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Selenium Boosts Liver Protection Regimens

As long as you don’t take too much of this trace element, learn why incorporating selenium-rich foods into your diet could help protect your liver from harm.

Also known as atomic number 34, selenium is a trace element found in the soil. Required in small amounts to maintain good health, selenium is essential for many body processes and is especially abundant in the kidneys, liver, spleen, testes and pancreas. Of particular interest to those with chronic liver disease, selenium boasts several functions that make it a valuable component to any liver wellness program.

Selenium is a liver ally for several reasons:

1.    Antioxidant – Trace amounts of selenium are necessary to form two enzymes – glutathione peroxidase and thioredoxin reductase – both of which indirectly reduce certain oxidized molecules. Since oxidation is a known manner in which liver damage occurs, antioxidants like selenium help preserve liver tissue.

2.    Immune Strength – A variety of sources indicate that selenium and Vitamin E act synergistically to strengthen immunity by aiding in the production of disease-fighting antibodies.

3.    Cancer Prevention – Believed to mobilize cancer-fighting cells, selenium may be helpful in preventing cancer. Since those with advanced liver disease are at risk of developing liver cancer, any efforts that could stop cells from going awry is generally welcomed.

4.    Tissue Elasticity – This trace element is needed for tissue elasticity, an important characteristic for those with chronic liver disease. Because rigidity in liver tissue and local blood vessels are consequences of several types of liver disease, efforts to preserve elasticity also helps support healthful hepatic circulation.

The following studies corroborate the belief that selenium is valuable to liver health:

·    As published in the January 2008 edition of the Journal of Inorganic Biochemistry, Israeli researchers isolated cellular mechanisms that help explain selenium’s anti-inflammatory and liver protective effects.

·    As published in the September 2010 edition of the journal of Experimental and Toxicologic Pathology, Algerian researchers exposed rat livers to a known toxin, arsenic. They found that administering selenium at the same time as administering the arsenic protected the liver from damage.

·    As published in a 2003 edition of the journal Acta Biochimica Polonica, Polish researchers evaluated the level of selenium in the blood of those with chronic liver diseases. Participants with chronic Hepatitis B or C infection or with alcoholic, autoimmune or cryptogenic chronic liver disease had significantly less selenium in their blood than healthy controls – a finding that the investigators believe could translate into their higher rate of oxidative damage to liver cells.

Selenium is a trace element. As such, high dosages of supplemental selenium are generally not advised. Since a wide range of side effects could result from taking too much selenium, most practitioners advise their clients to eat selenium-rich foods instead. The selenium content of any food source is dependent on the selenium content of the soil in which it is grown or the selenium content of whatever is consumed. Some of the more common dietary sources of selenium include Brazil nuts, turkey, crab, fish, beef and wheat.

If you and your physician agree that a selenium supplement is required, be aware that the upper tolerable limit for adults is 400 micrograms per day. Because selenium supplements can interfere with several medications and herbs, such as anti-coagulants, anti-platelets, statins, niacin, barbiturates, birth control pills, zinc and gold salts, discussing selenium supplementation with your physician prior to taking it is crucial.

There are plenty of reasons for those with liver disease to include selenium in their approach to liver health. By investigating the selenium content of your groceries and choosing more selenium-rich foods, you can reap the liver benefits of boosting your dietary selenium intake. If you believe that taking a selenium supplement is in order, discuss it first with your doctor and make sure you don’t exceed the upper tolerable limit., Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Selenium, Retrieved October 29, 2010, National Institutes of Health, 2010., Colloidal Minerals, Retrieved October 27, 2010, A1 Health, 2010., Selenium as CAM for Those with Hepatitis C, Retrieved October 28, 2010,, 2010., Selenium supplementation increases liver MnSOD expression: molecular mechanism for hepato-protection, Shilo, S, et al, Journal of Inorganic Biochemistry, January 2008., Selenium, glutathione and glutathione peroxidases in blood of patients with chronic liver diseases, Czuczejko, J, et al, Retrieved October 29, 2010, Acta Biochimica Polonica, 2003., Hepatoprotective role and antioxidant capacity of selenium on arsenic-induced liver injury in rats, Messarah M, et al, Retrieved October 27, 2010, Experimental and Toxicologic Pathology, September 2010., Selenium, Retrieved October 28, 2010, US National Library of Medicine, 2010., The Benefits of Selenium, Retrieved October 28, 2010,, 2010., How to Stay Healthy from Head to Toe, Sara Reistad-Long, Retrieved October 27, 2010, Hachette Filipacchi Media US, Inc., 2010.

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About the Author

Nicole Cutler, L.Ac., MTCM, Dipl. Ac. (NCCAOM)®

Nicole Cutler, L.Ac., MTCM is a long time advocate of integrating perspectives on health. With a Bachelor's degree in Neuroscience from the University of Rochester and a Master's degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine from Five Branches Institute, Nicole has been a licensed acupuncturist since 2000. She has gathered acupuncture licenses in the states of California and New York, is a certified specialist with the National Acupuncture Detoxification Association, has earned diplomat status with the National Commission of Chinese and Oriental Medicine in Acupuncture and Chinese Herbology and is a member of the Society for Integrative Oncology. In addition to her acupuncture practice that focuses on stress and pain relief, digestion, immunity and oncology, Nicole contributes to the integration of healthcare by writing articles for professional massage therapists and people living with liver disease.

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