Our body needs seleniumto function normally. In the right amount, the trace element is therefore an important part of a balanced and healthy diet. Still, a selenium overdose can be quite problematic. After all, depending on the degree and duration of the overdose, symptoms range from physical exhaustion to neurological problems.
But why can a selenium overdose occur at all?
By what symptoms do you recognize them?
What are the consequences of an overdose with selenium and how can you avoid them?
We have summarized the answers to these and other questions about selenium overdose for you here.
Why does selenium overdose occur?
As already mentioned, selenium is vital for us. The nutrient is used for numerous functions in the body and guarantees that they run normally. These include, for example, the functions of the immune system,the preservation of hair and nails and also the protection of cells from free radicals.
Since selenium cannot be produced in the body itself, we need to absorb it through diet. So far so good. But unfortunately it’s not quite that simple: Selenium has a highly toxic effect in increased concentrations.
In addition, the difference between a too low selenium dosage, which can trigger a deficiency, and an overdose with the trace element is very small.
For example, even the regular use of certain nuts can lead to a slight selenium poisoning: The actually healthy Brazil nuts are considered selenium bombs par excellence. On the one hand, this makes them a healthy alternative to selenium from animal products. On the other hand, snacking too often can also end in an overdose with selenium. Apart from selenium, you should not eat too many Brazil nuts anyway. The nuts are also relatively susceptible to toxins from mold and are good at storing radioactive radiation from nature.
In addition to nutrition, incorrectly taken selenium supplements can also be responsible for an overdose. Therefore, always make sure not to exceed the selenium limits for daily intake.
When does one speak of a selenium overdose?
As a rule, women need a little less selenium than men, but pregnant women need a little more.
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) mentions ~300 μg selenium per dayas the upper limit for safe intake for adults, which is already a multiple of the daily requirement. If you regularly get over this value, you may experience symptoms of a selenium overdose over time.
Likewise, acute selenium poisoning can also occur. However, this only happens with much higher amounts, such as taking 3-7 mg of selenium in a day.
These are the symptoms of an overdose with selenium
A selenium overdose can lead to selenium poisoning or selenosis. Pay attention to the following symptoms:
- Fatigue and fatigue
- Itching, tingling or numbness on the skin
- Hair loss and loss of nails
- Skin redness
In the case of acute poisoning with a large amount of selenium, this can even be life-threatening.
How do these symptoms occur?
The exact reasons why an overdose with selenium leads to these symptoms is still not fully understood. However, it is assumed that these consequences of selenosis do not happen through a single mechanism in the body. Rather, it is probably a series of processes in the organism that together trigger the symptoms.
Selenium, after all, is involved in a whole host of processes in the body. A disruption in the supply, whether due to deficiency or overdose, quickly shakes this balance.
Does a small overdose already have side effects?
If you exceed the daily upper limit for intake once by a few micrograms, this is not a problem. Only with long-term excessive intake do the first symptoms appear.
From the list above, it is mainly nausea, diarrhea, fatigue and muscle weaknessthat can occur in this case.
Too much of a good thing: the consequences of an overdose with selenium
Currently, there is no known therapy for the treatment of selenium poisoning. As a rule, however, a reduction in the absorbed selenium over time leads to the subsidence of the symptoms, as the trace element is naturally excreted by the body.
If the doctor detects a slight selenosis, there is usually no choice but to wait until the body compensates for the imbalance in the nutrient balance by itself. If the values are in order again, this usually has no lasting health consequences.
The topic of selenium continues to be eagerly researched in medicine, as not all questions have been clarified yet. The consequences of a long-lasting selenium overdose, for example, are simply not yet sufficiently known. However, there is evidence that a long-term overdose can also lead to chronic cardiovascular disease.
The dose makes the poison: How to avoid a selenium overdose
So we now know that we need selenium and that too much of it can be harmful. But what is the best way to avoid an overdose?
On the one hand, you should be careful with your diet and not regularly consume Brazil nuts, which contain a lot of selenium, in large quantities. Also due to other pollutants contained, the general recommendation is not to eat more than two Brazil nuts per day.
In addition to the diet, discipline is required in connection with selenium but also with supplements. Above all, be careful not to take too high doses of selenium on a regular basis. As a guideline for the still safe maximum dose, the above-mentioned 300 μg selenium per day for adults. If you do not have acute deficiency symptoms, it is better to keep the selenium dosage lower in case of doubt. If you take dietary supplements, you can also take a selenium tablet or capsule every other day.
At the latest with the first symptoms of a selenium overdose, such as nausea or muscle weakness, you should interrupt the intake or at least reduce the dose.
In general, as always, observe the information on how to take it on the packaging and refer to the advice of your doctor if you have any questions. If you then listen to your body, you usually do not have to worry about a selenium overdose.