Selenium for Glutathione and Antiviral Effects


The first two words that come up to my mind when I hear selenium are: glutathione and antiviral. Exactly those two things I consider as major advantages when it comes to selenium supplementation not just in psoriasis.

It is a well known fact that selenium and vitamin E are very important as antioxidants. Researchers proved that deficiency in any of those two nutrients results in increased viral pathogenicity and improper immune response. Selenium or vitamin E deficiencies can even cause the benign (not pathogenic or just very low pathogenic) viruses to mutate into the virulent ones.[1]

Some of you now think that I forgot about the anticancer effects of selenium, but actually I didn’t. I consider cancer mostly as a viral disease so I would say that antiviral effects of selenium cover partly also its direct anticarcinogenic effect.

Selenium doesn’t improve psoriasis itself

When it comes to psoriasis one study concluded that selenium supplementation up to 600 mcg per day with 600 IU of vitamin E for 3 months resulted in no visible symptoms improvement. The authors concluded that failure to increase the skin content of selenium may be the cause why psoriasis didn’t improve. However the study showed that the platelet glutathione peroxidase (GSH-Px) activity increased what means that the supplements were assimilated.[2]

fish_oilAlso the other study with 64 psoriasis patients didn’t reveal any significant differences in psoriatics and control individuals.[4]

Personally I don’t think that the culprit of (the most cases of) psoriasis is the low selenium content in the skin or in the body. But that doesn’t meant that you should not supplement with extra selenium. It can be one piece of a larger puzzle.

Another study got more closely to the point I think plays important role in psoriasis. The authors concluded that selenium status in psoriatics is related to severity of the psoriasis only in those patients who suffer from psoriasis more than 3 years. The important fact that I get from the study is that psoriatics with psoriasis of less than 10 months duration (47.11 +/- 11.61 microg/L) had almost the same levels of plasma selenium as the healthy people (48.71 +/- 9.39 microg/L) but significantly lower than psoriatics with psoriasis of more than 3 years duration (38.69 +/- 13.22 microg/L). The patients of short periods with other skin diseases other than psoriasis had their selenium levels at 43.53 +/- 11.73 microg/L.[3]

22.healingThe same study concluded also that the erythrocyte glutathione peroxidase (GSH-Px) correlated inversely to severity of psoriasis. That fact adds to my personal opinion that poor oxygen saturation of the body/tissues/skin in psoriatics causes (or at least adds to the severity of) the symptoms.

My psoriasis cause theories –
Why the body can’t kill the pathogen in the skin? –

I think that psoriasis does not directly result from deficiency of selenium but over the time psoriatics deplete their stores of selenium because of high oxidative stress in their bodies or/and damaged intestines along with SIBO (bacterial overgrowth) that malabsorption of the selenium is significant.

And the last study about the psoriasis-selenium status correlation that I am going to mention in this post concluded that psoriasis sufferers with the moderate to severe disease that lasts more that 10 years have decreased whole blood and plasma selenium levels. And those with the disease that lasted for more than 20 years had particularly low selenium concentrations in whole blood. The lowest levels of selenium were found in those who were treated also with the drugs like methotrexate and/or retinoids.[5]

My conclusion on selenium

beforeI think that selenium is not the culprit (almost surely not the cause) of psoriasis in many people (if any). In my opinion the concentrations of this trace element in the blood go down after the years suffering from psoriasis mostly because of higher oxidative stress and higher need for selenium and/or lower absorption of this element because of bad digestion, bad bacteria in the gut and damaged intestines. Through the years a lot of psoriatics decide to undergo various treatments like steroids, ciclosporine, methotrexate, retinoids or biologic drugs what can further deplete theirs selenium stores and damage the liver and intestines.

Studies proved that many psoriatics after the years develop deficiencies of selenium so it is good to take selenium supplement (as high selenium yeast or some selenium complex) or eat Brazil nuts.

The researchers published the study that concluded the Brazil nuts as very valuable food source of selenium when compared to supplementation with selenomethionine. Overall 59 adult people from New Zealand were supposed to eat 2 Brazil nuts per day (estimated at 100 mcg of selenium), 100 mcg of selenomethionine or placebo for 12  weeks. According to study the real intake of selenium from nuts were on average 53 mcg per day (what depends probably on various factors like soil where trees are planted, Brazil nuts size and even how well are chewed).

Plasma selenium increased by (Brazil nuts, selenomethionine, placebo): 64.2%, 61.0%, 7.6% respectively. Plasma glutathione peroxidase activity (GPx) raised by 8.3%, 3.4% and -1.2% respectively. The whole blood GPx increased by 13.2%, 5.2% and 1.9% respectively.

These results showed that eating 2 Brazil nuts per day is as effective for improving selenium status as 100 mcg of selenomethionine.[6]

The safe and effective dosage for selenium supplement is somewhere between 200 mcg – 400 mcg per day (usually one 200 mcg capsule 1-2 times daily). Selenium deficiency can be caused also by mercury toxicity or vitamin E deficiency so you may need to address these in the first place. Particularly the heavy metal toxicity is very damaging and can block various processes in the body.


1. Beck MA. Selenium and vitamin E status: impact on viral pathogenicity. J Nutr. 2007 May;137(5):1338-40.
2. Fairris GM1, Lloyd B, Hinks L, Perkins PJ, Clayton BE. The effect of supplementation with selenium and vitamin E in psoriasis. Ann Clin Biochem. 1989 Jan;26 ( Pt 1):83-8.
3. Serwin AB1, Wasowicz W, Gromadzinska J, Chodynicka B. Selenium status in psoriasis and its relations to the duration and severity of the disease. Nutrition. 2003 Apr;19(4):301-4.
4. Donadini A1, Fiora C, Regazzini R, Perini D, Minoia C. Selenium plasma levels in psoriasis. Clin Exp Dermatol. 1992 May;17(3):214-6.
5. Michaëlsson G1, Berne B, Carlmark B, Strand A. Selenium in whole blood and plasma is decreased in patients with moderate and severe psoriasis. Acta Derm Venereol. 1989;69(1):29-34.
6. Christine D Thomson, Alexandra Chisholm, Sarah K McLachlan, and Jennifer M Campbell. Brazil nuts: an effective way to improve selenium status. Am J Clin Nutr February 2008 vol. 87 no. 2 379-384

2 Responses

  1. David says:

    What about the omega 6 content of Brazil nuts? It’s one of the highest! No wonder why any but worsens my poor skin..

    • John says:

      I consider omega 6 from the sources like Brazil nuts or organic grass-fed meat healthy since everybody needs also omega 6 fatty acids for health.

      If the liver bile acid production is poor, then one is probably deficient also in omega 6 not just omega 3 fatty acids.

      I am not saying that omega 6 fatty acids won’t affect your psoriasis in a bad way but in my opinion it is not the problem of omega 6.

      The thing is that omega 6 are raw material for inflammatory messengers so the inflammation may be stronger after ingesting the omega 6 containing foods. However as I said omega 6 are not the cause of inflammation in my personal opinion.

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