Selenium Deficiency

Selenium is an essential trace mineral needed by our bodies in very small amounts, in the micrograms. It is toxic in large amounts, so it took scientists some time before they actually accepted this metal as essential to human life. Plants convert the toxic selenium into organic compounds that are more readily absorbed and used by the body.

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Selenium plays a role in thyroid function, respiratory health, fertility, heart function, immunity, and metabolism. It also acts as an antioxidant. The antioxidant properties of selenium are gaining attention, spawning new studies to explore how it protects the heart from damage.

Deficiency is rare, but still possible in our modern world due to poor diet, depleted soils, and disease or intestinal disorders. Symptoms include fatigue, muscle weakness, goiter, stunted growth, diarrhea, garlic breath, sloughing off of the nails, mood swings, and neurological problems. Too much selenium results in nausea, vomiting, nervousness, depression, hair loss, and a bad odor on the fingernails.

Since selenium deficiency is rare and too much is dangerous, it is better to get your selenium from food sources. Brazil nuts are one of the best sources of this mineral. Mushrooms, sunflower seeds, whole-grains, and onion are also good sources. Selenium supplements can cause problems, especially if you are already getting enough selenium. Vitamins with selenium should come from natural food sources like fruits, vegetables, and herbs to be the safest supplement form available. Always consult a physician if you believe you have a mineral deficiency.


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Claims on this site have not been evaluated by the FDA. Information on this site is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. We encourage you to do your own research.. Seek the advice of a medical professional before making any changes to your lifestyle or diet.

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