Find out why your body needs selenium, the recommended intake, signs you may be low on selenium, and ways you can increase it.
Selenium is a trace mineral that we don’t normally hear much about. However, each cell in your body contains more than a million atoms, totaling about 14 milligrams in total. (1)
If you’re unfamiliar with selenium, it’s helpful to understand why you need it and how to tell if your levels may be low. We also share a couple of things you can do to make sure you’re getting enough of this important chemical.
Selenium is involved in several biological processes. One of its most important is the regulation of immune function. Specifically, selenium helps protect our immune systems from oxidative stress while promoting cell survival and production. (2)
In fact, low selenium levels have been linked to many serious health conditions, including: (3)
- cardiovascular disease
- metabolic syndrome
- viral infections
Selenium and your thyroid
This element also plays a key role in the function of the thyroid gland. What does selenium do for the thyroid? It supports the metabolism of hormones in this gland and, at the same time, is necessary for antioxidant function, which makes sense since the thyroid is the body organ that contains the highest amount of selenium per gram of tissue. (4)
Selenium, Fertility and Reproductive Function
Both males and females depend on selenium for optimal fertility and reproductive function. In men, selenium and selenoproteins are needed to produce sperm. (5) In women, selenium and selenium-containing proteins are important not only for getting pregnant but also for supporting a healthy pregnancy, as well as promoting the growth and development of a healthy baby. (6)
Recommended Selenium Intake
The Office of Dietary Supplements recommends that most adults consume 55 micrograms (mcg) of selenium daily. (7) People who are pregnant or breastfeeding need more than 60 mcg and 70 mcg, respectively.
The tolerable upper intake level (UL) for adults is 400 mcg per day. (8) The UL is the maximum amount that can be consumed daily without adversely affecting health. This is important to keep in mind because many research studies involve selenium intakes above the recommended amount but below the UL.
For example, in a study of overweight and obese individuals, some subjects were given 240 mcg of L-selenomethionine (a natural form of selenium) per day for three months, in addition to following a low-calorie diet. (9) At the end of the trial, these individuals had greater reductions in their body fat mass and more lean muscle mass than the controls.
Signs you may have low selenium levels
One way to tell if your selenium levels are low is with a blood test. Your health care provider may order this test if you are concerned.
It can also help to watch for certain symptoms. If you are severely deficient in selenium, you may experience: (8)
- nausea or vomiting
- mental confusion
Ways to increase selenium with diet
Adding certain foods to your diet can help you get an adequate amount of selenium on a daily basis. What food is highest in selenium? Brazil nuts, shellfish, and organ meats top the list. (7)
You can also increase your selenium intake by eating bread, cereals, other grains, dairy products, poultry, and eggs.
Who should take selenium supplements?
Some people may benefit from taking a selenium supplement. For example, research indicates that thyroid disorders are common in athletes. This is partly because strenuous exercise negatively affects this gland, which can be exacerbated by a thyroid deficiency. (10)
Other people at risk of selenium deficiency, and therefore might be helped by taking a supplement, include people: (8)
- with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
- undergoing dialysis due to kidney failure
- in low-selenium regions following a plant-based diet
If you decide that supplementation is right for you, Natural Wellness offers a natural and organic selenium supplement. Each capsule provides 200 mcg of selenium from SelenoExcell, a high selenium organic yeast. Like all other Natural Wellness products, this supplement is manufactured in the USA in an FDA registered facility using Current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMP).