Selenium and the Thyroid Gland

The thyroid gland is the organ in the body that contains the most selenium per gram of tissue [Wang 2023].

Illustration of thyroid gland from Wikimedia Commons
The thyroid gland makes and releases hormones that control our metabolism, i.e., regulate how we use energy. Source:

In a 2023 review article, Wang et al summarize the reasons why adequate selenium intake and status are necessary for good thyroid health.

Humans cannot synthesize selenium: the daily intake of selenium depends on the contents of the individual’s diet.

  • The selenium content of food depends on the selenium content of the soil, which varies extensively from region to region of the world. Much of Europe has selenium-poor soil; much of the United States has soil considerably richer in selenium.
  • Selenium is a micronutrient that makes possible the body’s synthesis of some 25 identified selenoproteins containing the amino acid selenocysteine.
  • The best known selenoproteins – such as the glutathione peroxidases, the thioredoxin reductases, and the iodothyronine deiodinases – are expressed in the thyroid gland, where they contribute to thyroid hormone metabolism and to antioxidant defense.
  • A selenium deficiency will increase the risk of several kinds of thyroid diseases.

Selenium Supplementation and Thyroid Diseases

Wang et al [2023] report the following outcomes from clinical trials of selenium supplementation. They advise that we need more clinical evidence for the efficacy of selenium treatment of thyroid disorders.

  • Selenium supplementation slows the progression of Graves’ orbitopathy and improves the quality of the patients’ lives.
  • Selenium supplementation is associated with the decreased levels of anti-thyroid peroxidase antibodies and with improved thyroid ultrasound structure in patients with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.
  • Selenium supplementation has shown variable anticancer activity in patients with thyroid cancer.

Strong Association Between Selenium and Thyroid Disease

Selenium and Graves’ disease

Wang et al [2023] reviewed the data from 11 clinical trials. Nine clinical trials showed that selenium supplementation results in faster achievement of normal thyroid function in patients with hyperthyroidism. Two clinical trials did not show the beneficial effect of selenium supplementation. The difference in outcomes may be related to differences in the form of the selenium supplementation, the dose, the duration of supplementation, and the nutritional status of the study participants. read more

Thyroid Disorders and Selenium Supplementation

Thyroid disorders.

Many clinicians treating autoimmune thyroid diseases are using selenium supplementation as one treatment modality even though, in the official guidelines, selenium supplementation is recommended only in the treatment of mild Graves orbitopathy [Winther 2020].

Thyroid gland
The thyroid gland is the butterfly-shaped organ in the front part of the neck. Thyroid hormones regulate body temperature, heart rate, and weight gain or loss. Autoimmune thyroid disorders occur when immune system cells attack thyroid gland cells. Autoimmune thyroid disorders cause overproduction of thyroid hormones (hyperthyroidism) and underproduction of thyroid hormones (hypothyroidism). Graves’ disease is the most common autoimmune hyperthyroidism. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is the most common autoimmune hypothyroidism.

Some clinicians consider supplementation with selenium to be a pharmaceutical action that should be taken only with thyroid disorder patients with well-defined symptoms in order to alleviate the symptoms, to improve the course of the disease, or to provide a cure. Typically, in such cases, the selenium treatment is conducted for short periods, and the health benefits and side effects are evaluated and weighed [Schomburg 2020].

Other clinicians consider supplementation with selenium in a more holistic way and use selenium supplementation as a way to correct a nutritional deficiency of selenium, which is associated with thyroid disorders [Schomburg 2020]. read more

Adjuvant Treatment of Graves’ Hyperthyroidism with Selenium Yeast

Thyroid disease. Hyperthyroidism. Adjuvant treatment of thyroid disease with selenium yeast supplementation. All topics of interest. At this writing (August 2022), we await the publication of the outcomes of the GRASS clinical trial. GRASS is the acronym for the selenium supplementation for patients with Graves’ hyperthyroidism study [study protocol described by Watt 2013].

What is Graves’ Hyperthyroidism?

Thyroid gland
The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped endocrine gland in the neck below the Adam’s apple that makes and stores hormones that help regulate blood pressure, body temperature, heart rate, and the rate at which food is converted into energy. [This image is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.]
Hyperthyroidism is an autoimmune disease. It causes overactivity of the thyroid gland, resulting in too much production of the hormone thyroxine. Hyperthyroidism can cause an acceleration of the body’s metabolism; it can cause weight loss and rapid or irregular heartbeat.

Hyperthyroidism is caused by a number of conditions, including Graves’ disease, which is a common cause. Graves’ disease is the result of immune system disorder. It can affect anyone, but it is more common in women and in individuals under the age of 40. read more