Where Does Selenium Come From?
While selenium is found across a number of foods, the amount of selenium each food source can provide is determined by the selenium content of the soil that supports that food item. Selenium varies widely around the world, so something grown in a selenium rich area will contain more than the same something grown in an area where selenium content is poor. For example, plants grown in selenium rich areas will provide the animals that eat them higher levels of selenium than plants grown in soil where selenium is low.
Typical sources of selenium include proteins such as seafood, organ meats, and Brazil nuts. Most of the selenium consumed by Americans comes from bread and cereals, chicken and beef, and eggs. Because the integrity of selenium may be affected during food processing, whole foods are the best source for this micronutrient.
What are the Benefits of Selenium?
Even though this micronutrient exists as a tiny part of our food and food sources, it is critical to our health. Selenium supports many important functions throughout our bodies, including:
- Antioxidant – Selenium helps to reduce oxidative stress that can damage cells. Antioxidants like selenium help to delay and may help prevent harmful damage to cells.
- Immune system support – As an antioxidant, selenium enhances immune system response against dangers such as bacteria, parasites, and viruses.
- Cancer reduction – Studies have shown that higher selenium levels in the blood relate to lower risk of certain cancers, including breast, colon, and lung cancers.
- Lower risk of heart disease – Low selenium levels have been shown to correspond with higher risk of heart disease.
- Mental health – As the cases of Alzheimer’s disease grow, it has been noted that patients with this debilitating disease have lower levels of selenium. Accordingly, ensuring sufficient selenium may help reduce the risk of mental decline and memory loss.
- Thyroid health – Selenium has been shown to reduce thyroid antibodies in patients, helping to ensure the thyroid is working properly to regulate metabolism for proper growth and development.
- Asthma relief – Asthma is related to higher levels of oxidative stress and inflammation in the body. Because selenium’s properties work against these conditions, the micronutrient helps to relieve symptoms of asthma sufferers.
What if I don’t get Enough Selenium?
This list above shows some of the benefits that selenium provides for some specific health concerns. While adequate selenium supports health in these areas, there are other concerns when selenium intake is not sufficient and a selenium deficiency develops.
Though selenium deficiency is rare in North America because of a higher level of selenium in the soil, it is occasionally possible for people living in the U.S. to suffer from low selenium. Selenium deficiency is a larger problem in other parts of the world where the soil content is lower.
Selenium deficiency can result in several symptoms, including:
A selenium deficiency may eventually lead to one of two conditions, Keshan disease or Kashin-Beck disease. Keshan disease (KD) is more common in China and results in heart problems including cardiomyopathy, a disease of the muscle tissues in the heart. Kashin-Beck disease is one of several forms of osteoarthritis, causing degenerative joint issues, especially as patients age.
Those at highest risk for selenium deficiency include:
- People living where soil contains low amounts of selenium, such as Europe, China, and Russia
- Vegetarians from these regions of low selenium soil may experience even lower selenium intake because the plants do not contain enough selenium, and animal proteins are excluded from their diet
- Dialysis patients are at risk as the dialysis process can filter selenium out of the patient’s body
- HIV patients may find that their condition reduces their bodies’ ability to absorb nutrients effectively
Can I Raise my Selenium Level with Supplements?
Because selenium levels in food can vary depending on soil content, certain peoples around the world may find that they have low levels of selenium. In these cases, supplements may be warranted; but the selenium found in supplements is generally not as effective for the body as natural sources. Plus, there is an issue with selenium toxicity.
Is Too Much Selenium Toxic?
While selenium is critical for so many cellular functions, it is possible to ingest too much of this micronutrient. The recommended daily allowance (RDA) of selenium for adults is 55 micrograms every day. Pregnant women should take in a little more – about 60-70 micrograms each day. The tolerable upper intake level (UL) of selenium for adults is 400 micrograms per day.
For reference, here are some of the more selenium-rich foods with their selenium levels:
- Brazil nuts – 500 micrograms / 1 ounce
- Organ meats (beef, tuna, chicken) – 30 micrograms / 3 ounces
- Grains (bread, pasta) – 15 micrograms / serving
When selenium levels become dangerously high, our bodies begin to exhibit several symptoms as a result. These indications include:
- Garlic breath
- Metallic taste
- Brittle nails
- Hair loss
- Muscle sensitivity
However, selenium toxicity occurs more often when taking supplemental selenium rather than from natural sources.
What Can I Do to Check my Selenium and Create a Balanced Level?
Unfortunately, selenium levels in our body are not as easy to confirm as blood pressure or blood sugar levels. However, we at Bridgepoint Clinics are prepared to help you explore a potential selenium deficiency as well as other factors that may be affecting your mental and physical health.
Our professional staff is highly trained and possesses a wide range of experience to help you understand the root cause of any concern. Once we attain a proper diagnosis, we work with you to create a blueprint for effective change and healing. Regarding selenium levels in your body, we may make an adjustment to your diet; or we may recommend selenium in supplemental form. Regardless, we always examine each patient’s unique situation and needs individually.
Contact us today to initiate your path toward stronger mental and physical health. We look forward to guiding you toward your goals.
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