What Is Selenium? Understanding an Essential Mineral

by Dr. Edward Group DC, NP, DACBN, DCBCN, DABFM
Published on

Mushrooms laying on a table. Some mushrooms are considered abundant in selenium, an essential trace mineral for our bodies.

Selenium is an essential mineral that functions as an amino acid and also provides antioxidant activity in the body.[1][2] Selenium toxicity is a rare condition that results from ingesting great quantities of the element.[3] Selenium deficiency is a more common malady. Selenium is necessary for human health because certain enzymes, called selenoproteins, require selenium to function properly.[4] These enzymes help the body carry out some of its most basic physiological functions.

What Does Selenium Do Within the Body?

Selenium is a key nutrient that supports good health in a number of ways. It contributes to reproductive health[5], thyroid health [6], and can even help decrease DNA damage.[7]

With respect to selenium’s role in reproductive wellness… In males, selenium content is elevated in the testes during puberty. In females, selenium deficiency can lead to infertility.[8] Selenium partners with iodine to support a healthy thyroid. Selenium is found in the enzymes that regulate thyroid hormones.[9] Iodine, also necessary for thyroid health, helps produce these hormones.[10]

Recommended: 5 Signs You’re Experiencing Selenium Deficiency

Selenium has demonstrated the potential to enhance DNA’s ability to repair damage.[11] Specifically, its antioxidant capabilities help combat the free radicals that can impair cellular wellness.

Selenium Benefits and Wellness

At Global Healing Center, we measure wellness by the body’s ability to carry out its natural functions and processes. The most important thing you can do to support your own wellness is to sufficiently nourish your body. That means consuming the right nutrients in the right quantities, and that includes selenium. To help answer the question of how much selenium you need, the National Institute of Health’s Office of Dietary Supplements published this breakdown to help consumers understand exactly how much selenium they should consume.[1]

Life Stage Selenium Requirement (in micrograms)
Birth – 6 months 15 mcg
7-12 months 20 mcg
1-3 years 20 mcg
4 – 8 years 30 mcg
9 – 13 years 40 mcg
14 – 18 years 55 mcg
19 – 50 years 55 mcg
51+ years 55 mcg
Pregnancy 60 mcg
Lactation 70 mcg

How much selenium you need isn’t the only factor to consider. You also have to decide the best method to meet your requirements.

Deciding How to Consume Selenium

Selenium is available in a number of foods, and there are many selenium-rich vegetarian options. It’s in enough foods that most people shouldn’t have to make any special dietary adjustments to meet their daily requirement. Selenium is also available in supplement form and there are many selenium supplements on the market. And, as you might suspect, they vary in quality.

Choosing the Right Selenium Supplement

That doesn’t mean that choosing the right selenium supplement has to be a major headache; quite the opposite. In fact, there are really just two things you need to know: the source of the selenium and the concentration. A lot of selenium supplements are synthetic, but there are natural options available. The selenium concentration indicates how much selenium each serving provides.

I recommend doing your own research but if I were to make a suggestion, we just released our new Global Healing Center Selenium supplement that is a whole food selenium product produced from organic mustard seeds. Combining selenium with an iodine supplement, such as Detoxadine®, can be a powerful approach to supporting thyroid health. Of course, consult with your physician before starting any supplements.

Think about your diet, how much selenium do you already consume? Too much selenium can be toxic and there’s no benefit to overdoing it. Ultimately, you must determine what best suits your lifestyle and your goals. If adequate nutrition is important to you, Global Healing Center’s selenium supplement can help ensure you’re getting enough selenium.

References (11)
  1. "Office of Dietary Supplements - Selenium - Fact Sheet for Health Professionals." National Institutes of Health. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 11 Feb. 2016. Web. 31 Mar. 2016.
  2. Battin, Erin E., and Julia L. Brumaghim. "Antioxidant Activity of Sulfur and Selenium: A Review of Reactive Oxygen Species Scavenging, Glutathione Peroxidase, and Metal-Binding Antioxidant Mechanisms." Cell Biochem Biophys Cell Biochemistry and Biophysics 55.1 (2009): 1-23. PubMed. Web. 31 Mar. 2016.
  3. MacFarquhar, Jennifer K. et al. “Acute Selenium Toxicity Associated With a Dietary Supplement.” Archives of internal medicine 170.3 (2010): 256–261.PMC. Web. 31 Mar. 2016.
  4. BELLINGER, Frederick P. et al. “Regulation and Function of Selenoproteins in Human Disease.” The Biochemical journal 422.1 (2009): 11–22. PMC. Web. 31 Mar. 2016.
  5. Mistry, Hiten D., Fiona Broughton Pipkin, Christopher W.g. Redman, and Lucilla Poston. "Selenium in Reproductive Health." American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology 206.1 (2012): 21-30. PubMed. Web. 31 Mar. 2016.
  6. Drutel, Anne, Françoise Archambeaud, and Philippe Caron. "Selenium and the Thyroid Gland: More Good News for Clinicians." Clin Endocrinol Clinical Endocrinology 78.2 (2013): 155-64. PubMed. Web. 31 Mar. 2016.
  7. Waters, D. J., S. Shen, D. M. Cooley, D. G. Bostwick, J. Qian, G. F. Combs, L. T. Glickman, C. Oteham, D. Schlittler, and J. S. Morris. "Effects of Dietary Selenium Supplementation on DNA Damage and Apoptosis in Canine Prostate." JNCI Journal of the National Cancer Institute 95.3 (2003): 237-41. PubMed. Web. 31 Mar. 2016.
  8. Bedwal, R. S., and A. Bahuguna. "Zinc, Copper and Selenium in Reproduction." Experientia 50.7 (1994): 626-40. PubMed. Web. 31 Mar. 2016.
  9. "Iodine." Micronutrient Information Center. Oregon State, 2001. Web. 31 Mar. 2016.
  10. Nussey S, Whitehead S. Endocrinology: An Integrated Approach. Oxford: BIOS Scientific Publishers; 2001. Chapter 3, The thyroid gland.
  11. Bera, Soumen et al. “Does a Role for Selenium in DNA Damage Repair Explain Apparent Controversies in Its Use in Chemoprevention?” Mutagenesis 28.2 (2013): 127–134. PMC. Web. 31 Mar. 2016.

†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. Global Healing Center does not dispense medical advice, prescribe, or diagnose illness. The views and nutritional advice expressed by Global Healing Center are not intended to be a substitute for conventional medical service. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician.

  • Derik

    Hello Doctor,, Whats with the link between Selenium and Diabetes, Selenium seems to be getting good & bad comments ??

  • DoubtingThomas
  • Derik

    OK then,, Wow what a read.
    Back and forth to – the Na side.
    As stated “a complicated relationship” indeed.
    I do believe because of the ‘U-shaped Relationship’
    between Selenium & Diabetes and the lack of more information that this should warrant Caution for At Risk people. To me ‘At Risk’ would Weigh Heavy.
    Personally I don’t consume a lot of dietary Selenium and started on a supplement of 200 mcg daily of Selenium Yeast, mostly for the Antioxidant / Cardio benefits. I’m not in the At Risk zone but think I’ll cut back, don’t need to upset my apple cart. A synergistic approach with baby steps towards optimal health will do.
    Thanks for the your comment. …..

    Hmmm,,, Wonder how much Iodine those folks were consuming, there’s that U-shape.
    Thanks again Thomas, big help.

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