Sodium selenite is a chemical form of selenium, which is a mineral that naturally exists in the crust of the earth. This supplement is an inorganic combination of selenium, oxygen, and sodium. Many farmers use sodium selenite to boost selenium levels in sheep, cattle, pigs, and horses. In recent years, however, humans have turned to the supplement to cure a range of ailments from cancer to liver disease. Controversy over human use persists, however, because some studies suggest sodium selenite can be toxic at high doses.
Chemical selenium from sodium selenite has both advantages and disadvantages. One advantage is that the supplement is antimicrobial. Another is that of all the inorganic forms of selenium, including monoselenodiacetic acid and selenomethionine, sodium selenite has proven the most successful in thwarting cancer in lab tests. A disadvantage, aside from the alleged toxicity, is that the sodium-selenium compound is not as bioavailable as natural selenium.
Naturally-occurring selenium provides nourishment to the brain and other organs of the body. It is also a natural detoxifier. Many people and animals are deficient in selenium, however. Deficiencies are dangerous because, according to published medical studies, they can cause reproductive problems, liver damage, and fibrosis in the pancreas. Some research suggests that exudative diathesis and muscular dystrophy can also be linked to low selenium levels.
Liquid and tablet supplements containing sodium selenite are used to elevate selenium in the body. An average adult dosage is about 200 micrograms per day. Beyond nutrition, this supplement is used as medical therapy. For example, doctors treating patients who have prostate cancer sometimes prescribe sodium selenite while also using traditional treatments such as radiation, chemotherapy and hormones.
There are two reasons that sodium selenite can help prostate cancer go into remission. First, when cancer cells are exposed to sodium selenite, they typically begin to die. Secondly, the chemical compound prevents tumors from expanding. This arrest in tumor growth happens because sodium selenite keeps the cancer cells from receiving signals from androgen receptors. Such signals are necessary for malignant tumors to flourish.
Critics who warn of the possible toxic impact of taking too much chemical selenium often recommend that humans try to acquire sodium from an organic diet. Foods grown in soil that is rich in selenium usually contain significant amounts of selenium. Meat from animals that have fed on foods grown in selenium-rich soil will also have beneficial levels of selenium. Organic sources of selenium can include whole grains, eggs, and organ meats such as liver and kidneys. Selenium levels are depleted in foods that have been refined or cooked over high and dry heat, however.