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Liver Health and Selenium: Why It Is an Essential Element for Livers

Selenium can pack some big liver health benefits in very small amounts. Learn what you should know about selenium and why it may be your liver’s greatest ally.

6 minute read

Last Updated April 27, 2023

Liver Health and Selenium: Why It Is an Essential Element for Livers | 1MD

Selenium is a trace element found naturally in the soil. In tiny amounts, selenium does more for your health than it does for plant life. While it is also used by the kidneys, spleen, testes, and pancreas, researchers are more interested in the trace amounts of selenium that help maintain optimal liver health.

When Selenium Meets Your Liver

Your liver is the largest organ in your body and undergoes 30,000 enzymatic reactions per second. The liver activity supports both digestive and metabolic functions as well as the body’s detoxification processes. It also makes proteins, produces bile, and stores a reserve of blood sugar. 

Everything you digest is processed and detoxified through the liver, and this can leave even a healthy liver exerted. Your best defense is to proactively support liver cell health and function to maintain digestive and metabolic health. 

What Science Says About Selenium and Liver Health

Selenium is a purifying mineral, which means it helps to reduce the occasional oxidative stress that can occur in the body. The detoxifying processes of the liver can leave it exerted and exposed to occasional toxins, but selenium can help to reduce this by supporting the body’s natural antioxidant activity. 

Oysters on half shell over ice

Your liver has the amazing ability to regenerate. Liver cells can regenerate under the right conditions, and selenium helps this process by reducing occasional oxidative stress, allowing the liver time to regenerate. Selenium also promotes the health of liver tissue and cell elasticity so that cells can maintain their healthy shape and function.

Selenium’s protective effects on the liver also provide benefits relating to how fats are broken down and absorbed in the body. This helps the liver maintain the proper absorption of fat and allows for healthy amounts of triglycerides to be secreted into the plasma.

Small Amounts, Big Outcomes

The promotion of antioxidant activity and support of healthy detoxification and cleansing are the main ways that selenium can support liver health.

When combined with other compounds, more comprehensive liver health can be achieved. For example, combining selenium with alpha lipoic acid (ALA) can promote the potency of other antioxidants in the body to promote optimal liver health and production of energy from any ingested nutrients.  

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ALA is fat soluble, so it can penetrate deep into your liver cells to support them from within, while selenium works to protect them from outside. As part of a healthy lifestyle with a balanced diet and regular exercise, selenium can reduce occasional stress on the liver and help it absorb essential nutrients. 

The ability to promote antioxidant activity and reduce occasional oxidative stress also allows selenium to promote brain and heart health. Individuals that experience unwanted immune responses from seasonal threats may also benefit from the cleansing properties of selenium supplementation. Selenium is more than an ally for your liver health; it is an ally for whole body health.

Despite its benefits, care must be taken to never consume too much selenium. While adequate amounts of selenium can be obtained through diet, many Americans do not meet the daily recommended dietary allowance. If you are not getting adequate amounts though diet, a supplement with selenium can help promote liver health. Ideally, you want to pair selenium with other liver-supporting nutrients, such as ALA, for comprehensive liver support.

How to Get More Selenium

In small amounts, selenium can have big benefits. Since only trace amounts are needed for liver health, it is important to monitor how much selenium you consume. The most common food sources for selenium are:

♦ Brazil nuts
♦ Crab and oysters
♦ Beef and turkey 
♦ Wheat
♦ Eggs
♦ Shiitake mushrooms
♦ Sunflower Seeds

Cooked shiitake mushroom held by chop sticks

To make sure you get enough from your diet, you need to consume different sources, as the content in any one source will vary from time to time. You can also choose a liver health supplement that is scientifically-formulated to provide the recommended daily amounts for liver health.

The recommended daily allowance for selenium intake for adults is 55 mcg, but higher doses of around 200 mcg are often used for research purposes to evaluate selenium’s effects on health, and this dose is considered safe for most people. Ongoing doses of 400 mcg or higher may put you at risk for selenium toxicity. As always, talk to your doctor before adding any new supplement to your routine.

Risks and Side Effects

Selenium is crucial for health, but too much can cause adverse effects. As a micronutrient, only small amounts are needed per day to support your liver and other aspects of your health. If you are taking a supplement with selenium, keep in mind that you may also be getting additional selenium from your diet, so be sure to keep levels within safe ranges.

Side effects of taking too much selenium can include lightheadedness, nausea, fatigue, hair loss, a metallic taste in the mouth, and bad breath odor. Very high amounts of selenium in the system can lead to tremors, heart attacks, and kidney failure.

The Bottom Line

The liver is a busy organ, responsible for many essential functions for overall health. Even a healthy liver gets exerted and needs time to repair and regenerate. With powerful ingredients like selenium, you can support liver cell health, promote healthy detoxification processes, and maintain optimal liver health. And with liver health comes overall health.