Selenium is an essential mineral and the only way to get it is through your diet or supplementation. It’s only needed in small amounts, but if you are deficient (I’m looking at you junk food junkies), you are missing something that plays an important role in metabolism and thyroid function. The chance of having a selenium deficiency increases if you smoke, take birth control pills, drink alcohol or have a gut condition that keeps you from absorbing nutrients.
Selenium is a powerful antioxidant that prevents cell damage caused by free radicals that occur in your body every day. Unchecked, these free radicals can lead to oxidative stress that damages healthy cells.
The proper amount of selenium in your body helps:
- Protect against heart disease
Low selenium levels are linked to an increased risk of coronary artery disease. Selenium lowers markers of inflammation in the body, a main risk factor for heart disease.
- Prevent Mental Decline
Oxidative stress causes the onset and the progression of neurological diseases like Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s disease.
- Improve Thyroid Health
Thyroid tissue contains a higher amount of selenium than any other organ in the human body. Selenium helps protect the thyroid against oxidative damage and also plays an essential role in the production of thyroid hormones.
- Boost the Immune System
Selenium helps fight off potential threats like bacteria, viruses and parasites. It can help strengthen the immune system against influenza, tuberculosis and hepatitis C.
- Reduce Asthma Symptoms
Selenium lowers inflammation in the body and is effective in reducing asthma-related symptoms. It’s been shown that people who have asthma also have lower blood levels of selenium.
Signs of selenium deficiency include:
- Memory Loss (foggy brain)
A lack of selenium has been shown to interfere with cognitive function.
Selenium converts the T4 thyroid hormone (thyroxine) into the active hormone T3 (triiodothyronine). If these hormones are off, the risk for developing hypothyroidism, a condition associated with lethargy, depression, and uncontrolled weight gain increases.
- Chronic Cold or Flu
Selenium supports the immune system and contributes to the body’s natural defenses against the cold, flu, and other immune-compromised conditions.
- Slow Wound Healing
Selenium is essential for cell tissue repair
The following foods are great sources of natural selenium:
- Brazil nuts
- Chicken Breast (organic)
- Grass-fed organic beef
- Shiitake mushrooms
- Sunflower seeds
- Turkey (Organic)
- Wild-caught Alaskan salmon
- Yellowfin tuna
Even though selenium is essential for health, getting too much in your system can be dangerous. High doses of selenium can be toxic and is associated with an increased risk of diabetes. If you suspect you have a selenium deficiency, you can start by adding foods rich in selenium (there is a very low risk of getting too much from your food sources) and if you have a condition that requires supplements, you may want to have your levels tested by your doctor.