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The iodine & selenium debate – how much is enough for the thyroid?

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October 13, 2015

Iodine heals all thyroid conditions?

While there are many factors that influence thyroid function it is becoming abundantly clear that diet plays a critical role in the regulation of the immune system and whether the body develops an autoimmune hypothyroid condition like Hashimoto’s. Numerous studies indicate that low selenium, higher local thyroid inflammation (possibly from environmental toxins and low glutathione) and excess iodine all play a role in the development of auto-immune thyroiditis, also known as Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism. But wait a minute you might say to yourself, “I’ve read books and I’ve worked with other doctors that wanted to use high dose iodine therapy after my results came back dismally low”. First of all what you may not realize is that almost every single person who performs an iodine loading test fails this test. There is no bell curve for these tests and they are frequently used as a catchall to quickly jump to high iodine supplementation therapy. I strongly encourage, based off my clinical experience and observation of clients that have done poorly with iodine therapy, that you avoid this or monitor thyroid antibodies during therapy. So what happens to the thyroid when we excessively consume iodine? In individuals who are genetically susceptible, Th-17 cells start to accumulate in the thyroid and they unfortunately start to block the production of T-regulatory cells. These T-regs are critical to maintain a balanced immune system within and outside the thyroid gland and are specifically linked to autoimmunity. It also generates an abnormal production of a chemical compound called tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL) in the thyrocytes (thyroid cells). So how can we block this inflammatory reaction? This is where selenium and creating a healthy inflammatory load in your body come into play! In previous blogs I’ve mentioned that regulation of the immune system in condition’s like Celiac, Hashimoto’s, Rheumatoid, Multiple Sclerosis and others requires stimulation of T regulatory cells (also know as FoxP3/CD25). This is done through immunomodulation, or the gradual change to the immune system through diet, lifestyle and therapies. Selenium stimulates those T-reg cells and suppresses the pro-inflammatory signaling molecules that cause the damage to the thyroid! Now, I would be lying to say that everyone responds from this one single therapy. As well, large doses of selenium can interrupt the balance of nutrients such as zinc, vitamin A and copper (all necessary for thyroid function). But, if the upper level limits are not exceeded over a three-month window of time it can be a powerful tool in managing Hashimoto’s thyroiditis!

I think a big take home for my auto-immune clients is to realize the complexity of the immune problem requires a comprehensive approach to reestablish optimal health. The first task at hand in supporting autoimmune diseases like Hashimoto’s is to completely heal intestinal hyperpermeability, also known as leaky gut. This requires multiple months of a low allergen diet (5R, elimination/provocation) plus supplementation specific to your needs. Secondly the thyroid itself is inflamed. Just because you help the gut heal does not mean the thyroid automatically heals from the relentless attacks by your immune system. This is where altering glutathione levels and using protocols like pulsed electro magnetic frequency therapy and low-level laser therapy to the tissue can make a big difference. This typically takes 16-20 sessions to make a considerable difference in the healing process. Lastly, the immune system must be rehabilitated and calmed as it has been functioning in overdrive and has been acclimated to drive autoimmune attacks against your tissues. This is where immunomodulation becomes critical to optimize function. I personally use a specific protocol of supplementation, diet and lifestyle changes that promote regulation of the immune system and tolerance to your tissues. If all three of these critical factors are put into place then the body truly has a chance to heal itself and you most likely will start to feel like a human again! But, be prepared to work for 6-12 months. Changes do come faster than this thankfully but if you are dedicated and committed to that change then you may be a good fit at Dr. Autoimmune.

To see if you qualify for an initial comprehensive functional medicine evaluation, please call 303-882-8447.
Supporting Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, Rheumatoid arthritis, Celiac, Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, Multiple Sclerosis and other autoimmune conditions.

Yours truly in health & wellness,
Ian Hollaman, DC, MSc, IFMCP

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