Get to know this unsung-hero mineral
When it comes to fertility-supporting supplements, you don’t hear a lot about Selenium, but it’s crucial for healthy sperm and eggs. So, what exactly is it and what role does it play in preconception care? To get the scoop on Selenium, we turned to Bird&Be’s director of integrative medicine Dr. Jennifer Fitzgerald.
What is Selenium?
Selenium is a mineral that’s found naturally in soil and, for humans, it’s an essential nutrient, which means we can’t make it ourselves so we need to get it from our diets (check out our glossary to break down other common supplement terms). You’ll find it in protein-rich foods like beef, poultry, pork, fish and eggs, and in some vegetarian sources like beans and nuts. Fun fact: Brazil nuts are the most concentrated dietary source—you can get a therapeutic dose (100 to 200 mcg) from two per day.
If you can’t get enough from food, you’ll want to reach for a supplement so you can reap all of Selenium’s benefits. It's used for things like DNA protection, thyroid function, fighting infection, reducing oxidative stress and, of course, reproduction.
What are the fertility benefits of Selenium for men and people with sperm?
Selenium is needed for proper sperm morphology and motility, A.K.A. its growth and development as well as its ability to swim—all important things for conception. If there’s a Selenium deficiency, it can hamper the testicles’ ability to produce testosterone and sperm.
Another Selenium perk? It’s an important antioxidant that protects sperm against free-radical damage, and has even been shown to improve DNA fragmentation and reduce oxidative stress in people with reduced sperm motility.
What are the fertility benefits of Selenium for women and people with eggs?
Selenium is crucial for the development of follicles (the small sacs of fluid that hold eggs), including the process where one (or sometimes more) grows to be the “dominant follicle” that ovulates.
Like sperm, eggs also benefit from Selenium’s antioxidant action. It helps protect the dominant follicle from damaging oxidative stress, and after ovulation, it defends the endometrium as it prepares for implantation and the developing embryo, too.
Selenium also supports hormone production, including estrogen, progesterone and T4 (the thyroid hormone that’s responsible for metabolism, mood, body temperature and more). And for those with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, studies also suggest that Selenium may be an effective treatment for lowering thyroid antibodies.
Why is Selenium important during pregnancy?
Selenium’s antioxidant effects don’t quit during pregnancy. They help protect the placenta against oxidative stress, which can contribute to pre-eclampsia, intrauterine growth restriction, gestational diabetes and preterm labor.
Why does Selenium smell bad?
You might’ve noticed that your capsules have a slight stink, but it’s actually a good thing. We use Selenomethionine in our formulas—the most bioavailable form of Selenium. That means your body doesn’t need to do any extra converting or processing to put it to work.
In Selenomethionine, the Selenium molecule is bound to Methionine, a sulphur-containing amino acid that’s also found in smelly foods like eggs and onions. Hence the stench.
Plug your nose if you need to (or take a whiff of your favourite essential oil first to help mask it), but know that you’re getting all the Selenium goodness in a way your body can soak up. (And stay tuned; we’re working on a plan to make it a little easier on the nostrils.)
How much Selenium should you take per day?
It’s recommended that all adults get at least 55 mcg of Selenium per day, and to up it to 60 mcg during pregnancy and 70 mcg while breastfeeding. But if you want to get all of Selenium’s benefits, you’ll want to take 100 to 200 mcg per day (just don’t go over 400). To cover your bases, The Prenatal for eggs, The Power Prenatal for eggs, The Prenatal for sperm and The Power Prenatal for sperm all include 100 mcg of Selenium inside each daily sachets.