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Selenium supplementation is useful in treating autoimmune thyroiditis.

Hashimoto's Thyroiditis, also known as auto immune thyroiditis, is a chronic inflammation of the thyroid gland caused by autoimmune factors. This disorder is believed to be the most common cause of primary hypothyroidism in North America. If you are hypothyroid, the chances are that this is why. It is eight times more prevalent in women then in men and its incidence increases with age. A family history of thyroid disorders is fairly common.

Symptoms, signs, and diagnosis:
Patients complain of painless enlargement of the thyroid gland or fullness in the throat. Examination reveals a nontender goiter, smooth or nodular , firm and more rubbery than the normal thyroid. Other forms of autoimmune disease are common, including pernicious anemia, rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, and Sjogren's syndrome. Early in the disease laboratory values for T-4, and TSH remain normal. Titers for thyroid peroxidase antibodies and occasionally anti-thyoglobulin antibodies are elevated. Later in the disease, the patient develops hypothyroidism with decreased T-4 and increased TSH levels.[1]

Recent research suggests that the mineral selenium plays an important role in both preventing and treating thyroid disease. When blood samples from patients' suffering from various forms of thyroid disease were analyzed for selenium levels, all were found to be lower than in normal healthy people.[2] There are areas of the world where the soil is low in selenium. As a result locally grown food is low in selenium and selenium deficiencies are common. People living in these areas are more likely to develop Hashimoto's disease than in other parts of the world. Two possible explanations have been put forward. One is that the glutathione peroxidase enzyme which depends on selenium to work, is less effective. The other is that several selenium dependent enzymes play roles in modifying the function of the immune system. Whatever theory is true, it appears that even mild selenium deficiency may contribute to the development of autoimmune thyroid disease.
The results of a placebo controlled double blinded study looking at this were published just a few months ago in April, 2002. Thirty-six patients with Hashimoto's Disease received 200 mcg of selenium a day, while 34 received only a placebo. After three months, the thyroid peroxidase antibody levels of the patients taking the selenium had dropped 44.4% while the placebo takers had dropped only 12%. In a subgroup of subjects who had the highest antibody levels at the start of the experiment, the results were more dramatic. An analysis of patients with antibody levels greater than 1200 IU/ml revealed a mean 40% reduction in the selenium-treated patients compared with a 10% increase in the placebo group. Nine of the selenium treated patients had their antibody levels return to normal.[3]

People with autoimmune thyroid disease frequently have other autoimmune diseases. If selenium reduces antibody levels which attack the thyroid, perhaps it will do the same for other autoimmune processes.

References: 1. The Merck Manual Seventeenth Edition page 97-98.
2. Kucharzewski M, Braziewicz J, Majewska U, Gozdz S. Concentration of selenium in the whole blood and the thyroid tissue of patients with various thyroid diseases. Biol Trace Elem Res 2002 Jul;88(1):25-30
3. Gartner R, Gasnier BC, Dietrich JW, Krebs B, Angstwurm MW. Selenium supplementation in patients with autoimmune thyroiditis decreases thyroid peroxidase antibodies concentrations. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 2002 Apr;87(4):1687-91

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