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Posts tagged ‘nutrition’

Finding Spoons

If you haven’t yet read Christine Miserandino’s brilliant article about Spoon Theory you should start there. It explains living life with a chronic illness and what it does to your energy and ability to function. Once you understand Spoon Theory, you’ll understand my joy at finding something that gave me extra spoons.

I had some friends over for dinner and for dessert I got some fancy-shmancy chocolate covered brazil nuts and cherries. Over the course of the evening I ate entirely too many nuts; they were really good. And the next morning, when I find out the price of any dietary sin I may have committed the day before I felt…really good. Really really good. Better than I had in ages. Muscles cooperative, knees ready to get on with the day, general attitude positive and energetic… Amazing.

What did I do, and how can I do that again!

Brazil nuts were the only new thing on the recent menu, so they got the credit. Brazil nuts are famous for two things. For being the last nuts left behind in any bowl of mixed nuts, and for being high in selenium. So I went off and did some more research on selenium.

Selenium is well known to have a big effect on thyroid.

Your thyroid actually makes inactive T4. To become active T3 it requires 3 enzymes that require iodine and my new friend selenium. Most of this takes place in your liver, which should have really high selenium levels, and some takes place in your brain because the body actually understands the importance of backup systems.

If deficiency continues:

The initial stages of selenium deficiency will simply reduce optimal production of thyroid hormone in the gland as well as how it is used. If deficiency continues then inflammation of the thyroid gland will follow. Eventually this results in thyroid autoimmune problems with elevated autoantibodies against thyroid cells. A 2010 study shows that selenium supplementation in patients with autoimmune thyroiditis helped lower their elevated thyroid autoantibodies. Of course, if free radical damage accumulates even further then cells mutate and cancer occurs. Isn’t it interesting that thyroid cancer is on the rise.

That particular article goes on to explain that 

Those who get sick easily or who have sensitivity to chemicals typically have low selenium issues as part of their problem, along with all the symptoms of hypothyroid. You can induce a selenium deficiency by working around chemicals, eating foods with too many chemicals on them, or by breathing air with too much pollution in it. A poor health trend in and of itself tends to use up selenium – thus many people with chronic health issues lack selenium. Any of these issues then results in compromised thyroid function on top of other health issues, with the tendency to worsen each other as time goes along. This scenario is all too common in America today and underlies a great deal of the health misery that so many people experience.

Speaking of backup systems, converting thyroid from T4 to T3 leaves around some trash (free radicals) and selenium is a major player in the specific antioxidants that clear it up. And not just thyroid, selenoproteins make up a lot of antioxidants. Its under investigation for cancer prevention and cardiovascular health. It also might be helpful for the inflammation that causes asthma. It might just be good for inflammation of all kinds, which is one of the major contributors to long term health issues of all stripes.

I find the dosing instructions a little concerning. For one thing, a lot of articles talk about the fear that it might contribute to diabetes, but that seems to be based on one study done in China without a lot of information on the population tested. Articles are also very concerned with advising us against getting too much, which in the US is 55mcg. That’s concerning because in the UK it’s 75mcg and the WHO recommends somewhere between 70 and 350mcg per day with speculation that toxic effects “probably occur at around 40 x the RDA.” (Which is 2200mcg if you don’t have a calculator handy.) There does seem to be a consensus of sorts that suggests that 200mcg is a reasonable supplementation amount.

The fear mongering makes me angry. They spend so much time making us afraid of potential overdoes, while recommending the bare minimum to prevent deficiency diseases. Causing a lot of people to avoid supplements that could be life changing. Like me.

The truth is, our soils are depleted and most people eat a pretty narrow diet with a lot of processed food. Many people have gut issues that prevent proper absorption of nutrients. The truth is, there’s more money in drugs than in vitamins and a healthy population.

Ok, pulling back on the conspiracy theory.

Since I’ve started selenium I’ve felt better than I have in ages, mentally and physically. I’m taking a lot fewer anti-inflammatories and I still hurt less. I’m more interested in planning and writing and moving forward. And I’ve cooked more interesting food in the last 2 weeks because I’ve had the energy to think about it. Blog posting, activities, and even researching a new gym membership. The fact that I can even be interested in these things again is a big deal for me.

We’ll see where it goes.

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