Selenium - How Much You Need In Your Diet
Personal testimonial by awordlover
I take Selenium every day, as part of my daily regimen because I have Crohn's Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, and Rheumatoid Arthritis. It is not expensive, less than $5.00 per bottle of 100 tablets or capsules, and should be part of most people's diet.
Selenium is ideal for anyone with gastrointestinal and/or stomach problems. It is not a mineral you hear much about and most people do not even know about its benefits.
*****Hopefully I can help clear that up and give you enough information so you can decide for yourself whether or not to add it to your daily regimen. Selenium, a necessary antioxidant, is beneficial for most people. But there are some people who should not take Selenium. More about that toward the end of this hub labeled WARNING.
Selenium can help (along with prescription medications) in the treatment of certain cancers: bladder and liver cancer, with colon polyps, with infertility, thyroid dysfunction, cardiovascular problems, and arthritis, to name a few.
Selenium is absolutely necessary for good health, but you only need small amounts. Selenium is an important antioxidant which helps prevent cell damage from free radicals. Selenium helps to slow down tumor growth, and helps your liver to function better.
In addition with Vitamin E, Selenium aids in normal body growth and fertility. When I was on fertility drugs in the 1970s and 1980s, I read that a Selenium deficiency can cause miscarriage.
Up until that time, I was only taking 70 mcg of Selenium per day but it was the "recommended dosage" at the time. No one had ever mentioned a deficiency to me, nor had it showed up in any blood work. By 1981, I had five miscarriages before I had a live baby in 1982, then another miscarriage, then my second live baby in 1984. As soon as I went back to my old ways after the birth of my first son in 1982, my next pregnancy in 1983 resulted in miscarriage.
Maybe, but I wanted another baby, so why risk it? I stepped up the amount of selenium and Vitamin E in my diet with foods (as well as supplements). It is a practice I continue to this day, some 30 years later because of its qualities in regard to immune diseases. I believe in the properties of Selenium when it is used with other minerals, vitamins, and some medications.
I recommend a Selenium formula with Vitamin E added because it helps in the absorption of Selenium.
Selenium, which should always be taken with food, helps regulate your thyroid function and immune system. Some trials found that a deficiency in Selenium can lead to the development of cancer, heart disease and certain diseases of the immune system. Selenium also protects your body against invaders like mercury, cadmium, and silver.
As you can see from some examples on the right, Selenium comes in a variety of forms, with extra vitamins added or alone. So how do you choose?
Do Not Copy
What foods provide selenium?
Before deciding to add this antioxidant to your regimen, let's look at your diet. You may be getting enough selenium, depending on where you live. If you live in an area that has suffered recent river flooding, this soil is rich in all nutrients for crops planted after the flooding.
Remember the tsunami in 2004? A year later they had great crop production. The sea water rejuvenated the soil so farmers did not need to add anything to their land.
If you have a green thumb, or if you can locate an organic farmer, one you can know and trust is growing without chemical fertilizers or pesticides, your nutrient levels will be markedly higher than someone who relies on the local supermarket for their food. Organic farmers add Zinc, Selenium and Seaweed back into their soil for hearty crops.
Plant foods are the major dietary sources of selenium. The content of selenium in food depends on the selenium content of the soil where plants are grown or animals are raised.
For example, researchers know that soil in northern Nebraska and in North & South Dakota have very high levels of selenium. People living in those states have the highest selenium levels in the United States and do not need to supplement.
Vulnerable areas in the U.S. for lowest Selenium levels are in northeast, southwest, and far southeast areas; in Canada it is in North central and eastern areas. So, foods grown in that soil will also be deficient in selenium. People living in these areas will most likely need to supplement.
In the U.S., our foods are shipped all over our country and that helps prevent people living in low-selenium areas from having low dietary selenium intakes.
***Some regions of China and Russia have very low amounts of selenium. Selenium deficiency is prevalent in those areas because they not only grow their food, they eat it.
Refer to my chart for the types of meats and seafood that are rich in Selenium. Plant and grain fed animals have higher levels of selenium in their muscle. It is always good to know where you food comes from.
In the U.S., meats and breads are common sources of dietary selenium. Brazil nuts and walnuts are also sources of selenium.
The amount of Selenium varies with each food and where it originated. For example, some Brazil nuts may contain as much as 544 micrograms of selenium/ounce. There are other nuts that have far less selenium. It depends on the nut, where it was grown, and processes it went through before it came to your local supermarket.
It is unwise to eat Brazil nuts every day because of their unusually high values of selenium.
Some examples of other foods rich in selenium are: cereals, grains, bran, broccoli, onions, tomatoes, tuna, wheat germ, white rice, brown rice, cottage cheese, cheddar cheese, enriched noodles, lean beef chuck roast, chicken breast, enriched macaroni, eggs, and enriched breads. Fruits and vegetables provide very small amounts of selenium.
Crab, fish, poultry, liver, soybeans, corn and wheat are higher in selenium.
How Much Do You Need?
The minimum daily recommended dietary allowances (RDAs) of selenium is 70 mcg daily.
Percent of Daily Value
Brazil nuts, unblanched, dried, 1 ounce
Tuna, light, packed in water, drained, 3 ounces
Cod, 3 ounces, cooked
Turkey, white meat, roasted, 3½ ounces
Lean Beef chuck roast, roasted, 3 ounces
Roasted Chicken, breast only, 3½ ounces
Enriched Noodles, boiled, 1/2 cup
Egg, whole, 1 medium, cooked
Low Fat 2% Cottage cheese, 1/2 cup
Selenium Deficiency and Disease - researched by awordlover
Low levels of Selenium in humans is rare in the U.S. but is seen in other countries where soil concentration of Selenium is low. There are researchers who believe that Selenium deficiency may lead to development of heart disease and a weakened immune system. Selenium deficiency does not usually cause an illness by itself. Instead, it can make the body more susceptible to illnesses caused by other nutritional, biochemical or infectious stresses.
These are diseases associated with Selenium deficiency:
Keshan Disease - an enlarged heart and poor heart function, seen in Selenium- deficient children. Keshan disease was first seen in the early 1930s in China, and is still seen in their countryside..
Kashin-Beck Disease - a disease of the bones and joints.
Myxedematous Endemic Cretinism- a form of mental retardation.
Selenium deficiency has also been seen in patients who rely on total parenteral nutrition (TPN) as their sole source of nutrition. TPN is where nutrients are given by tube feeding for patients who cannot consume foods because their digestive systems do not function like yours and mine. So it is important that Selenium be added to the TPN formula to prevent deficiencies. If you have a family member on TPN, make sure your doctor monitors their condition (by blood and toenail clippings) to make sure they get enough Selenium in the formula.
Selenium depletion or deficiency is often seen in patients with severe gastrointestinal disorders like Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Celiac's Disease, and Crohn's Disease. People with these disorders should be monitored routinely so proper medical and nutrients can be provided.
People with acute inflammation and widespread infection will often have decreased levels of Selenium in their blood. Physicians should evaluate patients who have any GI disease and/or any severe infection for low blood levels of Selenium but sometimes they need a little 'nudge' from the patient. You may well have to ask to be tested because Selenium is not the first thing a physician will think of.
Iodine deficiency is pretty rare now in the U.S., but is still seen in other countries who don't have access to iodine. Some researchers contend that low Selenium in the body can make thyroid function worse, and taking additional Selenium daily can help neurologically.
There have not been enough studies to come out and say that Selenium supplements would be beneficial as a treatment for the prevention of coronary artery disease, but it can help in the management of LDL (bad cholesterol) levels.
Some researchers have found that patients with rheumatoid arthritis, (a chronic disease that causes pain, stiffness, swelling, and loss of function in joints), have lower Selenium levels in their blood because they have lower Selenium intake. Selenium may help in managing the symptoms of arthritis. Although physicians will not routinely recommend it, many people feel better taking Selenium supplements as part of their daily regimen and believes it does relieve symptoms.
Patients with HIV/AIDS often have malabsorption which leads to the loss of many nutrients, including Selenium. Selenium deficiency is often found with decreased immune cell counts and high risk of death in the HIV/AIDS population. HIV/AIDS gradually destroys one's immune system, and oxidative stress may contribute to further damage of immune cells. Antioxidants like Selenium help protect cells from oxidative stress, thus potentially slowing progression of the disease. There is not enough evidence to recommend Selenium supplements to HIV/AIDS patients, but physicians might prescribe antioxidants as part of an overall treatment plan. It is very important for HIV-positive patients to have the recommended amounts of Selenium in their diet or with supplements.
Selenois happens when there are high levels of Selenium (greater than 100 mcg/dL) in the blood. Symptoms include hair loss, white blotchy nails, gastrointestinal upsets, garlic breath odor, fatigue, irritability, and mild nerve damage. The highest limit for Selenium is 400 micrograms per day for adults to prevent selenosis.
How Much Selenium Is In My Body?
Do you know how Selenium is measured in the body? In addition to blood tests, it is also measured with toenail clippings. The levels of Selenium in toenail clippings tells a physician of long term Selenium use, and blood levels show recent intake of Selenium.
Many researchers say we should take no less than 200 micrograms per day and as much as 600 micrograms per day. So how much should we be taking???
First, a blood test is not a bad idea.
If you are a healthy eater whose diet is made of up foods in their natural state, that are not processed foods, then you can benefit from between 70 and 200 micrograms per day. If you are heavily dependent on pre-made, fast foods, microwave ready foods, and foods that you do not have to prepare from scratch, then you can benefit from the higher doses of between 200 and 400 micrograms.
Another way to look at it is .... if you are overweight and under-exercised, chances are your Selenium level is lower than average. It probably will do next to no good to ask your physician if he thinks you need Selenium. Look at him/her!! If he/she appears to you to be stressed, hyper functioning, under-exercised or even the other end of the spectrum - lackadaisical, fatigued, and short attention span, then this is clearly not the person who should be telling you - yes or no - about your antioxidant intake.
I recommend Selenium as part of your antioxidant vitamin and mineral supplements, in addition to a healthy diet.
*******WARNINGS: If you take Coumadin or any blood clotting/thinning medication, there is a chance you will bruise more easily because Selenium might thin the blood more. If you take "statin" drugs, take vitamins and supplements a few hours apart so they don't decrease the effectiveness of the statin drugs. Niacin increases good cholesterol, but Selenium decreases how well it works. Again, put a few hours between doses. If you routinely take sedatives, Selenium can increase the effects and the side effects. In that case, it is best to not add Selenium to your regimen.
I hope this hub has enlightened you so you can make an informed decision about your dietary and supplement needs.
Do not copy this article. It is not free just because it is on the internet.
Published January 12, 2012 by awordlover
Updated 2/2/2014 by Rachael O'Halloran to replace pixelated Copyscape logos and update links.
© 2012 awordlover