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selenium

  • Rates of allergies seem to be increasing like wildfire throughout industrial nations. In fact, according to the World Health Organization, sensitization rates to one or more common allergens in children have increased by 40–50 percent worldwide.1 And 30–35 percent of the world’s population are expected to experience allergies at some stage in their lifetime.2 With the rise in industrial pollutants and the fall in healthy eating patterns, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the number of allergy sufferers is going to continue to grow. So what is an allergy anyway? An allergy is defined as the immune system’s answer to any substance that the body considers as foreign (allergen). In response to the so-called foreign substance, the immune system generates a series of reactions that eventually lead to the production and release of an immune antibody called IgE and a substance called histamine. IgE along with histamine, are called into action in order to neutralize the foreign substance. Inflammation in various parts of the body is the usual end reaction to allergens. The problem is, excess inflammation is also a leading cause of disease these days.3

    The body’s ability to detect foreign substances varies from person to person. Thus, some people react to certain substances while others do not. What may be recognized by one person’s body as foreign is not recognized as such by another person’s body.

    While allergies are part of the normal function of the immune system, it does not follow that they cannot be managed or minimized. Certain nutrients, when taken in the right amounts, can go a long way in minimizing—if not totally eliminating—the unpleasant symptoms of allergies. Following are my top nutrients for beating allergies:

    1. Vitamin C
    Vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps reduce allergy symptoms like inflammation. It has been shown in past medical studies that a high intake of vitamin C prevents or at least minimizes the release of histamine, and consequently decreases the unpleasant sensations endured by allergy sufferers.4

    Vitamin C can be readily added into the diet, because of the many fruits and vegetables that contain it. Citrus fruits like oranges and lemons contain very high amounts of vitamin C in its most natural form. Excellent non-citrus sources include papaya, pineapple, and strawberries. Aside from fruits, vitamin C can also be obtained from over-the-counter supplement tablets or capsules and one of the best forms to consume it in is camu camu berry.

    2. Selenium
    Selenium is a trace element that is a component of some proteins with powerful antioxidant properties. These proteins help reduce allergy symptoms by minimizing tissue damage and inflammation.5 The U.S. National Institute of Health recommends that all adults take 100 mcg of selenium daily. Fruits, vegetables, dairy products, and whole grains are rich sources of selenium. Meat sources include poultry (turkey and chicken), lean pork, beef, and eggs.

    3. Omega-3 fats
    Also known as healthy fats, omega-3 fatty acids have long been proven by science to have anti-inflammatory properties. As such, they help relieve some allergy symptoms. On the other hand, the structurally-related omega-6 fatty acids have the opposite effect: they stimulate the production of inflammatory substances. In fact, one study appearing in the British Journal of Nutrition, indicated that pregnant women who had a lower intake of omega-6 and a higher intake of omega-3’s, gave birth to children with lower risks of certain allergies.6 Allergy sufferers are therefore advised to decrease intake of foods that are rich in omega-6 fatty acids (i.e. poultry, eggs, nuts, cereals, durum wheat, whole-grain breads and most vegetable oils). Dietary sources of omega-3 fatty acids include cold-water fish, soybeans, flaxseeds, spinach, parsley, walnut oil, soybean oil, and flaxseed oil.

    4. Vitamin E
    Vitamin E, when taken in proper amounts, can help reduce allergies. A study investigating the connection between vitamin E and allergies suggested that sufficient vitamin E intake decreased the production of IgE, the antibody responsible for allergic reactions, anywhere from 34–62 percent.7,8

    Dietary sources of vitamin E are sunflower seeds, almonds, cooked spinach, safflower oil, and beet greens. And even though the RDA for vitamin E is fifteen milligrams (which is equivalent to 22 IUs or International Units), studies indicate a lot more than the RDA is needed to ensure optimal health. Also, I highly advise the most natural forms of vitamin E, as mixed tocopherols, as opposed to only one isolate form like alpha tocopherol.

    5. Quercetin
    Quercetin belongs to a class of organic molecules called bioflavonoids. Scientific research has proven it to have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-histamine properties. Quercetin has been shown to exert properties that prevent the production of substances involved in allergic reactions.9 Sources of quercetin include apples, black tea, red wine, onions, beans, grapefruit, berries, peppers and green leafy vegetables. There are also commercial quercetin supplements that are sold online and in health food stores, should the allergic person choose to take it in tablet or capsule form.

    6. Probiotics
    Probiotics is the collective term for the live microorganisms (bacteria and yeast) that are essential for optimal health. These microorganisms are present in the body, as well as in various supplements, drinks, and food (i.e. yogurt made fron grassfed cows). Their main role is to prevent the growth of “bad” bacteria, and in doing so, also prevent diseases brought about by these “bad” bacteria. There are two very common probiotic bacteria—Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium bifidum. One of the most research proven shelf-stable forms of the latter is found in my Ultimate Probiotic,10,11 product.

    While probiotics are usually involved in digestive health, studies have suggested that they can also help prevent or minimize allergies12, since digestive health is very closely connected to overall body health.

    Foods with probiotics include miso, fermented milk, kefir, sourdough bread, tempeh, and fermented vegetables like sauerkraut.

    7. Rosmarinic acid
    Rosmarinic acid is a plant substance that is found in large amounts in herbs like rosemary, marjoram, sage, and oregano. Studies have shown that it has anti-inflammatory properties that are more potent than those of vitamin E. In 2004, Japanese researchers published a paper that demonstrated the ability of rosmarinic acid as a therapeutic substance for those who suffer from asthma.13 Rosmarinic acid seems to prevent allergic reactions by blocking the activation of biochemicals produced by the immune system in response to a foreign substance.14

    References
    1. Pawankar R, et al. World Health Organization. White Book on Allergy 2011–2012 Executive Summary.
    2. Why is Allergy Increasing? Allergy UK. www.allergyuk.org.
    3. Li L. Biologist studies possible link between chronic low-grade inflammation, major diseases. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. Jun 12, 2011.
    4. Johnston CS, Solomon RE, Corte C. Vitamin C depletion is associated with alterations in blood histamine and plasma free carnitine in adults. J Am Coll Nutr. 1996 Dec;15(6):586–91.
    5. Kamer B, et al. Role of selenium and zinc in the pathogenesis of food allergy in infants and young children. Arch Med Sci. See comment in PubMed Commons below 2012 Dec 20;8(6):1083–8. doi: 10.5114/aoms.2012.32420. Epub 2012 Dec 19.
    6. Nwaru BI, et al. Maternal intake of fatty acids during pregnancy and allergies in offspring. Br J Nutr. 2012 Aug;108(4):720–32. doi: 10.1017/S0007114511005940. Epub 2011 Nov 9.
    7. Yamada K, Tachibana H. Recent topics in antioxidative factors. Biofactors. 2000;13(1-4):167–72.
    8. Tsoureli-Nikita, et al. Evaluation of dietary intake of vitamin E in the treatment of atopic dermatitis: a study of the clinical course and evaluation of the immunoglobulin E serum levels. Int J Dermatol. 2002 Mar;41(3):146–50.
    9. Salvatore Chirumbolo. Dietary Assumption of Plant Polyphenols and Prevention of Allergy. Current Pharmaceutical Design, 2014, 20, 000-000 1.
    10. Ballongue J, et al. Effects of Bifidobacterium fermented milks on human intestinal Lait 73, 249–256 (1993).
    11. Tomoda T, et al. Effect of yogurt and yogurt supplemented with Bifidobacterium and/or lactulose in healthy persons : A comparative study. Bifidobacteria Microfloa 10, 123–30 (1991).
    12. Prakash S, et al. Probiotics for the prevention and treatment of allergies, with an emphasis on mode of delivery and mechanism of action. Curr Pharm Des. 2014;20(6):1025–37.
    13. Osakabe N, et al. Anti-inflammatory and anti-allergic effect of rosmarinic acid (RA); inhibition of seasonal allergic rhinoconjunctivitis (SAR) and its mechanism. Biofactors. 2004;21(1-4):127–31.
    14. Huang SS, Zheng RL. Rosmarinic acid inhibits angiogenesis and its mechanism of action in vitro. Cancer Letters. 2006 Aug 8;239(2):271–80. Epub 2005 Oct 18.
  • Common uses include cancer and shedding

    Selenium is a trace mineral that our bodies use to produce glutathione peroxidase, an enzyme that serves as a natural antioxidant. Selenium is also required for normal pancreatic function and lipid absorption. Glutathione peroxidase works with vitamin E to protect cell membranes from damage caused by dangerous, naturally occurring substances known as free radicals. Adequate amounts of selenium can spare vitamin E, and adequate amounts of vitamin E can reduce the selenium requirement. By ensuring that pets receive adequate amounts of both E and selenium, these important nutrients will not be deficient and will work together to help fight oxidative damage in your pet’s body.

    Selenium also has an important role in maintaining normal levels of thyroid hormones and in the metabolism of iodine, which is involved in thyroid hormone metabolism. Supplementing the diets of pets and plant enzymes can increase the selenium levels.

    Therapeutic Uses
    Many pets with excessive shedding will show decreased shedding as a result of enzyme supplementation. This may occur as a result of increased selenium levels and the impact selenium has on thyroid hormones.

    In pets selenium is often prescribed (along with other antioxidants) for pets with a variety of disorders, including epilepsy, inflammatory bowel disease, feline leukemia, feline immunodeficiency virus and cancer.

    There is some real evidence that selenium supplements can provide some protection against several types of cancer. This chemopreventive effect isn’t fully understood. It might be due to the protective effects of the antioxidant glutathione peroxidase, but other explanations have also been suggested.

    In people, selenium has been recommended for cancer prevention, AIDS, acne, cataracts, heart disease, multiple sclerosis, cervical dysplasia, asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, anxiety, gout, infertility in men, psoriasis, and ulcers.

    Treatment with corticosteroids may induce selenium deficiency; supplementation may be recommended in pets receiving long-term corticosteroid therapy.

    Scientific Evidence
    A large body of evidence has found that increased intake of selenium is tied to a reduced risk of cancer. The most important blind study on selenium and cancer in people was a doubleblind intervention trial conducted by researcher at the University of Arizona Cancer Center. In this trial, researchers saw dramatic declines in the incidence of several cancers in the group taking selenium. The selenium-treated group developed almost 66 percent fewer prostate cancers, 50 percent fewer colorectal cancers, and about 40 percent fewer lung cancers as compared with the placebo group. Selenium-treated subjects also experienced a statistically significant (17 percent) decrease in overall mortality, a greater than 50 percent decrease in lung cancer deaths, and nearly a 50 percent decrease in total cancer deaths.

    Further evidence for the anticancer benefits of selenium comes from large-scale Chinese studies showing that giving selenium supplements to people who live in seleniumdeficient areas reduces the incidence of cancer. Also, observational studies have indicated that cancer deaths rise when dietary intake of selenium is low.

    The results of animal studies corroborate these results. One recent animal study examined whether two experimental organic forms of selenium would protect laboratory rats against chemically induced cancer of the tongue. Rats were given one of three treatments: 5 parts per million of selenium in their drinking water, 15 parts per million of selenium or placebo. The study was blinded so the researchers wouldn’t know until later which rats which treatment. Whereas 47 percent of rats in the placebo group developed tongue tumors, none of the rates that were given the higher selenium dosage developed tumors.

    Another study examined whether selenium supplements could stop the spread (metastasis) of cancer in mice. In this study, a modest dosage of supplemental selenium reduced metastasis by 57 percent. Even more significant was the decrease in the number of tumors that had spread to the lungs. Mice in the control group had an average of 53 tumors each, whereas mice fed supplemental selenium had an average of one lung tumor.

    Putting all this information together, it definitely appears that selenium can help reduce the risk of developing cancer.

    Sources
    Wheat germ, brazil nuts, other nuts, oats, fish, eggs, liver, wholewheat bread, bran, red Swiss chard, brown rice, turnips, garlic, barley and orange juice contain selenium. There is some concern with conventional farming practices that mineral levels in the soil are inadequate. This means that the soil used for growing vegetables and fruits may be deficient in minerals such as selenium. According to information from the Organic View, 1:17 (www.purefood.org/organicview.htm), there is great variability in the nutrient contents of foods raised by industrial agricultural practices when compared to organically raised foods. For example, they report that in an analysis of USDA nutrient data from 1975 to 1997, the Kushi Institute of Becket, Massachusetts, found that the average calcium levels in 12 fresh vegetables declined 27 percent; iron levels dropped 37 percent; vitamin A levels 21 percent and vitamin C levels 30 percent.

    They also report that a similar analysis of British nutrient data from 1930 to 1980 published in the British Food Journal found that in 20 vegetables, the average calcium content had declined 19 percent; iron 22 percent; and potassium 14 percent. In addition, a 1999 study out of the University of Wisconsin found that three decades of the over use of nitrogen in U.S. farming has destroyed much of the soil’s fertility, causing it to age the equivalent of 5,000 years. Finally, a new U.S. Geological Survey report indicates that acid rain is depleting soil calcium levels in at least 10 eastern states, interfering with forest growth and weakening trees’ resistance to insects. Findings such as those reported here prompt many owners to search for the most wholesome produce available to include in their pets’ diets.

    Check with stores in your area to see whether they offer organically raised vegetables and animal meats. Also, ask them what they mean by the term “organically raised,” as many producers may make his claim but still use conventional agricultural practices. Find out everything you can about the farmers who supply the stores where you shop.

    Since most of us have no way of knowing what kind of soil our food was grown in, supplementing pets with selenium and other vitamins and minerals may be a good idea.

    The two general types of selenium supplements are organic and inorganic. However, these terms have nothing to do with “natural” but rather refer to the chemical form (the terms have very specific chemical meanings and have nothing to do with “organic” foods).

    The inorganic form of selenium, selenite, contains no carbon atoms and is essentially selenium atoms bound to oxygen. Some research suggests that selenite is harder for the body to absorb than organic (carbon-containing) forms of selenium, such as selenomethionine (selenium bound to methionine, an essential amino acid) or high-selenium yeast (which contains selenomethionine). However, other research on both animals and humans suggests that selenite supplements are almost as good as organic forms of selenium, and both forms are equally effective in supporting glutathione peroxidase activity. In pigs, studies have shown that selenium stores in the liver and muscle tissues were greater when organic selenium was fed. Supplying selenium in whole food supplements is the most natural way to supply selenium and is recommended for maintenance.

    Dosage
    The AAFCO recommendation is 0.11 mg/kg of food (dry matter basis) for dogs and 0.1 mg/kg of food for cats. However, recent research in puppies has shown that the level of dietary selenium needed to maximize glutathione and selenium levels is 0.21 ppm, which is double current AAFCO recommendations. Therefore, supplementation with a natural vitaminmineral supplement containing selenium might be indicated for all pets eating commercial diets.

    Safety Issues
    Selenium is safe when taken at the recommended dosages. However, very high selenium dosages in people are known to cause selenium toxicity. Signs of selenium toxicity include depression, nervousness, emotional instability, nausea, vomiting, and in some causes loss of hair and fingernails. Similar precautions are probably warranted in pets taking supplements, although toxicity has not been noted in pets despite concentrations greater than 4 mg of selenium/kg of food in cat foods containing fish or other seafoods. (Cats may be able to tolerate higher selenium levels as their higher dietary protein foods are protective against high selenium levels; the low availability of selenium in pet foods may also contribute to rare reports of toxicity in dogs and cats fed commercial diets.)