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Selenium helps Hashimoto’s and Grave’s diseases

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Posted: Friday, August 2, 2013 12:00 am

Dear pharmacist: I have Hashimoto’s thyroid disease, and my husband has Grave’s. We are a perfect match because he makes too much and I make too little. Advice? — B.L., Dallas

Answer: Your little thyroid is a small gland with a big function. Located at the base of your throat, your thyroid produces hormones that control your metabolism (as in fat-burning ability) and regulates the rhythm of your heart and your body temperature. That explains why you eat like a bird and gain weight, while your husband eats a horse and stays thin. People like that either have a healthy thyroid and good metabolism, or they have intestinal parasites!

The point is, one glitch in your thyroid and dangerous consequences can ensue, ranging from encephalopathy to heartbeat irregularities. Most people think hypothyroidism is strictly about fatigue, cold sensitivity and weight gain but news flash, it causes misery head to toe.

The opposite of hypothyroidism is hyperthyroidism, where excessive thyroid hormone is produced causing weight loss, rapid heartbeat, and heat intolerance (and 100 more symptoms). Hyperthyroidism is often referred to as Graves’ disease, an auto immune condition where the body attacks its own thyroid gland. A goiter in the neck can occur.

Whether you have hypo or hyperthyroidism, selenium is one trace mineral that may help. There are others which I’ve written about in the past.

Selenium has been shown in clinical trials to either slow the progression of or reduce symptoms of thyroid conditions, meaning any imbalance (hyper or hypo). Selenium is directly tied to the health of your thyroid gland, so discuss this mineral with your doctor.

Your precious stash of selenium may be mugged by — wait for it — your medication! Surprised? Well, unfortunately, it’s true. Your medicine might be crashing your thyroid over time, and this was covered in the “selenium chapter” in my book, Drug Muggers. Here are some common muggers of selenium:

• Acid reducing medications

• Antidepressants

• Corticosteroids

• Hormone-replacement therapy

• Birth control pills

• Breast cancer drugs

• Sulfonamides

If you take any of those, selenium supplementation may be critical for you. And just FYI, it’s not just medicine; certain medical conditions and beverages affect selenium status.

Recently, scientists discovered a certain gene is associated with thyroid cancer. This gene usually stops tumor growth, and when lifestyle factors turn it off in your body, thyroid tumors are more apt to grow. I’m approaching my word count, so if you’d like more details about thyroid disease, this cancer gene, how to switch it back on or anything else, sign up for my “health tips” newsletter at my website.

One more thing: Selenium-rich foods include walnuts, tuna (not too much, mercury!), shrimp, eggs, cheese, turkey, beef and oatmeal. I like Brazil nuts, because eating four per day gives you about 200 micrograms of selenium. Do not make home-made Brazil nut milk like I did; you will overload!

This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. For more information about Suzy Cohen, visit her website at



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