People suffering from dry skin and hair loss, or feels constantly limp usually thinks first of a vitamin deficiency. However, a very common cause of such phenomena is often overlooked – selenium deficiency. In this article you will learn more about the importance of selenium, as well as the causes, symptoms and consequences of selenium deficiency. You will also find out what you can do about it.
What are the functions of selenium in the body?
As a trace element, selenium is essential for the metabolism because it takes on important functions in the body. All body tissues contain a tiny amount of this trace element, so its deficiency in the body gives rise to noticeable symptoms. According to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), selenium fulfills the following important functions in the human body:
- strengthens the immune system
- supports the maintenance of joints
- strengthens hair and nails
- supports the normal function of the thyroid gland
- protects cells from oxidative stress
- protects against heavy metals
How bad it would be with selenium deficiency?
Selenium deficiency can actually become dangerous in the long term due to its importance for the immune system. Thanks to this trace element, stress in the body is fought on a cellular level. Without selenium in the important systems of the body, infections are more common and the immune system becomes overloaded. The most common consequences of this are allergies and autoimmune diseases.
However, selenium deficiency in itself is not the actual cause of such diseases – rather, these are promoted by its absence in the system. Especially people having allergy or autoimmune disease are susceptible to such diseases. A possible selenium deficiency only exacerbates the symptoms.
According to statistics, women are more easily affected by selenium deficiency than men. It is believed that the lower meat consumption could be the possible cause of selenium deficiency. Based on this, it can be concluded that vegans and vegetarians in particular also belong to the risk group. In addition, people with unbalanced diet and chronic intestinal problems are often affected by selenium deficiency. Those with regular alcohol and tobacco comsumption are also at risk.
What are the symptoms of selenium deficiency?
Even if selenium deficiency is rare in Germany and only affects a certain group of people with certain history of illness and / or impaired selenium intake, it is important to recognize the symptoms of selenium deficiency in good time.
The most common symptoms of mild deficit are hair loss and noticeably thin hair. In addition, white spots on the nails could also indicate a selenium deficiency.
A greater selenium deficiency has more serious consequences and affects the immune system, the functions of the thyroid gland and other parts of the body. Symptoms of a major selenium deficit include:
- Often, recurrent infections
- Noticeably weight loss without reasons
- Sleep disorder
- Problems with fertility in men
- Intestinal problems
- Memory disorders
- Frequent muscle diseases
- Joint pains
What are the reasons of selenium deficiency?
Compared to other countries, the soils in Germany are relatively poor in selenium. This means that the crops and vegetables from Germany are insufficient to adequately supply the body with the trace element. Animal products, on the other hand, contain more selenium. This is mainly due to the fact that the enrichment of animal feed is permitted in Europe and thus also in Germany. But people do not have to take a diet exclusively of animal products to prevent selenium deficiency. A balanced mixed diet is completely sufficient for the supply of selenium.
In this sense, the exclusive diet of vegetables and grains without animal products would be a common cause of selenium deficiency. This is why vegetarians and vegans are more likely to suffer from this issue. However, in such cases, foods with rich selenium content, such as nuts, can be integrated into your diet as compensation.
But the cause of selenium deficiency is not just the insufficient intake from a plant-based diet. There are also disease-related causes when the body either cannot absorb enough selenium or excretes too much of it. Chronic bowel inflammations such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease, kidney failure and the resulting long-term dialysis, cystic fibrosis and genetic metabolic disorders can also be causes of selenium deficiency.
How to deal with selenium deficiency?
There are two ways to combat selenium deficiency. On the one hand through a diet rich in selenium and on the other hand through dietary supplements.
There is a sufficient amount of selenium in foods of animal origin such as fish, meat, liver, milk and cheese. Vegans and vegetarians as well as other people who want or have to forego animal foods can compensate for the selenium deficiency with selenium-rich foods such as nuts. Cereal products and vegetables are less helpful.
- Nutritional supplements
A balanced and wholesome diet is usually sufficient to supply the body with selenium. However, if the typical symptoms of selenium deficiency persist, a check of selenium level by medical professionals would be a good idea. The doctor will most likely recommend dietary supplements if the blood test reveals a selenium deficiency. Medical advice is therefore also advisable in order to avoid an overdose.
When it comes to food supplements, it is important to choose preparations that optimally combine organic and inorganic selenium. A good example of a natural product are the Selenium Capsule Complex 200 µg from Casida. The high-dose capsules made in Germany contain no undesirable additives and ensure a balanced selenium level.
Alexander Helm is a licensed pharmacist (Martin-Luther University) and the founder of Casida. His vision is to combine pharmaceutical know-how and natural remedy into natural health products, and leverage the power of nature to improve human health.