Trace minerals can have an outsized impact despite their tiny size. Some of them are also very little known and—I would argue—underappreciated! Selenium is definitely one that fits in this category.
Although we only need a very small amount of selenium, it has enormous health benefits, specifically, for the healthy functioning of our thyroid and immune system.
Selenium is part of a 25-protein family referred to as selenoproteins, which work to help the speed at which biochemical reactions occur in our bodies.
Enhance thyroid health
As selenoproteins play an important role in the metabolism of our thyroid hormones, the proper amount of selenium helps ensure proper thyroid function.
There are three particular medical issues that can be explained by low selenium:
- Goiter: Goiter is an enlarged thyroid gland, and lower levels of selenium have been shown by studies to increase the risk of goiter in women.
- Graves’ disease: Low levels of selenium can also lead to Graves’ disease, resulting in hyperthyroidism (too much thyroid hormone production). One study suggests that daily doses of 200 mcg of selenium helped diminish eye problems for patients with this disease.
- Hashimoto’s thyroiditis: As with Graves’ disease, Hashimoto’s is often the culprit for hyperthyroidism, and, according to studies, selenium supplementation (of 200 mcg) may diminish antibodies that Hashimoto’s elevates to an unhealthy level.
Improve immune function
Selenoproteins also play an essential role in terms of our body’s antioxidant activity—including, notably, the immune system. When our bodies undergo viral and bacterial illnesses and infections, there is a significant increase in our body’s oxidative stress and subsequent inflammation. When this happens, the immune system recruits selenoproteins to help ward off the intruders.
In addition, selenium helps improve immune function through the development and increased activity of T-cells and antibodies that help fight off bad cells.
Patients who suffer from chronic viral infections—for example, HIV—have seen significant benefits to their blood levels and overall health when selenium supplementation is added to their regimen.
Additional benefits of taking selenium
- Cardiovascular disease: Selenium can help decrease levels of C-reactive protein, which is a significant risk factor for heart problems.
- Liver disease: The liver might benefit from greater selenium due to the overall boost to our antioxidant defenses.
- Prostate issues: Zinc is one of a handful of ingredients included in prostate health supplements for men, along with lycopene, saw palmetto, and beta-sitosterol.
- Memory loss: According to some studies, selenium might help protect our brains from cognitive decline associated with aging.
- Male infertility: Fertility and sperm production both require selenoproteins, so men suffering from this issue may also be suffering from a selenium deficiency.
Best sources of selenium
With so many benefits, selenium is obviously an important trace mineral. It’s thus a good idea to ensure that your multivitamin contains selenium.
A reasonable daily dose of selenium is in the 100-200 mcg range. You can also supplement with certain selenium-rich foods, such as:
- Brazil nuts
- Whole wheat
- Fish and other seafood