We are surrounded by toxic chemicals in the environment all around us. One of these pollutants is mercury which is a biological toxin that can be lethal. Mercury binds easily to fatty tissue especially in the kidneys, liver, and brain. It can accumulate in high concentrations weakening these organs and causing severe harm. One of the best detoxifying agents to prevent mercury build-up is the mineral selenium.
Most people have elevated concentrations of mercury in their body. Mercury competes with other essential trace minerals at cellular binding sites. A deficiency of trace minerals can readily allow mercury to accumulate in and contaminate cells by inhibiting their natural energy producing abilities, blocking enzymatic activity and shutting down antioxidant systems.
How Are We Exposed to Mercury?
Aside from industrial pollution, major mercury contaminants in our environment are sourced from fish, vaccinations, processed food, and dental amalgam fillings. A 2009 study published in the Journal of Environmental Health showed evidence that mercury cell chlor-alkali chemicals are used in the manufacturing of food color additives such as FD&C Yellow 5, FD&C Yellow 6 and high fructose corn syrup.
Selenoprotein enzymes are generated by the body by incorporating the trace mineral selenium into proteins. These enzymes function like antioxidants, destroying free radicals thus limiting oxidative damage. They also stimulate thyroid function and optimize the immune system. But many people have too much mercury in their body. When mercury binds to selenium, the production of selenoproteins is reduced. This promotes immune dysfunction and abnormal thyroid function.
Selenium Is a “Mercury Magnet”
Think of selenium as if it is a mercury magnet. It has a powerful affinity for binding toxic agents in the body and neutralizes their harmful activity. When mercury and selenium bind, this new compound cannot be absorbed by the body so it is removed as waste. This strong interaction greatly benefits total health and serves as one of the best strategies to remove accumulated mercury from fatty tissue in areas like the brain.
Supporting the production of this antioxidant enzyme is essential for human health. We must include a surplus of selenium in our body to reduce mercury levels. It is critical to consume more selenium and less mercury for this to occur. Mercury contamination from food, vaccines, dental amalgams, or whatever the source might require you to increase selenium consumption up to 1000 mcg each day.
The Anti-Inflammatory Roles of Selenium
Selenium stimulates a variety of antioxidant pathways in the body and also reduces inflammation, regulates the immune response, and improves blood flow. Selenium can be one of the most potent sources for reducing inflammation. This is an important consideration for individuals struggling with an autoimmune problem, which includes patients with HIV and life-threatening sepsis.
Supplementation with selenium has been shown to enhance the natural antioxidant defense system of cells. The activity of NF- kappaB (nuclear factor kappaB), known to trigger a chronic inflammatory response, can be suppressed using selenium. Supplementation has also been reported to decrease the concentration of immune-trafficking components of lymphocytes called L-selectin. These adhesion molecules give inflammatory T-cells the green light to leave the bloodstream and bind to tissues in the body resulting in a heightened inflammatory response.
Selenium is also very important for healthy fertility. Selenium is incorporated in the sperm mitochondrial capsule and may affect the behavior and function of the sperm as they move through the vaginal canal. Optimal levels of selenium help to improve the sperm viability and support fertility.
How Selenium Fights Cancer
Selenium acts a bit like a mechanic in how it works. It binds protective antioxidants like glutathione to areas of DNA that need repair. This process reduces the damage to cellular DNA and is especially important to reduce cancer growth, improve the aging process, and prevent against many degenerative diseases.
Research has been shown that selenium can contribute to natural antioxidant pathways which stimulate apoptosis (cell death) in human cancer cells. It has also been found to reduce metastasis in skin cancers such as melanoma.
Many selenoproteins remain largely unknown in the full extent to which they help fight disease. What is well understood is that selenium maintains a healthy balance of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and can prevent against metabolic complications like diabetes and cancer.
Selenium Deficiency Linked to Thyroid Cancer
Specifically, low selenium levels are associated with an increased risk of thyroid cancer. This is due to the crucial role it plays on protecting the thyroid gland from damage. The incorporation of selenium into selenoproteins is essential for optimal thyroid health and for the protective effects of these antioxidant systems throughout the entire body. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the evidence is strong enough to claim selenium plays a pivotal role in carcinogenesis.
By supporting the repair of DNA, selenium is able to inhibit tumors generated by abnormal cellular growth and development. By removing hazardous agents from the body and detoxifying fatty tissue, selenium supports a healthy immune response to fight infection. Selenium treatment may be an alternative method in the fight against cancer and may even reduce mortality in many individuals struggling with chronic and infectious inflammatory diseases.
Recommendations for Selenium Consumption
It is recommended that one consume between 200-400 micrograms of selenium daily. Although too much selenium is toxic, the typical American consumes only 60 mcg each day. Long term deficiency weakens immunity and increases the risk of disease.
Chronic fatigue, stunted growth, high cholesterol, liver and pancreatic disorders, as well as cancer are among the list of the most common problems and disorders associated with selenium deficiency.
Reduce Your Exposure to Mercury
The high levels of mercury circulating in water systems from industrial pollution has led to controversy regarding fish consumption. A source of mercury, fish is also an excellent source of selenium.
A report to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration by Dr. Nicholas Ralston showed that some sources of fish have higher concentrations of selenium than mercury. These include tuna, southern flounder, and wild pacific salmon such as Sockeye, Coho, and Chinook. The most hazardous sources of fish included various types of shark, tarpon, and pilot whale.
Highest Sources of Selenium in Food:
The best source of selenium is found in Brazil nuts. A single Brazil nut alone contains an estimated 50-75 mcg selenium. A small handful of no more than 6 nuts will supplement the selenium you need for the entire day.
Other excellent sources of selenium include pasture-raised eggs, mushrooms, shellfish, meat (including organ meats), as well as seeds.
10 Tips to Reduce Mercury and Boost Selenium Levels Naturally
The following ten tips are strategies that you can incorporate into your lifestyle to naturally reduce mercury and boost selenium levels.
- Consume real foods rich in anti-inflammatory properties
- Avoid vaccines
- Eat 5-6 Brazil nuts daily
- Eat only wild-caught fish with the best ratio of selenium to mercury concentration
- Do not get dental amalgams and remove existing ones (only with with a qualified biological dentist)
- Enhance your body’s natural detoxification systems with herbs like parsley and cilantro
- Detox daily by consuming supergreens and chlorella and/or spirulina
- Hydrate with clean, filtered water
- Take an effective detoxification supplement
- Perspire in an infrared sauna
Types of Selenium Supplements
Yeast naturally contains the most bioavailable source of selenium found as an amino acid form called selenomethionine. This selenium source is also found in plants because they take up sulfur compounds from the Earth linking them to selenium. Other sources of selenium have only half the absorption rate of L-selenomethionine.
To better understand the bioavailability of an amino acid form it is easiest to envision the two ways amino acids occur. “L” form and “D” form amino acids are mirror images of each other. In the case of selenium, the body is best able to metabolize the L-amino acid form making this type of selenium source the most readily absorbable by the human body.
Supplementation of 200 mcg of L-selenomethionine in one research group found that a significant reduction in thyroid peroxidase antibodies. It also supported total thyroid health and function in people suffering from Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Furthermore, selenomethionine has been found to inhibit colon cancer cells and prostate cells from forming.
L-selenomethionine supplementation has been shown to prevent cancer formation and reduce both toxic mercury and cadmium levels in the body.
Editor’s Note: This article was initially published in October 2016 and was updated in June 2021.
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