The Selenium Difference:
This Trace Mineral Packs a Punch
By Jessica Bischof
You’d think it would be big news if someone discovered a substance that could
- Protect from certain types of cancer;
- Keep viral influenza “mild” and reduce the chance of lung damage;
- Guard against heart disease;
- Provide strong anti-oxidation protection;
- Increase energy by balancing the thyroid;
- Build a stronger immune system.
You might think that, but something as “ordinary” as a trace mineral isn’t as exciting as a new miracle drug. Nevertheless, selenium is a highly researched mineral, and we know a great deal about its significant contribution to our physical well-being.
A Very Busy Mineral
Selenium works in connection with vitamin E to deliver its benefits. Although our bodies need only a small amount of selenium to receive the protection and health support it offers, we must make it a point to ingest it through food or supplements.
Selenium studies have shown that it protects against stomach, breast, esophageal, prostate, liver, and bladder cancers. It also supports the body undergoing radiation– especially the kidneys, which can otherwise be ravaged by such treatment.
Selenium-deficient patients are known to experience mutations of the influenza virus, often resulting in severe lung damage and a worsened case of the flu. Conversely, adequate selenium in the diet protects against the dreaded “cytokine storm” many researchers think is responsible for the severe respiratory tract damage and many of the deaths in the Spanish Flu of 1918, the Avian and SARS flus, and the current H1N1 Swine Flu.
In addition, selenium plays a key role in the body’s critical conversion of the thyroid hormone T4–the “storage” hormone–into T3, the “usable” form we need for energy and proper metabolism.
Selenium Abounds–If You Can Find It
Selenium is plentiful in the soil in many parts of the world although some areas are more notably deficient. The best source of selenium is always food raised in selenium-rich soil. In the US, for instance, farmlands in the Dakotas and Nebraska abound with selenium and folks there who eat a lot of locally grown foods probably don’t need to take selenium supplements. On the other hand, certain areas of China are known to be particularly selenium-deficient and it is no coincidence that some of the worst flu viruses have come from these parts of China.
The accompanying sidebar lists a number of selenium-rich foods to help guide your selections. However, the levels of selenium are not “guaranteed.” The presence of selenium is always dependent on the soil in which the product is grown or, in the case of animal products, the soil that grew the grass the livestock ate. As a result, the chart shows averages. As far as I can determine, no one has yet compiled selenium charts based on geographical regions that food comes from.
How Much is Enough?
The National Library of Medicine states, “No pregnancy category has been established for supplemental selenium intake although it is generally believed to be safe during pregnancy when consumed in amounts normally found in foods.” It also notes that selenium passes through breast milk to a nursing infant.
The FDA’s Recommended Daily Allowance for selenium is 55mcg. This suggestion is based on studies done in China during the 1970’s concluding that individuals that took in 800 mcg daily were not receiving too much. To be conservative, the FDA then halved the maximum safe recommended amount to 400 mcg daily, in order to allow a “safety net” to make sure people don’t get too much. As with many other nutrients, excessive intake can be harmful.
Another factor to consider when evaluating selenium intake for your family is that food-based selenium is always more usable to the body and is retained better. Also, different forms of supplemental selenium offer varying levels of usability. The form Beeyoutiful sells9, seleonomethionine, is highly usable by the body. In fact, studies show that it transfers more readily to breast milk, probably because the body is able to absorb it more easily than other forms.
The National Library of Medicine suggests that 50 to 75 mcg of selenium should be “adequate” for adults and lactating mothers. This is certainly a conservative number, and it is sometimes helpful to remember that when the FDA uses the term “adequate,” it is referring to the smallest amount needed to avoid specific symptoms of deficiency. It is not a suggestion of an optimal dose for health. Most researchers suggest a supplement between 150 to 250 mcg daily for adults. Children require less.
As the selenium chart suggests, Brazil nuts offer one of the highest concentrations of selenium. So for my children (who are too young to swallow supplements) I give them one Brazil nut each day as a “treat.” Of course, I never remember every day, so I determine how many nuts to hand out based on how often I’ve remembered that particular week. Toxicity from selenium is unlikely from getting a little too much on any given day. Rather, it is from the result of continuously and exclusively eating foods that come from a selenium-rich environment or by supplementing too aggressively.
So even though you don’t need a lot, many rewards of good health can be traced to this little mineral.
Jessica is a Nutritional Therapy Consultant and the owner of Simple Steps Nutrition where she works with clients both in the US and internationally to create customized nutritional protocols to support their health, using nutrition, diet, and lifestyle modifications to support healing and function in the body.
Her own health challenges started in her early 20’s after the birth of her first child and forced her to become educated about what her body needed to heal. She believes that through healing and supporting the underlying cause you can actually regain health – not just treat symptoms.
Jessica specializes in restoring energy, resolving fatigue issues, hormonal balancing, digestive issues, and adrenal healing. Jessica offers a complimentary 15 minute consultation for anyone who would like to find out more. Visit www.simplestepsnutrition.com for information.