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How Selenium Affects Health

How Selenium Affects Health

One unfortunate aspect of the modern medical landscape is the little attention given to the fundamental building blocks of human nutrition.

When something, or several things, goes wrong in our lives health-wise, people tend to assume that these problems are solved by taking drugs.

I know that’s becoming less true as functional/integrative health gains a foothold, but it’s still many people's knee-jerk reaction.

In truth, a fair number of health concerns that people battle usually result from deficiencies in crucial nutrients.

Today, I wanted to discuss a crucial nutrient that we (doctors included) rarely talk about - selenium.

Selenium is important for many body processes, and people who follow a Standard American Diet (SAD) may not get enough of it daily.

I plan to show you why you need it…what happens when you run low on it…and where you can find it in food.

Let’s check this out.

So, What does Selenium Do?

Selenium doesn’t sound like a safe mineral based on the name alone.

Odds are, if you ask someone about ingesting selenium, they may think it’s toxic, yet it plays a vital role in the human body.

Some primary ways that selenium functions in the body include boosting immunity, participating in antioxidant processes, defending against free radical damage and inflammation, and supporting overall metabolic health.

I’ll get into the benefits more here in a second.

The good news is the likelihood that you or someone you love is deficient is low.

The RDA is around 55 mcg; most Americans get more than that. Mainly because Selenium exists as a trace mineral in soil and specific foods. Even the water we drink contains small amounts of selenium.

However, there are outside chances you may not get that much.

Research has linked selenium deficiency to various health issues, including inflammation-related mortality, infertility, compromised immune function, and cognitive decline.

Other less severe symptoms include deficiency symptoms that may manifest as reproductive problems, muscle weakness, fatigue, brain fog, thyroid dysfunction, and hair loss.

The primary ways you may end up deficient include:

Infrequent Consumption: Not regularly including selenium-rich foods in the diet can contribute to deficiency.

Geographical Variation: Selenium content in foods varies significantly based on location. For instance, parts of Europe (like the U.K.) and Africa have soil with low selenium levels, potentially affecting the immunity of their populations. So, most Americans don’t need to worry about this. 

Soil Quality: However, since many of the foods we eat come from abroad, it’s critical to know that some foods are grown in soils with lower levels of selenium, and these low levels may mean less nutritious foods. So, when you’re eating foods from different countries (or relying on these foods), keep that in mind.

Check Out These Benefits of Selenium:

The truth is selenium is incredibly useful for improving your health.

1 - Antioxidant Properties and Oxidative Stress Protection

Selenium plays a crucial role in mitigating the impacts of aging and fortifying the immune system by neutralizing the harmful effects of free radicals.

It works with other antioxidants, such as vitamin E, to shield the body from oxidative stress. This kind of stress can lead to various health issues, including cardiovascular disease, neurological disorders, and certain cancers.

For instance, a review from 2016 indicated that increased selenium exposure could help defend against several types of cancer, including those affecting the breast, lung, colon, stomach, esophagus, and prostate.

Additionally, as a vital part of glutathione peroxidase, selenium assists in vital enzymatic functions that preserve the lipids in cell membranes, combat oxidative cell degradation, and prevent mutations and DNA damage that could lead to diseases.

2 - Potential Cancer Prevention

Cancer is awful, and it’s good to know selenium might be particularly beneficial for individuals with compromised immune systems or a familial history of cancer.

High doses of selenium supplements have been observed to potentially possess anticancer properties. Research suggests that selenium can decrease the incidence of cancer, cancer-related deaths, and the severity of certain cancers, particularly those of the liver, prostate, colorectal area, and lungs. Selenium activates selenoproteins, playing an enzymatic role that enhances antioxidant effectiveness, possibly slowing cancer progression and tumor growth. 

High selenium intake has been linked to DNA protection, thereby reducing mutation risks and cancer development. Areas with selenium-poor soil show higher cancer risks compared to regions with naturally high selenium levels.

3 - Enhanced Immunity Against Viruses: 

Selenium is essential for the optimal functioning of the immune system and plays a key role in combating viral infections, including HIV. It has shown promise in slowing the progression from HIV to AIDS in affected patients.

Consider adding extra selenium into your diet if you’re combatting an illness.

4 - Cardiovascular Health Improvement:

Low selenium levels are linked with a higher risk of heart diseases, including the potential for strokes and heart attacks. An increased selenium intake through diet or supplements may help prevent coronary artery disease by safeguarding arteries against plaque accumulation and damage.

Selenium benefits heart health through its anti-inflammatory properties, improved blood flow, reduced oxidative stress, and antioxidant support.

5 - Thyroid Regulation: 

Selenium is critical for synthesizing active thyroid hormones, suggesting a strong connection between selenium levels and thyroid function. Insufficient selenium can disrupt thyroid and metabolic processes, affecting various bodily functions such as appetite, sleep, body temperature, weight management, and energy levels.

Selenium's role in thyroid protection and reactive oxygen regulation within the gland makes it potentially beneficial for conditions like Hashimoto’s and Grave’s diseases, as well as for pregnant women with anti-TPO antibodies.

It also supports normal metabolic functions and may aid in maintaining a healthy weight. A study highlighted that selenium might protect against obesity and lead to increases in lean body mass.

6 - Boosts Cognitive Health: 

If you want to keep your brain in tip-top shape and help ward off diseases like  Alzheimer’s, then getting selenium intake dialed in is important.

A high intake of antioxidants and essential nutrients like selenium can support body defense mechanisms and potentially extend lifespan.

Studies have indicated that increased selenium intake is associated with reduced cognitive decline and protection against conditions like Alzheimer’s disease.

7 - Fertility Enhancement:

Millions of people struggle with infertility, and a lot of that has to do with nutritional deficiencies.

Selenium is essential for optimal sperm motility and increased blood flow, both crucial for successful conception and overcoming infertility.

It is integrated into the mitochondria of sperm cells and could influence sperm function as they navigate the vaginal canal. Both low and high selenium levels can negatively impact sperm count, making it important to achieve but not excessively exceed the recommended dietary intake.

Preliminary studies also suggest that adequate selenium intake may reduce miscarriage risks, although further research is needed.

How to Never Go Deficient In Selenium

The good news is it’s not difficult to maintain normal selenium levels.

Food and supplements will take care of giving you normal levels.

Here are 15 foods that can give you selenium:

Meat and Poultry:

  • Turkey
  • Chicken
  • Grass-fed beef
  • Beef Liver

Fish and Seafood:

  • Salmon
  • Tuna
  • Halibut
  • Sardines

Dairy and Eggs:

  • Cottage cheese
  • Eggs


  • Navy beans

Nuts and Seeds:

  • Brazil nuts
  • Sunflower seeds


  • Oats


  • Mushrooms

I hope you feel more empowered to live your healthiest life with these details in your back pocket.


Talk soon,


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