Disclaimer: This information is for information purposes only and does NOT replace the need for a medical professional in case you need medical assistance. This information IN NO WAY encourages you to break safety standards and avoid measures, recommended by WHO. Please read full medical disclaimer below.
Coronavirus COVID-19 has been on the minds of people around the world for the past few months, and for good reason. While COVID-19 originated in Wuhan, China, in December 2019, it has quickly spread throughout Asia toward the Middle East and into parts of Europe. We have seen a lot of misinformation about coronavirus disease COVID-19 floating around the internet as panic sets in, but we’re here to offer some hopefully comforting advice to surviving this potential pandemic. While the world waits on new vaccines, one solution to slowing or preventing the spread of viruses may be something as simple as adequate selenium nutrition.
How Selenium Protects Against Viral Infections and Mutations
Adequate selenium nutrition should be considered as a defense against viral infectious diseases.
Selenium is an essential micronutrient that is important for immune response, thyroid health, oxidative damage prevention, and many other functions. Selenium from our diet replaces a sulfur atom in the amino acid cysteine to form selenocysteine, which is then incorporated into selenoproteins. There are 25 known selenoproteins, with most of them exhibiting antioxidant properties such as glutathione peroxidase (GPx). Viruses produce reactive oxygen species (ROS) which are combated by GPx and other selenoproteins to slow down viral replication and mutations [1,2]. Studies using mice have shown that viral symptoms and infection times are more severe when dietary selenium is deficient, and that low selenium intake results in decreased GPx activity [3,4]. While selenium may not be the only nutrient that slows or prevents viral damage and mutation, adequate selenium nutrition should be considered as a defense against viral infectious diseases.
In a nutshell, selenium deficiency → increased viral oxidative stress/inflammation → increased viral damage and mutations → new viral strains.
Selenium Deficient Soil and Connection to New Viruses
A publication from 2011  links the evolution and spread of viral infectious diseases (HIV/AIDS, influenzas, SARS, Ebola, Swine Flu, Bird Flu) to areas where soil selenium levels are lower. A map in the article overlays areas of soil selenium deficiency with the origin of new viruses. Countries like China, where selenium-deficient soil is widespread and city populations number in the millions, are most susceptible to viral evolution and spread.
Selenium Deficiency and Heavy Metals
Excessive arsenic and mercury exposure can deplete selenium because of their high affinity for each other, leaving little selenium left to perform all its essential functions. In areas with elevated environmental and/or industrial levels of heavy metals, selenium sufficiency becomes even more important. Arsenic from well water and mercury from coal fired power plants and seafood are some of the greatest dangers.
How Can We Ensure Selenium Adequacy?
Blood tells a different story than urine, which is why we recommend testing both sample types for selenium. Elements such as zinc, copper and iodine are also involved in immune system health and should be monitored simultaneously. Luckily in the United States we have many foods fortified with selenium, and selenium sufficient soil in the heartland where grains are primarily grown. While selenium supplementation is an effective way to increase selenium intake, too much selenium can also be dangerous. Learn more about selenium sources, daily intake, and selenium deficiency/excess.
When it comes to food, Brazil nuts are one of the best sources of selenium.
One ounce, or about six to eight nuts, contains about 544 mcg. Make sure you only eat a serving of Brazil nuts a few times a week to avoid selenium toxicity.
Mushrooms are fungi that contain many nutrients, including vitamin D, iron, and about 12 mcg of selenium in a 100-gram serving.
One cup of regular oatmeal, cooked, will give you 13 mcg of selenium.
Enjoy a cup of baked beans and you’ll get about 13 mcg of selenium along with some important fiber.
This information is solely intended to provide assistance to you in your personal healthy eating efforts. The information is not intended as a substitute for consultation, evaluation or treatment by a medical professional and/or registered dietitian or nutritionist. This information is not a substitute for medical advice. The Coronavirus is not to be taken lightly, so if you have underlying medical conditions or are experiencing any symptoms, seek immediate medical assistance. We do not hold liable for any complications you experience in case you don’t seek immediate health advice. This information on has not been evaluated by the FDA and is not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease, metabolic disorder or health problems. We cannot and do not give you medical advice. You should seek prompt medical care for any specific health issues and consult your physician before purchasing any product(s). We do not recommend the self-management of health problems. Information obtained by using our services is not exhaustive and does not cover all diseases, ailments, physical conditions or their treatment. By following this program you agree that you will consult your doctor, physician or health care provider before beginning the nutrition program or taking into practice any and all tips from the website. Use of the programs, advice, and information contained in this document and the website I Nourish Gently is at the sole choice and risk of the reader.
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