Selenium makes you resilient to all kinds of stress, including the physical attacks of infections and toxins. It keeps your nails healthy, prevents the wear and tear on your tissues as you age, keeps your body from launching too much inflammation and releasing too much histamine, and appears to protect against several cancers.
On the other hand, too much worsens the risk of diabetes and causes some of the same problems that “just enough” protects against.
Because the soils vary so much in their selenium content, it’s hard to judge what you’re getting just from the foods you eat, and selenium is one mineral I think everyone should test at least once.
Tune in for everything you need to know about how to manage your selenium status!
This episode is brought to you by Ancestral Supplements. Our Native American ancestors believed that eating the organs from a healthy animal would support the health of the corresponding organ of the individual. Ancestral Supplements has a nose-to-tail product line of grass-fed liver, organs, bone marrow and more… in the convenience of a capsule. For more information or to buy any of their products, go to https://chrismasterjohnphd.com/ancestral
This episode is brought to you by Testing Nutritional Status: The Ultimate Cheat Sheet. Everything you could ever need to know to optimize your nutrition, all in one place. Easier to find and use than ever before. Get your copy at https://chrismasterjohnphd.com/cheatsheet Use the code LITE5 to get $5 off.
Here’s the methylation page mentioned in the episode: https://chrismasterjohnphd.com/methylation
Here’s a much more detailed page on selenium: https://chrismasterjohnphd.com/2017/02/18/why-you-should-manage-your-selenium-status-and-how-to-do-it/
How to watch it:
How to share it and show it love:
Read the Transcript
Right now at this very moment, you could be deficient in selenium. Or you could be toxic in selenium. You could have too little, too much, and it’s very difficult to know the difference. So this is how to figure it all out.
Hi. I’m Dr. Chris Masterjohn of chrismasterjohnphd.com, and this is Chris Masterjohn Lite, where the name of the game is “Details? Shmeetails. Just tell me what works!”
And today we’re going to talk about how to manage your selenium status. And selenium is unique among the minerals in that there is such wide variation in soil levels of selenium.And there is such random incorporation of selenium into plants that just directly reflects whatever the soil is, that you’re roughly 50% likely to be not getting enough and 50%likely to be getting too much, and it’s very
difficult to know the difference because a lot of the symptoms of deficiency and toxicity are the same. So selenium is one of those minerals where I think basically everyone should be getting it tested at least once to see where they wind up because you really don’t know whether all the food that you’re eating is coming from low-selenium, normal-selenium,or high-selenium soils.
So let’s talk a little bit about what we might expect to see as consequences of deficiency or toxicity. One of the things that’s most generally true about selenium deficiency is that it increases your vulnerability to other stressors. So quite often the consequences of selenium deficiency are not related exactly to the selenium. It’s that you became more vulnerable to a virus, or you became more vulnerable to a toxin. So a general loss of resilience is a feature of selenium deficiency.
What we are likely to see most commonly is alterations in thyroid hormones. For example, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis appears to be at least partly related to not getting enough selenium.And look when you actually measure your thyroid hormones, if you see low T3, the active thyroid hormone, and you do not see just as low of T4, or you do not see the characteristic rise in TSH necessarily, but this low T3 stands out, then that could well be an indicator of not getting enough selenium.
Certain cancers seem to be related to not getting enough selenium, especially prostate, colorectal, and lung cancer. And although it’s not clearly documented, I believe that white spots and streaks in the fingernails can probably occur in early deficiency. We do know that these occur in selenium toxicity, but I believe they probably occur in both.
In severe deficiency of selenium, you get damage to the liver and the heart, and you have white nail beds with fingernails falling out. Most of us are not going to be vulnerable to that level of selenium deficiency. When you look at toxicity, which is usually caused by consuming foods grown in soils with very high selenium, you see damage to the liver similar to what happens in severe selenium deficiency.
You can see hair loss, and you can see nails getting brittle with white spots and streaks that may fall out. The main factor determining whether you get too little or too much selenium is the selenium content of the soil that your foods are grown in, which is something that you have relatively little control over, unless you do a lot of research. Selenium is richest in organ meats and seafoods, and generally animal foods have more consistent selenium status than plant foods do. So one way to become less vulnerable to the effect of soil is to eat more animal foods and to include among those animal foods the organ meats and the seafoods that are rich in selenium.
Brazil nuts are an excellent source of selenium, but as a plant food, they are highly vulnerable to variation according to the soil. So although Brazil nuts are always a fairly good source of selenium, they can range from being just a good source, to being an excellent source, to having too much. Because soil has such a strong effect on selenium status, I think it’s wise for everyone to get their plasma selenium tested, which is the best marker of selenium status.
In serum or whole blood, you’re probably going to get the same value, but it’s better if you can, to get selenium measured in plasma. Plasma selenium should be between 90 and 140 mcg/L. There is a whole blood selenium measurement on the Genova ION Panel, and although I generally like the Genova ION Panel, and it features as one of the most important tests that I use in the comprehensive screening in my
Testing Nutritional Status: The Ultimate Cheat Sheet ebook.
I do not like the selenium test on the Genova ION Panel for two reasons. One, it’s that it’s whole blood, and it’s better to measure it in plasma, but the second big one is that the reference range they use equates to 130 to 320 mcg/L, and it’s quite clear from the literature that the risk of diabetes may increase over 140. So I think it’s better to just get a stand-alone plasma selenium test from LabCorp and make sure that your selenium is between 90 and 140, with a sweet spot to shoot for being around 120 mcg/L.
If your selenium levels are too high, then the course of action should be to remove the likely sources of the excess selenium from the diet, including any supplements, and to generally support your defense against oxidative stress. It’s a complicated topic, but I have a whole section on it in Testing Nutritional Status: The Ultimate Cheat Sheet.
If you do not get enough selenium, then the first ideal step to start with is to include more organ meats and seafood in your diet as selenium sources. But you can also supplement with selenium, and when supplementing with selenium, I generally recommend limiting it to 100 µg per day of selenomethionine. You can of course use 200 µg per day for faster results, but you probably want to cut that dose back to 100 or less once you achieve your sweet spot of plasma selenium.
I would not use methylselenocysteine,and I would not use selenite or selenate. Generally you may expect it to take five months for a given dose of selenium to stabilize a given level of plasma selenium status, but generally when you’re correcting a deficiency, you could use a higher dose like 200 µg per day for three to four weeks and see pretty fast results.
If you’re dealing with children, you can cut the dose of the supplement down to 1 to 1.5 µg of selenomethionine per kilogram of body weight. If you have signs and symptoms of selenium deficiency that do not go away when you correct your selenium status,you may want to look at methylation because although methylation does not seem to be important to absorbing selenium, it does seem to be important for the proper biological utilization, or using of selenium, and for resources on managing methylation, I recommend seeing my page at chrismasterjohnphd.com/methylation.