Selenium is a trace mineral and although your body only needs small amounts, these are critical to your health and vitality. Selenium deficiency is quite common in this part of the world. For example, large areas of North America are deficient in soil selenium levels. For those of us living in Ontario, Canada, this includes large parts of Ontario. Soil deficiency usually translates into human deficiency.
As a Health Coach who utilizes Hair Mineral Analysis testing, I almost always see low levels of selenium in my client’s lab results. It is the very reason that has prompted me to write this blog post!
Selenium acts also as a very powerful antioxidant helping to combat free radicals in the body and reduce oxidative stress. Oxidative stress has been linked to chronic diseases like heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and cancer, as well as premature aging and the risk of stroke. Selenium is an essential component of glutathione peroxidase, which protects the body from a vast array of toxins including free radicals and heavy metals, particularly Mercury. Selenium and glutathione peroxidase levels are often low in patients with rheumatoid arthritis, eczema, and psoriasis and may be low in most inflammatory conditions.
Selenium also helps to maintain normal liver function and protein synthesis. The liver is critical to ‘life’ and it is probably the most important area of the body to support overall health and wellbeing.
Selenium in necessary for the health of the heart and other muscles. It has been reported to improve the function of the mitochondria (the energy producing units of cells) by protecting them from lack of oxygen. This may account for the fact that selenium supplementation has been found to be effective in the treatment of chest pains associated with heart disease (angina pectoris). Selenium is also required for the production of a specific type of hormone-like substance called prostaglandin, which, among other things, helps regulate blood pressure.
Selenium is important for the proper functioning of the thyroid gland. In fact, thyroid tissue contains a higher amount of selenium than any other organ in the human body.
This powerful mineral helps protect the thyroid against oxidative damage and also plays an essential role in the production of thyroid hormones.
Selenium may also protect the body against contaminants such as mercury, cadmium, and silver. Source: 1. Yoon SO, Kim MM, Chung AS. Inhibitory effect of selenite on invasion of ht1080 tumor cells. J Biol Chem. 2001;276:20085-20092.
In populations at higher risk for prostate cancer, selenium supplements decreased risk and growth rate of tumors. Source:
3. Costello AJ. A randomized, controlled chemoprevention trial of selenium in familial prostate cancer
Selenium supplements may also be able to halt the growth of polyps in the colon and reduce the risk of lung and liver cancers. Source: 4. Chigbrow M, Nelson M. Inhibition of mitotic cyclin B and cdc2 kinase activity by selenomethionine in synchronized colon cancer cells. Anticancer Drugs. 2001;12:43-50.
There are many studies that have shown that the lower the intake of selenium, the higher the incidence of cancer of the colon, breast, pancreas, ovary, bladder, prostate, rectum, skin and lungs. In a recent study (Environ Health Prev Med, 14,261,2009) Selenium has an inverse correlation with cancer (higher levels of selenium – lower levels of cancer). Other conditions that have been reported to respond to supplementation with selenium include AIDS, allergies, arteriosclerosis, cataracts, macular degeneration, multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis.
I have really only skimmed the surface here on the importance of selenium, but I encourage each and everyone of you to explore the role of selenium in your daily life. I just stopped typing to go and take my selenium supplements right now!
If you need help with a good quality supplement choice, please reach out to me and I can help you with that. You may also desire to have a Hair Mineral Analysis test done. This test checks for the presence of heavy metals and mineral deficiencies like selenium. For more info here is a link to my website for that Hair Mineral Analysis Info
One of the best food sources for selenium are brazil nuts. Try adding at least 3 a day into your diet.
Some other food sources grains, some vegetables, lentils, meats, dairy products, canned tuna. Unfortunately foods like canned tuna can add to the heavy metal load in the body and brain. Also, meats and dairy products can feed pathogens in the body like Ebstein-Barr Virus which is now being linked to many diseases such as MS, Fibro, RA, and more, so choose your foods carefully for various reasons. I highly recommend supplementing with selenium to ensure adequate levels.
Here is a link to more info about Mystery Illness and EBV My EBV & Mystery Illness Blog Post
Maggie Holbik.com is a Board Certified Nutritionist and Certified Life Coach who works with clients all over the world. She is an avid researcher and studies consistently on the latest research and information available on both heavy metals and nutrition as well as the implications of nutritional deficiencies when it comes to the body and brain.