Are your stomach problems causing hypothyroidism?

August 13, 2012
Volume 2    |   Issue 63
On Saturday, I showed you how selenium can help you avoid or correct an iodine deficiency and hypothyroidism. For many people, a deficiency of this simple mineral may be the underlying cause of their thyroid problems, including their lack of energy and memory loss. But now there’s growing evidence that the real cause of hypothyroidism could be your gut.

Back in 1998, researchers found that severe gastrointestinal disorders can slow the absorption of selenium, creating a deficiency. In this study, the researchers measured the selenium levels of “86 patients with Crohn's disease, 40 patients with ulcerative colitis, and 39 patients with various other gastrointestinal diseases.” They also looked at the selenium levels of 27 patients that received their nutrition via a feeding tube because their gut was too diseased to absorb nutrition.

What they found was astonishing. The worse the gut disease, the higher the selenium deficiency. In fact, 85% of those receiving nutrition through a feeding tube had a selenium deficiency. Of those who were still eating their food, 26% of those with Crohn’s disease were deficient. And 20% of those with various gut diseases had a deficiency. But almost all of those with ulcerative colitis had normal selenium levels. Apparently, the latter doesn’t affect selenium absorption.

The researchers concluded that “selenium deficiency is common in patients with severe gastrointestinal disorders. The deficiency is mainly related to malabsorption, and a low selenium level was almost invariably present in patients who needed parenteral supplementation due to gut failure.”

So what does all this have to do with your thyroid? Since we now know that selenium deficiency can lead to iodine deficiency and hypothyroidism, it’s quite possible gastrointestinal disease is where it all starts. When your gut doesn’t absorb enough selenium, it directly affects your thyroid.

This makes sense. We’ve seen a huge increase in the number of gastrointestinal diseases in recent years. And we’ve also seen a significant jump in the number of thyroid problems as well. Is it possible they’re connected? I think these studies indicate they are.

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But there’s more. We’ve also seen a significant increase in vitamin B12 deficiency in recent years. The researchers in this study found that a selenium deficiency dramatically hinders vitamin B12 absorption. A B12 deficiency can mimic hypothyroidism, with feelings of lethargy and weakness.

So before you get B12 shots, take iodine, or ask your doctor for a thyroid prescription, try taking more selenium. As I mentioned on Saturday, a normal dose for selenium is 200 mcg. But if you have a gastrointestinal problem, you may need to take more. A dose of 400 mcg is safe, but you may want to talk to your doctor to see if you need more. At these levels, you’ll want your doctor to test you regularly to make sure you’re not taking too much.

Your Insider for better health,

Steve Kroening

Steve Kroening is the editor of Nutrient Insider, a twice-a-week email newsletter that brings you the latest healing breakthroughs from the world of nutrition and dietary supplements. For over 20 years, Steve has worked hand-in-hand with some of the nation's top doctors, including Drs. Robert Rowen, Frank Shallenberger, Nan Fuchs, William Campbell Douglass, and best-selling author James Balch. Steve is the author of the book Practical Guide to Home Remedies. As a health journalist, Steve's articles have appeared in countless magazines, blogs, and websites.


Scand J Gastroenterol 1998;33:1057-61.

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