Selenium is an element on the periodic table. In trace amounts this mineral is an essential component for a healthy, balanced diet. It is found in the cells of the liver, kidneys, spleen, pancreas and testes, and plays an important role in the normal function of many of the organs and systems of the human body. In fact, numerous metabolic processes depend on adequate blood levels of selenium, and deficiency of this nutrient can have adverse health effects. Conversely, maintaining adequate levels of selenium through diet and supplementation can reap profound benefits for overall health – and specifically for these systems:
- Liver – Primarily due to its contribution to the production of glutathione peroxidase, selenium acts to protect the liver from free radical damage and preserve its elasticity and detoxifying capabilities. Numerous studies point to reduced liver damage and lower incidence of cancer in subjects infected with Hepatitis B and C viruses when supplemental selenium was used.
- Thyroid – Adequate selenium is necessary for conversion of T4 to T3 (the active form of thyroid hormone) in the liver. By maintaining adequate blood levels of T3, the systems and organs that depend on thyroid hormone (bones, brain, blood sugar, cardiovascular, liver, weight management, etc.) can function optimally.
- Fertility – Selenium is used to make selenoproteins, which contribute to improved fertility in both men and women. By preventing chromosomal breakage, selenoproteins help protect against birth defects and miscarriages. In men, selenium is essential for production of testosterone and healthy, active sperm.
- Immune Function – As one of the most important minerals involved in healthy immune function, selenium has a beneficial effect on every system, organ, tissue and cell in the body.
Those are some of the many health benefits derived from selenium. The other side of that coin is the potential negative health effects of selenium deficiency. This is an important aspect to consider as many experts believe that selenium deficiency is a very common problem in the USA and can have serious ramifications. Among the consequences associated with selenium deficiency are:
- Increased incidence of many cancers, including prostate, breast, liver, skin and lung.
- Greater risk of infections.
- Higher risk of colds and flu.
- Increased severity of liver diseases.
- Increased risk of thyroid disease.
- Autoimmune diseases.
Natural Sources of Selenium
Ensuring adequate levels of selenium in your blood begins with good nutrition. Selenium can be found in: whole grains (brown rice and oats), meat, poultry, dairy products, wild-caught seafood, Brazil nuts, garlic, onions and some mushrooms (reishi, shitake). While this seems a wide array of foods that supply selenium, many experts believe that because much of the agricultural soil in the USA is selenium-deficient, obtaining adequate selenium through diet alone is unlikely.
The best way to ensure that you are getting all of the health benefits of this powerful nutrient is to supplement your balanced whole food diet with a well-designed Selenium supplement. Doing so will enhance your ability to live a vibrant, active, disease-free life.