As with zinc, selenium is also a trace mineral but the term “trace” is very misleading. Strictly speaking, “trace” means our body only needs very small amounts of a mineral to fulfill its requirement. However, selenium is, by no means, a small contributor to the normal, healthy functioning of the human body.
Among its many tasks, selenium stimulates the metabolism, supports immune function, is involved in regulating the effects of thyroid hormone on fat metabolism and may help in the fight against arthritis and heart disease. Selenium preserves tissue elasticity and the youthful appearance of skin, along with alleviating dandruff and dry skin. It has even been known to be effective in alleviating hot flashes and menopausal distress.
Are you taking selenium? Then you should also be taking vitamin E. Selenium and vitamin E work synergistically, like sidekicks. Vitamin E is the Robin to selenium’s Batman, it’s Kato to selenium’s Green Hornet, it’s Margo Lane to selenium’s Shadow. Selenium’s antioxidant effects compliment those of vitamin E and, when taken together, will reinforce each other’s abilities, becoming extremely important in preventing free radical damage to our cell membranes. This team may also protect the liver in people living with alcoholic cirrhosis and slow down the aging process and hardening of tissues.
But a word of caution; too much selenium can have consequences. If you follow good dietary guidelines, and unless you live in a part of the world where soil is seriously selenium-depleted, you are probably getting enough selenium from the food you eat.
RECOMMENDED DAILY ALLOWANCE:
What Does That Look Like?
|Tuna, canned in oil, 3 oz.
Turkey, light meat, roasted, 3.5 oz.
Cod, cooked, 3 oz.
Chicken breast, roasted, 3.5 oz.
Egg, whole, medium
Rice, brown, ½ cup
THE FUNCTIONS OF SELENIUM IN THE BODY
Let’s begin at the beginning, when selenium is absorbed into your body from the food you eat. The uptake of selenium happens in the first part of your small intestine, your duodenum. Absorption is closely related to multiple nutritional factors that inhibit or promote absorption. [The presence of] vitamins A, C, and E, …[all] enhance absorption. 1
A study conducted in 1995 suggested that the organic forms of selenium increased blood selenium concentration to a greater extent than inorganic forms….Researchers are continuing to examine the effects of different chemical forms of selenium, but the organic form currently appears to be the best choice.2
The heart, kidney, lung, liver, pancreas and muscle are where you’ll find the highest concentrations of stored selenium.
When paired with vitamin E, selenium is one of our most vital antioxidants. When a substance can prevent or slow oxidation, it is called an antioxidant. Antioxidants hunt down and destroy free radicals, the natural by-products of oxygen metabolism. Even though free radicals are a natural by-product, if allowed to build up in the body, they can become very troublesome little critters (probably why they’re called “radicals”). Free radicals have been shown to contribute to cellular damage and chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease.
Selenium plays an important role in the body’s enzyme function. In the body, selenium combines with protein molecules to form selenoproteins; important antioxidant enzymes that are essential for the protection, and proper functioning, of our immune system. Selenium may even help to stimulate the production of antibodies after vaccination. It also helps regenerate vitamin C in the body.
A study published in the July 15, 1996 issue of The Journal of Clinical Investigation underscores the importance of nutrition in thyroid hormone function. The researchers report that the key enzyme responsible for activating thyroid hormone in the brain and in brown fat, a heat-producing type of fat tissue, contains the rare amino acid selenocysteine that is formed in the body using dietary selenium. Thyroid hormone, which is produced in the thyroid gland using iodine, another nutritional element, influences several important body functions. These include fat metabolism in adults and energy production and brain development in the fetus and newborn. However, before thyroid hormone can exert its effects, it must be activated. This occurs when specialized enzymes in various tissues remove an iodine atom from the hormone. Selenium appears to play an essential role in this process because of its unique ability to act as a strong catalyst and spur the activating reaction. 3
Selenium helps normalize the functioning of the liver.
SIGNS OF A SELENIUM DEFICIENCY
Selenium deficiency is rare in North America. There is evidence to suggest that a deficiency does not usually cause illness by itself. Instead, a deficiency makes the body more susceptible to illnesses caused by other nutritional, biochemical or infectious stresses.
Selenium deficiency has been linked to cancer, heart disease, hypothyroidism and a weakened immune system. It has also been associated with exhaustion, growth impairment, high cholesterol levels, infections, liver impairment and pancreatic insufficiency. There is some thought that selenium deficiency might be linked to a host of viral outbreaks, fashioned by the rapidly-mutating virus’s interaction with selenium-deficient hosts in places like Africa and China where there is little or no selenium in the soil. 4
Selenium supplementation was observed to reduce the severity of epileptic seizures in children. Selenium supplementation is also reported to improve confused and depressed mental states; mental fatigue and anxiety in adults. Selenium deficiency reduces the activities of the selenium-dependent antioxidant enzymes, leading to a number of functional disorders including skeletal muscle dysfunction, cardiac dysfunction, hepatic degradation, increased capillary permeability and pancreatic degeneration. 5
MORE HEALTH BENEFITS OF SELENIUM
Selenium helps you:
- maintain a healthy head of hair and scalp
- maintain the health of your eyes and aids in the treatment of cataracts
- keep your skin looking young and supple, and
- selenium acts as a natural anti-inflammatory agent inside the body as a whole.
SPECIFIC SOURCES OF SELENIUM
Plant foods are the major dietary sources of selenium in most countries throughout the world. The content of selenium in food depends on the selenium content of the soil where plants are grown or animals are raised. For example, researchers know that soils in the high plains of northern Nebraska and the Dakotas have very high levels of selenium. Soils in some parts of China and Russia have very low amounts of selenium. Selenium deficiency is often reported in those regions. Selenium also can be found in some meats and seafood. Animals that eat grains or plants that were grown in selenium-rich soil have higher levels of selenium in their muscle. 6
Selenium can be found in:
- meats and grains, depending on the selenium content of the soil where the product was raised or grown
- Brazil nuts
- Brewer’s yeast
- Brown rice
- Dairy products
Herbs that contain selenium include chamomile, cayenne, ginseng, lemongrass, milk thistle, parsley, peppermint and rose hips.
NUTTERS CAN SUGGEST:
Selenium works as an antioxidant, helping to prevent free radical damage. Antioxidants have been clinically proven to scavenge free radicals and prevent damage to cellular structure throughout the human body. Preserving cell health is actively being researched for its relationship to improved longevity, health and well-being.
- Potent antioxidant
- Free radical scavenger
- Promotes fertility
- Assists with detoxification
- Supports healthy immune function
1. Exercise Prescripton.net
2. Office of Dietary Supplements, National Institutes of Health
3. Nutrition Research News, Selenium and Fat Metabolism
4. Prescription for Nutritional Healing, Fourth Edition, Phyllis A. Balch, CNC
5. The Vitamins & Nutrition Center
6. Office of Dietary Supplements, National Institutes of Health
Carol Roy is a Natural Health Practitioner who received her diploma from the Alternative Medicine College of Canada in Montreal, Quebec. With 12 years experience in her area of expertise, natural health and wellness, Carol has also trained to become a fully qualified Reiki Master, Quantum Touch Practitioner, and Reflexologist.
The suggestions by Nutter’s Bulk & Natural Foods and the contents of this article
are recommendations only and not a substitute for any medical advice or a
replacement for any prescriptions. Seek medical advice for any health concerns.
Consult your health care provider before using any recommendations herein.