What is selenium?
Selenium is an essential trace element. Our bodies do not make selenium so the only way to get it is through supplements and/or food.
What does selenium do?
Selenium acts as an antioxidant in our bodies. Antioxidants are molecules that fight free radicals in your body.
Free radicals are compounds that are produced as a result of the chemical reactions that happen all the time in our bodies. Free radicals can cause harm if their levels become too high in our bodies. They have been linked to many illnesses including diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Free radicals also serve important functions essential for health such as fighting infections. Our bodies need to maintain a certain balance of free radicals and antioxidants.
Can selenium help with the symptoms of thyroid eye disease?
A randomised control trial has shown that selenium may reduce the severity of thyroid eye disease. Many people have a mild deficiency of selenium and there is evidence to suggest that oral supplements of selenium are beneficial in mild forms of active thyroid eye disease.
Research involving people with mild active thyroid eye disease showed improved quality of life for those who took 200 mcg (micrograms) of selenium each day for 6 months, compared to those who did not take it. However it is recognised that a lot more research is required in this area.
It is not known if taking selenium supplements continues to be beneficial if taken for a longer period of time, or for people who have more severe disease.
Can you take too much selenium?
You can become unwell from taking excessive amounts of selenium. An overdose of selenium may cause symptoms such as bad breath, nail brittleness, nausea or hair thinning. It is well within safe limits to take 200 mcg of selenium per day. Doctors often suggest patients with active thyroid eye disease take 200 mcg per day for at least 6 months. It is recommended not to exceed 400 mcg of selenium per day.
10 good selenium food sources
Foods which provide good sources of selenium include:
- Brazil nuts
- Brown rice
- Sunflower seeds
- Whole wheat pasta
Did you know?
Brazil nuts are selenium superstars! One brazil nut contains between 68-91 mcg of selenium depending on its size. That works out at about 1900 mcg of selenium per 100 g and makes them the highest natural source of this mineral.