by Lawrence Wilson, MD
September 2011, The Center For Development
Selenium is a fascinating element, and one that, in fact, opens up an entire world of experience for human beings. By this I mean that selenium is required for the functioning and development of certain areas of the brain that open a person to higher emotions and higher thought. It is also an essential mineral for thyroid functioning, along with iodine.
Selenium supplementation is always included in nutritional balancing programs and everyone needs a supplement. With this short introduction, let us examine the sources, functions and metabolic effects of selenium on the human body.
While selenium is found in some foods, most refined and processed foods are very low in selenium. Also, the selenium in many foods such as most meats and sea food is not well-utilized, in my experience. Among the best sources of well-utilized selenium are:
- Sardines, and to a lesser degree herring and anchovies. This is one of the best sources. Most is in the skin of these and other fish. Here the skin is eaten along with the body. Unfortunately, when people eat fish and meats they often discard the skin, the part richest in selenium. Read the article entitled Sardines for more on this wonderful food.
- Blue corn, found mainly in organic blue corn tortilla chips and in blue corn tortillas. White and yellow corn also have some selenium, but are not as good as the blue corn variety. Read Blue Corn on this website for more on this unique and less hybridized variety of corn products.
- Raw dairy products such as raw cow or goat milks, some raw cheeses, yogurts and kefir. Dairy products must not be pasteurized or homogenized for their selenium to be most biologically available. Read Raw Dairy Products on this website for more on this valuable food source.
- Mustard of all kinds. This spice is actually an excellent source of selenium in many cases. Fresh, organic ground mustard seeds are probably best, but any mustard is good.
- Garlic, onions and lentils. These are excellent common food sources of a well-utilized selenium.
- Hawaiian Bamboo Jade sea salt. This ancient sea salt formula is highly recommended instead of all other sea salts. It has other properties that are also extremely beneficial compared to other sea salts such as Celtic Salt, Real Salt, Himalayan Salt and most others. It can be ordered from www.thespicelab.com.
- Stabilized rice bran. This is another excellent source, and tastes good. It is available in many health food stores and should be kept refrigerated after opening.
- Arrowroot powder. This is a thickener used in soups and in other dishes, in Oriental cuisine. It is more costly than corn starch, but also far more nutritious and can be added to any meal during preparation in which a thickener is needed or can be used. It, too, contains some well-utilized selenium.
- Nutritional yeast and brewer’s yeast. These are good sources of selenium, although they are less recommended for other reasons. Yeasts are all quite yin, for example. They may also contain high amounts of other elements that are less needed.
- Sunflower seeds and almonds. These can provide some selenium, provided they are chewed thoroughly or better still, ground into nut and seed butters.
- Other, less recommended sources. Brazil nuts and other nuts are also good sources of selenium, but they are very yin so we don’t recommend them. Seafood and some fish are excellent sources, but are too contaminated with toxic metals to recommend except maybe once a month. Liver and kidney are also good sources, but are often contaminated with toxic metals. Alfalfa and some mushrooms are also good sources, but not recommended for regular use. Mushrooms are yin and somewhat toxic. Alfalfa is also somewhat yin, though it can be a very helpful food item. Spirulina, chlorella, cilantro and other chelators contain some selenium. However, these products are somewhat toxic, and their selenium is less well-utilized by most people. For these reasons, I never recommend them at all. I would avoid these products strictly, in fact, although I know may holistic doctors use them a lot. They are not needed and they have a subtle toxicity, in my experience.
Most other foods are quite deficient in highly bioavailable selenium today.
FUNCTIONS OF SELENIUM
Well-known functions of selenium in the body include the following:
1. Thyroid activity. Selenium is required to produce thyroid hormone, called tetraiodothyronine or T4. It is also needed for the conversion of T4 to the more active form of the hormone, called triiodothyronine or T3. This is a critical function that is sub-optimal in many people today.
If the body cannot convert T4 to T3, then thyroid hormone activity will diminish significantly, even if enough T4 is being produced. Many doctors measure these hormones and then they give hormone replacement of T3 if it is low. However, I feel this is needless, as giving enough available selenium will often correct the problem in a much more elegant and physiological manner, without the need for drugs.
Selenium has been found to specifically counteract the ocular or eye dysfunction of Grave’s disease, called Grave’s orbitopathy, and characterized by exothalamus(protrusion of the eyeball), and proptosis (movement outward of the eye). This is in response to swelling and inflammation of the muscles and structures behind and around the eyeball.
Selenium has also been found to help resolve Hashimoto’s autoimmune thyroiditis.
2. Anti-oxidant activity and glutathione synthesis. Glutathione is a substance produced in the liver and elsewhere that is critical for detoxification within the liver and in every body cell. Glutathione is one of the most important substances in the human body. Its production depends on the availability of several amino acids, along with available iron and selenium. This forms the enzyme glutathione peroxidase, which is a step in glutathione production and metabolism.
When glutathione production is low, detoxification in the liver is seriously impaired. This means the body is less able to eliminate all toxic metals, many toxic chemicals and other substances such as biological toxins. Thus, this function of selenium is also a critical one.
3. Heavy metal detoxification. This has to do with glutathione production, mainly, although thyroid activity and other functions related to selenium are required for all metal detoxification. This is why garlic, and the other sources of selenium listed above are so important.
4. Infection-fighting ability. Selenium enhances the immune response in most cases. This has to do with thyroid enzymes, and other factors as well.
5. Cancer prevention and possibly correction. This is a research area, but Dr. Emanuel Revicci and many others have used selenium products to help reverse cancer in a very non-toxic manner. Selenium reduces toxic metals and other problems that can lead to cancer.
6. Mental health. Selenium, along with silicon, share certain characteristics. They help impart a silky, smooth quality to the personality. Some foods that are high in selenium, such as corn silk, have this same smooth, silky quality.
It may sound odd to think that a silky, smooth texture of a mineral could have a similar effect on the nervous system, but it is the case. Selenium and silicon are absolutely essential for mental health today. They help with feelings of joy and happiness, and give a certain lightness to the personality as well.
7. Etheric development and life extension. Selenium is absolutely essential for the development of the etheric body. This is one of the main subtle human bodies. It is described in a separate article on this website called The Human Aura Or Subtle Energy Field. As this body develops, it is helpful to improve health dramatically, which extends the lifespan rather dramatically in some cases.
8. Selenium needed for “development”. This is also an esoteric concept that is related to the growth of the etheric body discussed above. Selenium plays a role in activating certain areas of the brain that are associated with what I call mental or spiritual development. This idea is discussed in a number of articles on this website such asIntroduction To Mental/Spiritual Development.
Selenium is so important in this regard that it is now an essential nutrient to add to nutritional balancing programs in some cases.
SYMPTOMS OF SELENIUM DEFICIENCY
This is extremely common today. I will call this syndrome or tendency selenium deficiency disease, as it is so common. Those who are deficient in selenium and silicon tend to be irritable, anxious, rather hopeless, depressed, negative and not pleasant to be around. They all have low thyroid function, even if the serum thyroid hormone levels seem normal.
Physical symptoms also often include impaired hair and nail growth, fatigue that can be severe, nervous sensitivity and irritability, a tendency for infections and cancer, an impaired immune response in general, weak adrenal activity, and other symptoms as well that are secondary and related to these such as hypoglycemia, allergies, asthma, low or high blood pressure, arterial disease and others.
THE BEST SELENIUM SUPPLEMENTS
The best way to ingest selenium is through foods. However, there is not enough in most foods to be helpful. Thus, it can be given in the form of a nutritional supplement as well. The best supplements appear to be those of food origin, such as the one from Endomet Labs in Phoenix, AZ called Selenase and others that are similar food-based products.
I do not recommend sodium selenite or even selenomethionine, as these are somewhat less well utilized. Yeast-based selenium products are okay, but not as good as the food-based selenium supplements. Food-based supplements are not always best, in my experience, but they seem to be best in the case of selenium.
Selenium can be toxic if consumed in an incorrect form or if too much is ingested. The most common cause of selenium toxicity in human beings seen on hair mineral analyses is from using too much Selsun Blue shampoo to kill dandruff. This product contains a slightly toxic form of selenium that is absorbed to some degree.
Use this product no more than once a week, at the most. A good substitute is Head N Shoulders shampoo, which contains zinc, but not selenium.
A few cases of selenium toxicity occur due to industrial contamination of water supplies. This mostly happens to animals because most human water supplies are monitored for excess selenium.
In animals, selenium causes conditions called selenosis, blind staggers and alkali disease. These can give us indicators of the effects of too much or toxic forms of selenium, but this is beyond the scope of this article, as these conditions are rare among human beings unless one is industrially exposed to excessive or toxic forms of selenium that occur in some animal habitats.
SELENIUM AS ONE OF THE “AMIGOS”
An oxidized and toxic form of selenium is often used by our bodies to support adrenal glandular activity in the body. This phenomenon is called the amigos, or the friends. The same thing occurs with certain oxidized forms of iron, manganese, aluminum, nickel, cobalt, chromium, boron and even calcium and magnesium, at times. All of these minerals can form oxides that the body may use to irritate and stimulate adrenal activity.
This phenomenon is described fully in a separate article entitled Manganese, Iron, and Aluminum, The Amigos. They are called amigos because the first three above are usually found together in the body and they all perform a similar function. At times, selenium is also part of this group of oxide-bound biounavailable minerals used to stimulate and irritate the adrenals to maintain their activity.
This form of selenium must be eliminated from the body. It cannot be converted easily and used by the body. If present, when a person undertakes a nutritional balancing program, the selenium level in the hair may rise very high for a few months. Then the level will drop back down into the normal range, indicating that it has been eliminated from the tissues and the hair.
HAIR ANALYSIS AND SELENIUM LEVELS
Selenium levels can be read in the hair tissue with a fair amount of accuracy. Most hair mineral testing laboratories I have reviewed indicate a normal value between 0.08 and 0.12 mg%. An ideal level is probably 0.12 mg% or 1.2 parts per million. More research is required to clarify this.
Most people’s hair selenium levels are low because selenium is deficient in the diets today. Also, selenium is required for detoxification, and this is a burden today on the bodies of almost everyone. Thus, even more selenium is required.
SELENIUM, GARLIC AND GENERAL HEALTH
Selenium is a wonderful aid for general health. It is one of the reasons garlic has an ancient and important place among the food kingdom and herbal medicine. Garlic is quite high in a bioavailable form of selenium. Garlic, of course, also contains many other nutritious items such as sulfur-bearing amino acids, allicin and others.
Selenium is needed in the human beings of today so much that garlic is a highly-prized food today, as it was even in the days of the Egyptian slaves, who ate it for strength and long life. Garlic is also useful to lower blood pressure, to counteract infection and for much more. Many of these attributes are in part due to its selenium content.
For more information with medical studies about selenium, read Selenium – From The Journal Alternatives.