A selenium deficiency means: We supply the body with too little selenium. It is one of the essential trace elements and can therefore not be produced by our organism itself. We need to consume it through our food or through supplements.
If the soils are lower in selenium – e.B. in parts of China – selenium deficiency is more likely. Likewise, people with a vegan diet are at risk of suffering from selenium deficiency.
Many processes depend on selenium. The enzymes of the group with the complicated name glutathione peroxidases “process” oxidative stress and without selenium they would not exist. Likewise, individual enzymes of thyroid hormones are dependent on selenium.
Overall, the nutrient plays a very important role in our metabolism, which was only really researched late. Some processes are still not known exactly. It is not known exactlywhat a selenium deficiency means on individual organ systems. The scientific results here are still contradictory. Thus, selenium works as a therapy – prescribed by the doctor – for some diseases, although they actually have nothing to do with a selenium deficiency.
At the same time, however, there are also no uniformly defined limitson how much selenium healthy people should consume daily.
But where does selenium deficiency come from? What happens if there is one? What can be done about it? Step by step, this article will guide you through the answers to these three questions.
The causes of selenium deficiency
The usual causes of selenium deficiency could be pinned down for most defects. The undersupply can be due to a very one-sided diet or to very low-selenium foods.
Likewise, a disease-related poorer absorption of selenium (a malabsorption) and also drug interactions can be the causes. These groups of people can be summarized as follows. It affects people,
- who live in regions with selenium-poor soils,
- who follow a vegan diet or
- which are artificially fed due to hospitalization.
People who follow a vegetarian diet usually have enough different foods with a balanced diet to provide themselves with sufficient selenium.
There are also the following factors, diseases and therapies that reduce the absorption of selenium and thus can cause selenium deficiency:
- excessive, regular alcohol consumption
- Anorexia nervosa (bulimia) or persistent hunger
- persistent diarrhea
- Abuse of laxatives
- excessive excretion of proteins (proteinuria)
- Nephrotic syndrome (diseases in the renal corpus carcass)
- negative nitrogen balance
- Diabetes insipidus
- Treatment with diuretic drugs (diuretics)
- heavy bleeding in hemorrhoids
- heavy menstruation
- long-term breastfeeding
- severe burns
These are symptoms of selenium deficiency
With selenium deficiency, you have too little of the enzymes mentioned above, which are not sufficiently produced without the valuable mineral. In this case, according to initial study results, your body mainly supplies the brain, hormone glands and gonads (also known as the sex gland) with selenium.
In the case of inflammation, the body distributes the trace element in a completely different way. Here it is suddenly directed from the blood to other areas such as the muscles.
This is where you reach the limits of research. You don’t know exactly why the body does this, what it means and what effects our body goes through with it.
The symptoms that you recognize in your organism are therefore due to the fact that parts of your body only function worsebecause they lack the enzymes that cannot be produced sufficiently without selenium.
So you don’t feel the selenium you’re missing. You feel the missing enzymesthat cannot arise because selenium is missing.
A typical healing effect, which is often claimed by dietary supplements, has not yet been clarified. Whether selenium produces enzymes that prevent cancer is simply not yet fully understood. You can’t seriously promise that.
Rather, it is changes in the nails, scaly skin or anemiathat you can experience with selenium deficiency. Other symptoms include reduced quality of sperm in men, or liver damage, growth and bone formation disorders, or muscle disordersin all people.
Children also need selenium – albeit a little less than adults. In case of deficiency, however, bone, cartilage and joint diseases can occur. Extreme cases such as Kashin-Beck disease (commonly known as “dwarfism”) have also been attributed to selenium deficiency.
In addition to the following three major possible symptoms of selenium deficiency, there are a variety of other signs:
- Growth disorders
- Disorders of the nervous system
- Reproductive disorders
- Disorders of the immune system
- Liver necrosis (death of liver cells)
Selenium deficiency and the effects on the muscles
Why exactly the muscles are damaged is also still unclear. Selenium is probably only part of the explanation and infections or other factors have a say here.
Myopathy can occur: This is a muscle disease that makes your muscles in the body weaker. This can also lead to the fact that your musculoskeletal system no longer works well enough: You can then no longer walk normally.
In the case of changes in the muscles, however, one also becomes attentive elsewhere: the heart. The heart muscles can also suffer from a selenium deficiency Cardiac arrhythmias and heart failure can be the consequences of this.
The heart disease that is often read in connection with selenium deficiency is Keshan disease. It is a heart failure in which parts of the heart muscles die. By the way, the area of Keshan in the northeast of China, which has very selenium-poor soils, gives its name. In this disease, the addition of selenium has been shown to help.
In the case of coronary or cardiovascular diseases, however, there is currently no uniform research situation. For the time being, therefore, selenium-containing preparationsare not recommended for these diseases.
Hashimoto’s, thyroid and selenium deficiency
There is a lot of selenium in the thyroid gland. There it has three important tasks.
On the one hand, selenium is responsible for the conversion of thyroxine into the much more effective triiodthyronine. If seleniumis absent, there is a deficiency supply of the hormone. This is comparable to hypothyroidism, i.e. hypothyroidism.
In the same breath as hypothyroidism, Hashimoto’s disease,an autoimmune disease of the thyroid gland, is often mentioned. This disease and also a thyroid swelling (goiter or “goiter”) can be attributed to selenium deficiency.
Selenium is also needed for the thyroid hormones that fight oxidative stress. As a result, cells can be damaged and this can lead to further thyroid diseases (carcinomas or atrophy)
How to compensate for selenium deficiency? That’s how much you can do.
Counteracting a seleniumdeficiency is not so easy for one reason: it is difficult to find. First of all, it can not be diagnosed on the basis of individual symptoms. Only tests by doctorshelp here.
Overall, the best compensation for a selenium deficiency is prevention:Selenium deficiency should not occur in the first place. Sufficient intake works either through supplements or through a daily diet supply. Depending on the soil conditions in the country, you need additives or not. In German-speaking countries, we are usually well supplied. However, we do not come close to the selenium-containing soils of the USA.
So overall, there is a whole range of symptoms. However, these are no guaranteethat there is also a selenium deficiency.
If you belong to the above groups(vegan, indigestion or any of the other factors)or suffer from one or more symptoms, it is definitely recommended to askyour doctor if there is a selenium deficiency.
Overall, a conscious diet or supplementscan prevent a lot here.