But now my tsh fluctuating. Is it the reason of taking ” wheat grass powder ” ?

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