What Is Selenium and What Does It Do?
Selenium is a trace element that occurs naturally in soil, water, and certain foods. It is an essential
mineral for life, meaning the body must acquire it through dietary sources. Selenium is a critical component
of selenoproteins, a group of proteins with antioxidant properties that help protect cells from free radical
damage. The body also needs selenium for proper thyroid, immune system, and reproductive function.
Additionally, it plays a role in fundamental cell processes, such as DNA synthesis.
Potential Benefits of Selenium Supplements
Selenium Supplements’ Antioxidant Properties
Selenium is a primary factor in the body's antioxidant defense system. It works in tandem with other
antioxidants like glutathione to neutralize
free radicals. These unstable molecules serve several health
functions. However, too many of them cause oxidative stress that can damage cells and contribute to various
health issues, including chronic illnesses and aging. Selenium helps ensure the body has the proper balance
by neutralizing excess radicals. Selenium’s antioxidant capacity may also improve memory and support
Selenium Supplements and Immune System Support
Selenium is crucial for immune function, and a selenium deficiency can impair the immune response. Selenium
also supports the production and enhances the activity of various immune cells, including T cells, B cells,
and natural killer (NK) cells. These cells play pivotal roles in recognizing and eliminating pathogens such
as bacteria, viruses, and abnormal cells. Selenium has anti-inflammatory properties that may help modulate
the immune response. Chronic inflammation can exhaust the immune system by continually activating immune
cells, impairing immune cell communication, and increasing the body’s susceptibility to infection.
Selenium Supplements and Thyroid Health
The thyroid gland regulates numerous physiological functions by producing hormones that influence the
metabolism, growth, and development. It contains more selenium than any other organ in the body. Selenium is
essential for producing thyroid hormones and converting thyroxine (T4) into triiodothyronine (T3). T4 is the
inactive form of thyroid hormone that must convert into T3 before the body can use it. T3 is more
biologically active and has a more potent effect on metabolism. Selenium is crucial for thyroid function,
and several studies identified a connection between selenium deficiencies and various thyroid conditions.
Selenium Supplements and Heart Health
Selenium dietary supplements may support heart health through several mechanisms. It acts as an antioxidant
and boosts glutathione production to reduce oxidative stress and free radical damage. It also has
anti-inflammatory properties. Both oxidative stress and inflammation contribute to plaque buildup in the
arteries. Research also shows that insufficient selenium increases the risk of heart health problems.
Potential Side Effects of Selenium Dietary Supplements
Some individuals may experience stomach discomfort or headaches while taking selenium supplements. Although
selenium is essential for health, taking too much of any supplement can lead to adverse effects. Ingesting
too much selenium may cause selenium toxicity. Symptoms of this include diarrhea, garlic breath, skin
rashes, brittle hair and nails, and hair loss.
Selenium may interact with certain medications, including anti-coagulants, blood pressure medication,
statins, and thyroid medication. Individuals should consult a physician before starting any new supplements
to avoid unwanted medication interactions.
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