Looking at all of the different nutrients your body needs in order to function at its peak can be overwhelming.
Just go to the health food store and look at the never ending shelves of supplements – how do you know what you need, and what you’re getting enough of from your diet, and where you may benefit from supplementation?
Some nutrients can also affect our hormones, so you might be looking at supplements as solutions for hormonal conditions.
Today we are going to take a closer look at one nutrient in particular: selenium.
What it is, why it’s important for your body, and what happens when you don’t get enough.
Keep reading to learn more.
What Is Selenium?
Selenium is a mineral which is extremely important to your health.
It’s naturally found in the soil, and tends to appear in water as well as some foods.
It’s considered an essential nutrient, which means it can’t be produced by the body – you need to get it through diet or supplements.
Benefits Of Selenium
Although your body doesn’t need a lot of it, the selenium you do get plays important roles in a number of processes such as thyroid functioning and metabolism.
Let’s review in more detail some of the benefits of this important mineral.
1. It’s Necessary For Thyroid Hormone Production
The thyroid is a small gland at the front of your neck which produces hormones affecting a large number of the body’s processes.
It uses large amounts of selenium, and contains it in greater amounts than any other gland.
Low levels of selenium have been linked to conditions such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune condition in which the immune system attacks the thyroid gland.
2. May Decrease Risk Of Heart Disease
There is some evidence to suggest that a high selenium diet may aid in decreasing your risk of heart disease.
It may also decrease inflammation, which is a risk factor for heart disease.
A 2015 article in the journal Nutrients suggests the benefits of selenium may be due to its antioxidant properties.
3. It’s Good For Mental Health
Low levels of selenium in the blood have been linked to Alzheimer’s disease, a condition which can lead to dementia and affect one’s ability to perform day-to-day tasks.
In some cases, eating foods rich in selenium such as Brazil nuts, and use of selenium supplements has resulted in improved memory in individuals with Alzheimer’s disease.
Being proactive about eating a diet rich in selenium may help guard against mental decline and help support mental health.
4. It’s An Antioxidant
Antioxidants are important for protecting against oxidative stress due to free radicals.
Although free radicals do play important roles in disease prevention, too many can cause damage to healthy cells.
Selenium is an antioxidant which acts to help keep the numbers of free radicals under control by neutralizing them.
5. Helps Keep Your Immune System Strong
A strong immune system is important for fighting off pathogens such as bacteria and viruses which can make us sick.
As an antioxidant, selenium helps boost your immune system by reducing levels of oxidative stress and helping to reduce inflammation.
In addition, increased levels of selenium in the blood have been linked to increased immune response.
Selenium deficiency has been specifically shown to reduce hospitalizations in those with HIV, and may be helpful for those with hepatitis C, influenza, and tuberculosis.
Symptoms Of Selenium Deficiency
Selenium is important for a number of functions in the body.
If you don’t have enough of it in your system, it can lead to severe health issues.
Symptoms which could indicate a selenium deficiency include:
- Weakened immune system
- Men’s infertility or male pattern baldness
- Women’s infertility or female pattern baldness
- Muscle weakness
- Chronic fatigue
- Brain fog
Symptoms Of Selenium Toxicity
While there are issues associated with not enough selenium, there are also dangers if you have too much of it in your system.
Selenium toxicity is rare, and generally results from using supplements.
Signs of too much selenium include:
- Sore muscles
- Hair loss
- Nausea and vomiting
- Flushed face
In the most severe cases, selenium toxicity can result in neurological systems, intestinal issues, kidney failure, heart attack, and death.
Dietary Sources Of Selenium
There are a lot of excellent food sources of selenium.
If you want to ensure you’re getting enough via diet, be sure to include some of the following:
- Shiitake mushrooms
- Chicken breast
- Brazil nuts
- Sunflower seeds
- Yellowfin tuna
Selenium levels in plant based foods are dependent on the levels of selenium in the soil they are grown in.
One prime example of this are Brazil nuts, which can provide anywhere from 11 percent of the recommended daily intake, up to over 200 percent dependent on where they were grown.
For this reason, it’s important to ensure you’re including a variety of these foods.
Book An Appointment With Annex Naturopathic
Are you concerned you’re not getting enough selenium?
Maybe you’ve been experiencing some of the symptoms listed above and can’t pinpoint the cause.
Or perhaps you are worried there is another nutrient you aren’t getting enough of.
Annex Naturopathic can help.
One of our experienced and caring naturopathic doctors will work with you to assess your diet and help create a plan to ensure you’re getting everything you need to keep everything running smoothly.
Contact us today for more information or to set up an appointment.
Yours in Health,
Dr. Marnie Luck, N.D
Annex Naturopathic Clinic is a clinic in Toronto that offers integrative healthcare solutions from Drs. Marnie Luck, ND, and Tanya Lee, ND