Did you know that you need selenium to survive? If not, you are not alone. Many people do not know anything about its importance. In part, that's because it wasn't until the late 1950s that the importance of selenium was discovered. Since then, nutritionists, doctors and biochemists have been working on further research into the trace element. Because it is present in all of our cells and is therefore extremely important, you can now get all the important information about selenium from us.
Functions of selenium in our body
Since selenium is found everywhere in the body, it naturally has a major impact on our health. It is essential for a strong immune system in particular, because it is responsible for the enzymes in our body remaining functional. These fight free radicals, which are the main reason for a weak immune system. Nowadays we know that oxidative stress is partly responsible for cell damage and degenerated cells and can thus contribute to the development of tumor cells. It is all the more important to maintain our antioxidant defense systems.
Especially because in many metabolic processes there are additional radicals and can damage the cells. So selenium can be called an indirect antioxidant because it helps to avoid damage to immune cells and chronic diseases. In addition, it essentially supports our immune system in fighting viruses and bacteria. So we not only need enough vitamins for a good immune system, but also selenium. It also plays a major role in male fertility, since it is involved as a building block in sperm formation and also protects existing sperm from free radicals.
Another important function of selenium can be found in the hormonal balance, more precisely in the thyroid. Here, too, certain enzymes are required so that the organ can form hormones such as thyroxine. These enzymes are also dependent on a good selenium supply. Thyroid hormones are involved in many essential activities in our body. These include the following:
- Heart activity and blood pressure
- Energy metabolism
- Carbohydrate metabolism and insulin production
- Fat and protein metabolism and cholesterol levels
- Brain activity, psyche
- Muscle metabolism and strength
- Bowel activity and digestion
- but also growth and maturation of unborn babies and children
In addition, a supply of selenium can help heart attack patients to prevent new infarcts, since their selenium concentration in the blood is too low.
As you can see, the entire organism is dependent on selenium and its influence on various enzymes.
What happens if you have a selenium deficiency?
As already described, sufficient selenium intake is essential for your immune system. If you do not consume enough of the trace element for a long time, this has an adverse effect on your overall health. Your body will no longer be able to ward off harmful external influences, and the proper functioning of your muscles will also suffer. In addition to a high susceptibility to infections, white spots on fingernails, thinning hair and anemia are the first symptoms of selenium deficiency.
Dr. describes the influence on the thyroid gland Lunow, internist and head of the Bornheim practice as follows: “If there is too little selenium, this metabolism gets mixed up and too little T3 is formed. The thyroid gland is underactive, known as hypothyroidism. All metabolic processes are slowed down and many biological processes are negatively affected. "
In the long run, an undersupply can also have serious consequences, because by participating in almost all processes and cells in the body, the permanent absence of selenium means damage to the entire organism. If the body is not protected against free radicals, liver damage, nerve damage and heart muscle diseases can occur. A deficiency of selenium also poses a great danger due to the possibly changing cells, because tumors can develop from it and thus the risk of prostate, ovarian, colon, breast and lung cancer is increased. A consistently good selenium intake is therefore essential for a healthy life.
How can I meet my selenium needs?
Did you know that we can only get selenium through food? That is why we should pay attention to a healthy and varied diet. Selenium occurs mainly in the soil and thus gets into plants and from there also into animals and humans. And this is exactly the crux of the matter: The soils in Germany and Europe in general are relatively low in selenium. African and Asian soils contain even less, but the soil on the American continent is particularly rich in selenium. Accordingly, the selenium content in plants is extremely dependent on the growing region. There are quite a few plants that can greatly enrich selenium, such as broccoli, white cabbage, asparagus and various legumes. But to cover the recommended daily amount of selenium (according to the German Nutrition Society this is 70 µg per day for men and 60 µg per day for women), this is usually not enough.
This is also a reason why selenium is added to animal feed in the EU. As a result, animal foods such as meat, eggs, dairy products, farmed fish and also seafood are a reliable source of selenium. Especially if you otherwise use German or European food. It is not uncommon for vegetarians and especially vegans to have too low a selenium concentration in their blood. Therefore, you and people with a very one-sided diet are often recommended to take additional selenium through food supplements. If you eat a varied diet, the likelihood of a deficiency is rather low.
However, other groups of the population who experience a lower intake or a higher loss of the trace element due to health reasons should take the appropriate supplement in consultation with their doctor. These include, for example, people with eating disorders, chronic inflammation and dialysis patients. Heavy bleeding, severe burns and alcoholism can also increase the risk of selenium deficiency.
So if you belong to one of these "risk groups" or suffer from the deficiency symptoms described above, have a doctor check you as a precaution.
We wish you continued best health
Your Sanhelios team