Most people only know selenium from the periodic table in chemistry class. The element can do so much more! For example, it also takes our body to stay healthy. How exactly selenium affects us and what the substance is good for, we have summarized here for you. First of all: The selenium effect should not be underestimated.
The selenium effect at a glance
Selenium, which is one of the semi-metals in chemistry, is an essential trace elementfor us. This means that it takes our body to function properly and selenium cannot be produced in the organism. So we have to take it regularly through the diet.
Since we only need relatively little selenium (women ~60μg and men ~70μg per day), selenium procurement through food is usually not a problem. However, a restricted diet or illness can still lead to a deficiency. The foods with a high selenium content are also predominantly of animal origin, such as liver, fish and seafood (exception: coconut and Brazil nut). So it is sometimes difficult for vegan or vegetarian people to get the trace element.
An undersupply of selenium can be quite problematic. But why is this so?
Let’s take a look at what effect selenium has on the body and why the substance is so important:
Positive effect of selenium
Why exactly do we need selenium?
- Regulation of the thyroid gland
An adequate supply of selenium helps to keep the thyroid gland healthy. In addition, the substance is involved in the formation of the thyroid hormones thyroxine and triiodothyronine.
- Contribution to normal spermatogenesis in men
Selenium is involved in the formation of sperm in men, as a result of which fertility is dependent.
- Function of the immune system
The immune system also needs selenium to function normally. A deficiency can, for example, weaken the cellular immune response to certain viruses.
- Antioxidant effect
Selenium helps in the body to bind free radicals and thus contributes to the protection of cells.
- normal functioning of the nervous system
A lack of selenium can also lead to muscle and nerve diseases.
Negative effect of selenium
In principle, selenium is toxic. Although we need the trace element for our body to function properly, increased intake can lead to selenium poisoning.
Here’s how to detect a possible selenium overdose:
- Muscle weakness and diarrhea
- Skin lesions
- Neuropathy (disease of the nervous system)
Maintaining the right dose is therefore mandatory so that our body can benefit from the selenium effect.
How Selenium Affects Your Psyche
Again and again one reads that selenium is also essential for our psyche. For example, an increased intake should lead to a better mood or protection against depression.
Is there anything wrong with it?
This question was also asked by a study of more than 500 participants from Great Britain, which was published in 2006 in the journal Biological Psychiatry. The result: Although a significantly elevated selenium level was measured in the tested group over a longer period of time, no effects on mood could be observed.
Is the claim that selenium has a positive effect on the psyche thus refuted?
Yes and no. Because even if an increased intake of selenium does not have a positive effect on the mood, our brain is still dependent on selenium in a certain way. It is assumed, for example, that a sufficient supply of selenium is necessary to ensure normal blood circulation in the brain.
Likewise, selenium also helps the brain cells to protect themselves from free radicals through its antioxidant effect.
But here, too, an opposite effect has been observed with too high a dosage: Although the brain needs selenium to function normally, a permanently high overdose can possibly lead to memory problems.
How Selenium Affects Your Skin
As already mentioned, our whole body is affected by the action of selenium. For the skin, two properties of the trace element play a particularly important role:
- The antioxidant effect on our cells
- Supporting the normal functioning of the immune system
The effect of selenium on our cells can help our body protect itself from damage from UV radiation. Likewise, the skin cells need selenium to better combat the effects of cell aging.
The effect on the immune system, on the other hand, ensures that our skin is in a position to defend itself against inflammation and infection. In addition to other important trace elements, an optimal supply of selenium is also the key.
The selenium effect should not be underestimated
So let’s summarize the most important things again:
- Our body needs selenium to function normally
- We need to ingest the trace element through food
- Brain, skin, hair, nerves, cells, immune system: The substance is involved in numerous functions in the body
- Too high a dose of selenium has negative effects
Both too little and too much selenium can make life difficult for you. Therefore, it is all the more important that you keep an eye on your own selenium intake. If you suffer from a disease that makes it difficult to absorb selenium or if you eat too one-sidedly, a selenium deficiency may be responsible for any complaints.
The best way to do this is to clarify this with the doctor of trust. A measurement of the selenium level in the blood is usually made as part of a whole blood examination. This costs something (~30 €), but especially if there is a suspicion of a deficiency, it is worth it. An undersupply of selenium can be effectively compensated by a change in diet or supplementation with selenium capsules.
As always, it is therefore important to listen to your own body. Because only then can you give him everything he needs to be healthy.