One Critical Element You Probably Know Nothing About: Selenium, Depression and Semen

Monday, August 04, 2014 by Meg   •   Filed under Physical Health and Emotion

Selenium works with other vitamins in the body as an antioxidant, decreasing free radical damage to cells. It has been linked to decreased edema, lower risks of hypertension in pregnancy, general improvement in immune function including fewer viral infections, and improved sperm motility. 

Improved sperm motility? Score! (Maybe literally.)

Selenium, Depression and Anxiety

But selenium does more than lead to healthy, happy sperm. The fact that selenium is retained by the brain in times of depletion suggests that it may play a critical role in neurofunction1, most notably protecting cells and preventing brain cell death9(discussed here in relation to depression). Smokers and those who drink heavily may be especially at risk of deficiency, though smokers tend to be more at risk for depletion of most nutrients. 

Smoking = sad semen

Perhaps because of all that brain cell protection, selenium supplementation has been shown to elevate mood and decrease anxiety, tiredness and depressive symptoms, and the higher the selenium levels, the fewer the symptoms reported2. Selenium supplementation may also decrease postpartum depression3. Those are pretty fantastic benefits of maintaining appropriate selenium levels.

But because it is a critical element, your greedy ass brain will pull it from other areas if it doesn't have enough. This can lead to additional issues inadvertently, especially in places like the thyroid gland where selenium is required for proper functioning10

Selenium and the Thyroid Gland 

If I'm a brain running low on selenium, I might gank it from the thyroid. Maybe I'm an asshole, but I figure that not causing brain cell death is more important than whatever that thyroid thing does. I mean, what does it really do anyway?  

Your thyroid gland produces hormones which are vital for a number of bodily systems including brain development and maintenance, metabolism and weight, bone maintenance and organ and muscle function. Messing with the thyroid may lead to brain fog, fatigue, reproductive problems, weight gain, cold hands and feet, weakness, agitation and depression, according to Datis Karrazian in Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms When My Lab Tests Are Normal? Karrazian notes that because selenium deficiency may masquerade as subclinical (or clinical) hypothyroidism, ensuring that you get enough is critical. 

Other researchers agree, noting that those with a combination of depression, thyroid issues and higher rates of viral infections may benefit from an assessment for selenium deficiency10

Ways To Reduce Selenium Deficiency

Selenium is usually found in the soil where foods are grown, but with today's poorer soil quality, levels of selenium often vary greatly4. However, taking selenium supplements can carry risks, particularly without an official diagnosis of clinical deficiency. Luckily, eating selenium rich foods has little downside. 

Well, unless you live on Brazil nuts alone, in which case you may be able to create selenium toxicity. So don’t do that shit. Sometimes, fewer nuts is better, people. But only sometimes. (wink, wink.

Selenium levels are destroyed by food processing, so eating whole, unprocessed foods is key to obtaining this essential element. Making sure you are eating enough vitamin E, from wheat germ oil, sunflower oil, sunflower seeds, almonds or hazelnuts will also help to increase your ability to absorb selenium. 

Foods High in Selenium with Percentage of Recommended Daily Value (%DV)5

  • Brazil nuts, 1 ounce (6–8 nuts), 777%DV
  • Tuna, yellowfin, cooked, dry heat, 3 ounces, 131%DV
  • Halibut, cooked, dry heat, 3 ounces, 67%DV
  • Sardines, canned in oil, drained solids with bone, 3 ounces, 64%DV
  • Ham, roasted, 3 ounces, 60%DV
  • Shrimp, canned, 3 ounces, 57%DV
  • Beef steak, bottom round, roasted, 3 ounces, 47%DV
  • Turkey, boneless, roasted, 3 ounces, 44%DV
  • Beef liver, 3 ounces, 40%DV
  • Chicken, light meat, roasted, 3 ounces, 31%DV
  • Cottage cheese, 1% milkfat, 1 cup, 29%DV
  • Rice, brown, long-grain, cooked, 1 cup, 27%DV
  • Beef, ground, 25% fat, broiled, 3 ounces, 26%DV
  • Egg, hard-boiled, 1 large, 21%DV
  • Oatmeal, regular and quick, unenriched, cooked with water, 1 cup,19%DV
  • Spinach, frozen, boiled, 1 cup, 16%DV
  • Milk, 1% fat, 1 cup, 11%DV
  • Yogurt, plain, low fat, 1 cup, 11%DV
  • Lentils, boiled, 1 cup, 9%DV
  • Cashew nuts, dry roasted, 1 ounce, 4%DV

Brazil nuts and yellowfin tuna are such amazing sources of selenium that I am envisioning some type of brazil nut encrusted tuna dish that I do have not the patience to experiment with (though if you manage to make one, please let me know).    

Brazil nuts = happy semen. It’s a euphemism overload.

The Benefits of Happy Semen

On an only moderately related tangent, “happy semen” is more than just an empty phrase. Studies have shown that the compounds in semen can actually elevate mood in women6. These compounds include cortisol which increases affection, estrone and oxytocin which increase mood, prolactin, thyrotropin-releasing agent and serotonin which act as antidepressants, and melatonin which assists with sleep regulation. Researchers concluded that the compounds in semen are absorbed through the vaginal walls, noting their presence in the bloodstream within hours of…ahem…administration6. Semen has also been linked to reduction in morning sickness7, and may aid in skin softening and wrinkle reduction due to the compound spermine. There are even boutiques in New York where you can get semen facials (the totally professional spa kind). You can’t make this shit up. 

The takeaway? 

Happy semen =  happy you

And selenium. That’s important too. 

*Selenium should be used as a supplement, not as a stand alone treatment for depression. If you are suffering from major depression, please seek the assistance of a clinician. 

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Topic-Relevant Resources

Fat Chance: Beating the Odds Against Sugar, Processed Food, Obesity, and Disease
A look at the effects of processed food on the brain.

Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us
An in depth look at how the food industry alters physical and emotional health through advertising and addictive substances.

Prescription for Nutritional Healing
Guide to natural health practices

Gut and Psychology Syndrome: Natural Treatment for Autism, Dyspraxia, A.D.D., Dyslexia, A.D.H.D., Depression, Schizophrenia
An additional piece to the puzzle for those suffering from allergies and certain types of neurological issues. Food matters for mental health. This helps to explain some of those processes.

Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats
Great book on nutrition that includes old world recipes to get back to basics