How do you know if you are getting too little— or too much— selenium? The signs of selenium deficiency are a lack of energy (the result of a shortage of coenzyme Q), development of degenerative disease (which can also be due to many other factors), and accelerated aging, produced by free radical oxidation.
Can you get too much selenium?
To develop selenosis (selenium poisoning), your daily intake would have to be from 2,400 to 3,000 micrograms. Since the average daily intake from foods is on the low side, and the supplemental intake usually from only 50 to 150 micrograms, you run little risk of developing selenosis. However, since each person is different biochemically, the safest thing to do is to stay within the 50 to 150 microgram range. Luckily, excess selenium is readily excreted.
Possibly the greatest risk of selenium poisoning comes from continued large doses or industrial overexposure.84 If you work around photocopy machines all day, you should know that they contain selenium plates, releasing selenium into the environment.85 A good antidote to this situation is to eat a diet that emphasizes both highprotein foods and sulfur-rich foods like eggs, fish, meat, cabbage, and brussels sprouts.
Symptoms of selenosis
The symptoms of selenosis are loss of olfactory (smell) sense, a sore throat, respiratory problems, and an upset stomach. Further symptoms include a skin rash, brittle hair and nails, irritability and exhaustion.
In an extreme toxic state, symptoms include loss of teeth, pneumonia, fatal pulmonary edema, myelitis (inflamed spinal cord and bone marrow), and progressive paralysis.
If you suffer from milder selenium poisoning caused by industrial pollutants or over supplementation, your wisest course is to remove yourself from the polluting source, or stop taking selenium in such great quantities. Remember, if you suffer from a condition in which a larger intake of selenium might be helpful, be sure to embark on a program of supplementation only under your doctor’s supervision.
One of the scarcest and most poisonous of minerals as it exists in nature, selenium is also one of the most vital trace minerals to your health. Its most important role is as an antioxidant, protecting your cells from free radical oxidation.
It plays its role mainly in the synthesis of the protective enzymeglutathione peroxidase, the molecules of which are built on four selenium atoms. Selenium also helps maintain healthy levels of coenzyme Q.Both glutathione peroxidase and coenzyme Q have a big part in keeping oxidation of cellular membranes from taking place. Selenium also stimulates the immune system, keeping you protected from invading viruses and bacteria. Furthermore, it chelates with toxic metals and helps remove them from your body.
Selenium is especially important to your heart, your red blood cells, white blood cells, fibroblasts, eyes, and protein production system. It also protects fat-soluble vitamins A, D, K, and E from oxidation.
Men need more selenium than women. But deficiencies of this little wonder-worker in either sex may lead to kwashiorkor, muscular dystrophy, blood sugar disorders, liver necrosis, arthritis, anemia, cataracts, infections, heavy metal poisoning, and even cancer.
Though there is no official RDA for selenium, the Food and Nutrition Board suggests an intake of 150 micrograms daily. Since the average American diet, due to depleted soils and refined foods, contains only 35 to 60 micrograms, supplementation is probably a good idea. It is also a good idea to eat plenty of selenium-rich foods like liver, tuna, whole grains, mushrooms, asparagus, broccoli, onions, tomatoes, and garlic.
Brewer’s yeast is an excellent supplemental food rich in selenium, and is one of your best weapons against heart disease and cancer.