Selenium is a trace mineral that is needed in the human body in all tissues and organs in different concentrations to protect our cells from the attack of free radicals. Many chronic diseases and inflammations are caused by the attack of free radicals on the cell walls and cell structures. These will be destroyed without adequate protection by antioxidants and the cells die. Selenium is the most important endogenous antioxidant in the body, because unlike vitamin A, C, E and the other exogenous catchers of radicals (scavenger) it is much more effective thus also preventing degeneration of cells. This underlines the central importance of selenium to ward off chronic inflammations and cancers.
The importance of selenium as an antioxidant for health
To be able to develop superior life, nature changed energy generation by anaerobic respiration into oxygen-breathing – just so the significantly increased energy demand of all higher developed organisms can be met. At the same time, this also leads to a significantly increased oxidative stress and the emergence of various free radicals in the organism. Although excess free radicals are harmful for the cells, they are also able to destroy sickening contaminants such as bacteria, viruses and fungi. Therefore, they are nevertheless important for our health. A balance between oxidants and antioxidants in the human body is the key.
The antioxidants are differentiated into the immediately effective, exogenous antioxidants (vitamins A, C, E, Coenzyme Q10, etc.), un-specifically attacking free radicals, and the endogenous, less reactive, but specific antioxidants (gluthathionperoxidase, catalase, superoxide dismutase and glutathione transferase). The latter have a much more intense defense of free radicals. To stay healthy, it is important to keep both defenses going by providing the organism with a sufficient amount of vital substances.
Among the endogenous antioxidants, selenium occupies a special position. Together with Glutathione (a complex from three different amino acids), it forms the Glutathione peroxidase, the ubiquitous reduced organic peroxide radicals to hydrogen peroxide in the body. Currently, over 20 selenium-dependent proteins are known, which incorporate many additional functions in the body.
The table shows the main Selenoproteins
|Selenoprotein||Usual names||Main functions|
|GPx1, GPx2, GPx3,GPx6||Organ-specific gluthatione peroxidase||reduction of H2O2 and alkyl-hydroxiperoxides|
|GPx4||phospholipidic-hydroperoxid-GSH-peroxidase||reduction of lipophilic hydroxyperoxides|
|TR1 – TR3||organ-specific thioredoxin reductases||reduction of oxidized thiol-groups|
|DI1, DI2 and DI3||dejodinases of the thyroid gland||metabolism of hormones of the thyroid gland|
|SPS2||seleno-phosphate synthetase (SeID)||provision of seleno-phosphate|
|P||seleno-protein P||among others transport of selenium|
|N||seleno-protein N||associated with muscle dystrophy in case of lack of selenium|
|R||methionine-sulfoxide-reductase B||reduction of protein-methionine-sulfoxides|
|15kDa, 18kDa, H, I, K, M, O, M, S, T, V, W,||15kDa seleno-protein und 18kDa seleno-protein as well as unknown seleno-protein||unknown|
Source: Reinhard Saller et al: Switzerland, Magazine Holistic Medicine 2007; 19(6): 333-340; Publishing House for Holistic Medicine, Basel
Supply situation with Selenium in Germany
In order to meet its function as endogenous antioxidant, humans need approximately 200 µg Selenium per day. This amount cannot be reached by current nutrition in Germany. It is irrelevant whether one is vegetarian, vegan or lives on a mixed diet. A leaching of soils of Selenium and Iodine in big parts of Europe after Ice Age, as well as a eutrophication of farmland with sodium led to this situation. On average, a German citizen ingests only 25-35 µg selenium per day, meaning there is a big part of the German population lacking Selenium permanently. Worldwide, the Selenium intake is different as the following table shows:
|Country||Intake of selenium in µg per day|
|Regions in China||600 - 1000|
In our latitudes only people who daily ingest selenium as a nutritional supplement are well provided for. People who daily ingest less than 60 µg selenium have a significantly increased risk for chronic inflammations and malignant diseases. Epidemiological studies have shown this (Biesalski et al.; Pocket Atlas of nutrition. Publishing House Georg Thieme Stuttgart, New York 2004).
To ingest 200 µg Selenium from nutrition, unrealistic amounts of food would have to be ingested per day, as shown in the following table:
- 1400 g meat
- 4000 g sausage
- 6600 g milk
- 800 g eggs
- 800 g fish
- 24 kg vegetables
- 40 kg potatoes
- 50 kg fruits
According to the German society for nutrition, only 60 µg selenium are recommended per day. The recommendation but represents the absolute minimum and is not suitable to avoid inflammatory or rheumatic diseases or to improve their process. Several studies in the past demonstrate this (Knekt P et al: serum selenium, serum alpha-tocopherol, epidemiology: July 2000-Volume 11-Issue4-pp 402-405; Müller l: About the effect of adjuvant selenium supplementation of patients with chronic polyarthritis. Epidemiology 1990, 11:402-405; O’Dell JR et al: serum selenium in rheumatoid arthritis. Sem Arth Rheum 1991, 20: 305-318; Peretz A et al.: selenium supplementation in rheumatoid arthritis investigated in a double blind placebo-controlled trial. Scand J Rheumatol 2001, 30(4): 208-212).
Organic or inorganic selenium?
Selenium occurring in soils is inorganic, but is absorbed by plants and animals and converted to organic selenium. Selenium occurring in food is always organic and bound, for example to amino acids such as methionine and cysteine. However, selenium in dietary supplements can occur both in organic and inorganic form. It is known that organic selenium compounds are much better reabsorbed by the body. They are part of selenium-dependent enzymes and selenium proteins. Also, organic selenium compounds are not reduced by the simultaneous intake of vitamin C.
The influence of selenium on chronic inflammation
Selenium is an important factor in the healing process of inflammations because in case of a lack of Selenium the efficiency of the immune system is reduced as well as the number of active immune cells. The widespread lack of selenium plays a central role in many chronic diseases. Often low selenium blood levels were found in connection with rheumatism, bronchial asthma, colitis ulcerosa and Crohn’s disease. Selenium deficiency leads via an accumulation of free radicals to an activation of phospholipase, which, in turn, promote the release of arachidonic acid and the synthesis of Eicosanoids. Both the arachidonic acid and Eicosanoids promote inflammatory reactions and play a crucial role in the pathogenesis of chronic inflammations. In addition, free radicals cause the production of Cytokines, which promote inflammations and thus can lead to damage of cartilage in the joints.
Often selenium deficiency is the cause of chronic joint inflammations
The Keshin-Beck disease is a chronic inflammation of the joints caused by selenium deficiency. In daily practice it should be thought of because it is a seronegative chronic joint inflammation (therefore without rheumatoid factors) and already an optimization of selenium intake can lead to amazing healing successes. Several studies have shown that a reduced selenium level, as described, promotes the occurrence of chronic inflammatory joint diseases. (Youn HS et al.: Selenium supress the activation of transcription factor NF-kappa B and IRF3 Induced TLR3 or TLR 4 agonists. Int Immunopharmacol. 2008 Mar; 8(3): 495-501; Zamamiri-Dvis F et al.: Nuclear factor-kappaB mediates over expression of cyclooxygenase-2 during activation of RAW 264.7 macrophages in selenium deficiency. Free Radic Biol Med. 2002 May 1;32(9):890-7)
In addition, the use of selenium against rheumatoid arthritis led to a significant reduction of inflammatory parameters such as C-reactive protein, prostaglandine E2, and alpha-2-globuline. More important than lowering the laboratory values was that the complaints of the patients could be reduced significantly (Heinle K et al.; Selenium concentration in erythrocytes in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Clinical and laboratory-chemical signs of inflammation under supplementation with selenium. MedKlin 1997 Sep 15; 92 Suppl 3:29-31).
As with all other nutrients, monotherapy is ineffective, as evidenced by a study. Therefore, even more vital substances should be supplemented in addition to selenium (Peretz A et al: selenium supplementation in rheumatoid arthritis investigated in a double blind; placebo-controlled trial. Scand. J Rheumatol (2001); 30(4):208-12).
While the Keshin-Beck disease is a disorder of adulthood, similar joint problems were described in children, too. It is therefore useful to try a treatment using Selenium substitution also in children with uncertain joint pain. For this a dosage of 100 µg would be useful.
Thyroid gland and heart need selenium
Chronic inflammations of the thyroid gland are often associated with a selenium deficiency. The production of active thyroid hormones depends on so-called Dejodasen type 1 to 3. They can develop their effect only if enough selenium available. With a selenium deficiency, chronic inflammatory diseases such as Morbus Hashimota are promoted. In our own practice, amazing successes were achieved by the administration of 200 µg Selenium: the thyroid gland complaints were reduced significantly and often the intake of thyroid hormones could be finished.
Also the Keshan disease is due to a deficiency of selenium. With this disease a harmful enlargement of the heart occurs with inflammation of the heart muscle. It is important to think of a potential selenium deficiency in case of an unclear enlargement of the heart with or without inflammation, and to start a therapeutic trial with this trace element. Often, it is possible this way to avoid a bad disease progress as well as expensive medications.
Interfering fields in the body stress the immune system
Very often, patients complain about a chronic fatigue symptom and performance reduction without having found a cause. Not rarely, these patients are treated with psychotropic drugs. Often, it is ignored that there is an interfering field in the body. The best known and most common interfering field is an amalgam filling.
In individual cases it can stress the body chronically with mercury, resulting in a permanent weakening of the immune system and inducing the above mentioned symptoms. In addition to amalgam, there is still a number of other heavy metals, which can weaken the immune system. It is therefore very important to find possible interference fields. Selenium may form insoluble complexes with many heavy metals, which are then stored in the fatty tissue. Thus, the heavy metals are though not eliminated but neutralized. Then a drainage therapy by trained specialists has to be carried out.
Selenium helps with HIV
In patients with HIV infection it could be demonstrated in a study that by administration of selenium in a dosage of 200 µg the hospitalization rate decreased significantly and the patients were mentally more stable (Barbe et al.; Impact of a selenium chemoprevention clinical trial on hospital admissions of HIV-infected participants. HIV Clinical trials (2002 Nov-Dec);3(6):483-91).) In another study with 262 patients a stabilization of the viral load, as well as an increase in the number of CD4 cells could be demonstrated (Hurwitz et al;). Suppression of human immunodefiency virus type 1 viral load with selenium supplementation. A randomized controlled trial. Arch Intern Med 167: 148-154, 2007). In HIV infected women and their children in Tanzania it could be proven that low selenium levels with an increased mortality rate are associated.
Selenium is an important therapeutic remedy for interference fields and inflammations
It is summarized that selenium plays a central role in the treatment of chronic diseases and interference fields as endogenous antioxidant. But the effect of Selenium depends on more vital substances, so Selenium should not be given without other vital substances which in turn may influence chronic inflammations positively thus making the therapy even more effective.