(Iodine and Selenium Medically Reviewed By Dr. Zach Hyde)
It’s not at all unusual for us men to have certain gaps in our diet.
But where some minerals like sodium are incredibly difficult to avoid, other nutrients and vitamins are very hard to come by without some form of supplementation.
One supplement that many men over 30 take is iodine, a crucial hormone regulator. However, as we’ll discuss in this article, taking iodine safely (and seeing the benefits of doing so) requires you to take another mineral – selenium – as well.
Why Iodine on its Own Isn’t Enough
Iodine is found in water, soil, and in foods like fish, shrimp, and seaweed. In the human body, proper iodine levels are essential to helping the body produce T3 and T4, which regulate how well our metabolism functions.
These hormones are produced in our thyroid gland, which can all but shut down when iodine levels become deficient.
However, you can’t just load your body with iodine and hope that it kicks your calorie-burning abilities into high gear.
Because too much iodine can lead to serious thyroid-based autoimmune problems – most notably autoimmune thyroiditis.
This is a nasty and chronic issue, resulting in everything from tremors and protruding eyes to rapid weight changes, fatigue, and hair loss.
As we’ll discuss, the antidote to this is to balance your iodine levels with selenium.
Indeed, in one study from the University of Ioannina’s Department of Endocrinology, this disease runs rampant in individuals with high iodine counts, especially where selenium was either not present at all or present in only trace amounts (1).
Why You Need Selenium With Iodine
Selenium is found in meats, eggs, and some nuts. Like iodine, selenium is a naturally occurring mineral often found in healthy soil.
When taken via food or as a supplement, selenium works together with iodine to keep your thyroid and metabolism functioning properly.
A 2009 study by a group of Italian endocrinologists identified both iodine and selenium as utterly essential to healthy thyroid synthesis and function (2).
However, you cannot merely supplement with one and expect to avoid complications – both need to be present in order for your body to reap the benefits.
Indeed, another study, this time published in Nutrition Research Review, identified how selenium regulates the production of T3.
It found that the mineral not only protects the thyroid from H2O2 produced during T3 synthesis, but it helps reduce free radical damage while simultaneously preventing the development of thyroiditis.
Selenium Benefits for Men
While selenium is the “Robin” to iodine’s “Batman” when it comes to the thyroid, the opposite is true of the rest of the body. Indeed, selenium has a number of significant health benefits over iodine alone – especially for men.
Selenium Boosts Testosterone & Semen Volume
Some recent research has uncovered a link between selenium, testosterone levels, and sperm production in male rams (source).
While this is obviously very exciting news, it’s something that you should take with a grain of salt (preferably iodized) as well.
You see, other studies haven’t been able to replicate the results, and the researchers aren’t sure why (more on this later).
However, it seems that zinc might play a big factor in boosting selenium’s effects.
Luckily, if you’re taking steps to maintain healthy testosterone levels, you should be taking zinc already!
Selenium Deficiencies Can Reduce Testicular Weight
Another set of animal studies further support this apparent link between selenium, testosterone, and the health of male sex organs.
One study on two groups of chickens (one with a selenium-deficient diet and one with a normal diet) found that both the testicular weight and the overall bodyweight was reduced in the selenium-deficient chicks – after just 30 days!
Study #2 was focused on rats, feeding four generations a low selenium diet. In the first generation, the rats were slower to reach puberty than the control group.
However, subsequent generations displayed lower levels of testosterone secretion and progressively reduced testicular mass (3).
This seems to indicate that selenium is not only important for the regulation of our most important male hormone, but for our basic sexual development as well.
Selenium and Iodine Speed Up Metabolism
One of the primary things we mentioned at the beginning of this article was how selenium and iodine affect thyroid function.
Of course, one of this gland’s primary functions is to regulate our metabolism, which is the process of converting food into energy.
When our thyroid isn’t operating as it should, it can lead to unintentional weight gain.
And while being overweight can have obvious effects on your sex life, it also has more dire consequences than you think.
For instance, being overweight can drastically affect your testosterone levels due to a reduction in globulin – a byproduct of insulin resistance (4).
But as merely being overweight progresses into obesity, testosterone can continue to deplete while estrogen levels rise.
Simultaneously, we may begin to lose blood flow to the penis, resulting in ED, while developing a “fat pad” in our groin that causes us to lose multiple inches off our penis length!
Though diet and exercise are clearly important to weight management, a healthy metabolism is crucial to keeping off those unwanted pounds.
Selenium and Iodine Can Improve Erection Quality
Many men are unaware that ED can be caused by thyroid problems.
In fact, a 2008 study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism found that 79% of men who reported erectile issues also had some sort of thyroid problem.
Be it hyperactive or hypoactive, a dysfunctional thyroid can directly impact your sex life – it can even lead to premature ejaculation in some cases!
And as we’ve already discussed several times in this article – you need an adequate supply of iodine and selenium to ensure your thyroid is firing on all cylinders.
In turn, you can avoid the early onset of hormonal ED.
Sourcing Iodine and Selenium
At this point, there’s simply no denying the dangers of iodine and selenium deficiency.
However, that doesn’t mean that every solution to this problem bears equal weight.
You see, it’s possible that the conflicting results of some selenium studies were due to some subjects receiving selenium-rich diets, while others received selenium pills.
In the latter case, it seems that the results were far more inconclusive.
This is why I strongly suggest you maintain your selenium levels through your diet – specifically, by eating Brazil Nuts.
These large, tasty tree nuts are packed with all-natural, easily-absorbable selenium – around 68-91 mcg, to be exact!
And unlike some other supplemental health foods out there, they are low cost and incredibly easy to come by.
As far as maintaining optimal iodine levels, I suggest you follow the testicular iodine paining protocol described on this page.
- (1) Endocrinology & Metabolism International Journal: The role of iodine vs selenium on the rising trend of autoimmune thyroiditis in iodine sufficient countries
- (2) Nutr Res Rev. 1999 Jun;12(1):55-73. doi: 10.1079/095442299108728910.
- (3) Italian Journal of Animal Science: Effects of selenium deficiency on testis development and autophagy in chicks
- (4)The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, Volume 93, Issue 5, 1 May 2008, Pages 1815–1819