SELENIUM, THE MOON & IMMUNITY
Selenium is out of this world. Kind of.
The term for this element comes from the Greek word selene which means ‘moon’ and comes from the noun selas meaning ‘light, brightness, gleam’. It was discovered by a Swede named Jöns Jacob Berzelius who named it after the moon because of its similarities to tellurium – which was named after the earth.
Selene is also the Greek goddess of the moon. She is the daughter of Hyperion and Theia and depicted as a beautiful woman with a crescent moon on her forehead and riding a chariot pulled across the night sky by two white horses. Selene is universally regarded as the divine embodiment of healing, fertility, love, compassion, and grace.
There are a number of ways that the moon is said to have an impact on health. Some people believe that the phases of the moon can affect sleep patterns and menstrual cycles. There are also people who believe that it may affect mental health. While some believe that the magnetic pull of the moon has an impact on the fluids in the human body.
While a lot of these are merely beliefs with minimal scientific research to back them up, that is not the case for selenium.
So, let’s have a look at more scientifically robust benefits for Selene’s namesake, the trace mineral found in shilajit, sea moss, soil, water, and many food types: Selenium.
1. SUPPORTS THYROID FUNCTION
The thyroid regulates the levels of specific hormones throughout the body which are vitally
important for a range of things, including metabolism, growth, and development. And selenium plays a crucial role in supporting thyroid function.
One way that this occurs is by helping to convert inactive thyroid hormone (thyroxine [T4]) to its active form (triiodothyronine [T3]). The reaction that takes place for this conversion to occur is facilitated by enzymes (deiodinases) which use selenium as a cofactor.
Selenium also helps to regulate the gene expression of those that are involved in thyroid hormone metabolism and signalling helping to ensure that thyroid hormones are regulated in a balanced and efficient manner.
The thyroid is particularly vulnerable to free radicals because of its high metabolic activity, high concentration of unsaturated fatty acids, and its exposure to environmental toxins. Which is why its vitally important for you to protect it from damage caused by oxidative stress, which leads us to our next point.
2. WORKS AS AN ANTIOXIDANT
The biochemistry of oxidative stress can be complex, so I’ve simplified the part we are talking about here. One of the most important functions selenium plays is in acting as a cofactor (something that aids in the function of enzymes) for glutathione peroxidase.
Glutathione peroxidase is an enzyme responsible for breaking down hydrogen peroxide (H 2 O 2 ) and other reactive oxygen species into harmless compounds. The chances are you’ve heard of hydrogen peroxide, you will no doubt have seen it flexing its hair dying muscles. It’s a powerful oxidising agent in your body which can react with fats, proteins, and even DNA. Which I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you isn’t optimal for your health.
So don’t be like the chemist who went to a bar and after his friend ordered H 2 O, ordered H 2 O too.
Is this thing on?
The role that selenium plays in helping our bodies to battle against those ravenous free radicals is simple: it donates an electron, thus neutralising them.
Further to this, selenium is also at the centre of the process to regenerate other antioxidants like vitamin E – which is also fantastic for your skin, your hair, as well as your immune system.
Which is great news if you aspire to grow locks like Aragorn or a Zeus-like beard.
3. BOLSTERS THE IMMUNE SYSTEM
As well as its virtues in neutralising the free radicals that contribute to chronic diseases, selenium also supports the production of T cells, and natural killer cells. Both of which are important for fighting infections and cancer.
T-cells and natural killer cells are both types of white blood cells, but they primarily affect different types of immune response. The innate and adaptive immune responses.
The innate immune response is non-specific and is thought to be the first line of defence against foreign pathogens. One of the main parts of the innate immune response is the natural killer cells that are responsible for recognising and killing abnormal cells such as tumours.
The innate adaptive immune response is more specific and is tailored to a particular pathogen. It’s the mechanism that old school vaccines use. A foreign body (antigen) is identified by your T cells which will then kill the antigen and produce proteins that will recognise the same foreign bodies should they enter the body in the future. These are called antibodies.
4. REGULATES INFLAMMATION
Cytokines are small proteins that help to regulate the immune response a foreign body. They can promote inflammation or reduce it. A healthy immune system is one that has an appropriate response to these challenges. Selenium can help regulate this response.
Selenium decreases the production and circulation of pro-inflammatory cytokines such as
interleukin-6 (IL-6) and tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNF- α) which can lead to a number of chronic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, muscle mass in the elderly, some cancers, and even depression.
It can also increase the production of anti-inflammatory cytokines like IL-10 and transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-β) which are involved in promoting tissue repair.
Its thought that selenium regulates cytokine production by affecting the transcription factors that are involved in gene expression – which is the process by which the information encoded in a gene is used to make a functional protein, RNA molecule, or in this case, a cytokine. The immune system is kept in balance by maintaining a health equilibrium between pro- and anti- inflammatory cytokines, and selenium plays a role in this.
5. PROTECTION AGAINST DEPRESSION
There is some research that suggests selenium is involved in the management of the
Yes, your old friend serotonin.
Some research suggests that the enzyme involved in synthesising serotonin from tryptophan
(tryptophan hydroxylase) is enhanced by selenium, therefore increasing serotonin.
Its also thought that monoamine oxidase activity is inhibited by selenium which could increase the availability of serotonin in the brain.
So, we get a double whammy from Selenium here, increased serotonin, and increased availability of serotonin.
However, it is important to note that the mechanisms underlying the relationship between selenium and serotonin are not fully understood. And as previously mentioned, the science of the relationship between serotonin and mood is not settled either.
Complex Systems Made Simple
There has been a theme running through this post that maybe the eagle eyed amongst you have spotted. Immunity. Your immune system is not located in on specific place in the body and is a hugely complex system that interacts with other complex systems outside of the body. It works by recognising self from non-self. And if this system goes wrong and your immune system attacks itself, well, you get autoimmune disorders. Or it can neglect to do anything in the face of an uncontrolled growth, which can lead to cancer. It needs all the help it can get because there’s more non-self in the world than self. Even if your BMI is 1000.
But no, I don’t mean vaccinate yourself into a heart condition.
Your best protection against infection and disease is to optimise your health and support your immune system to function in the way it has evolved to do so.
Give your body everything it needs to keep it healthy. Get some sunlight, exercise, see your friends, laugh, drink enough water, and get enough quality nutrients.
As Albert Einstein once said (allegedly), “The definition of insanity is not optimising your intake of selenium and expecting to be healthy.”
Thankfully, we have made this part a little too easy for you with our range of pure Shilajit and Wildcrafted Sea Moss products.