selenium deficiency

Selenium Deficiency Symptoms and Causes – Are You Deficient?

Selenium Deficiency: Causes And Symptoms

Feeling run down and not sure why? Selenium, a vital trace mineral for your health, could be missing. Discover the signs of low selenium levels and learn how to avoid deficiency with simple diet changes.

Read on; better well-being might be a few bites away.

Key Takeaways

  • Selenium is a mineral your body needs for good health. It helps protect against damage from free radicals, keeps your thyroid working properly, and supports your immune system.
  • Not having enough selenium can cause hair loss, make you feel weak or tired, lower how well you fight off sicknesses, hurt how well you think and remember things, and mess up your thyroid’s work.
  • If the soil where food grows doesn’t have much selenium or someone has health problems like Crohn’s disease that make it hard to take in nutrients from food, they might not get enough of this important mineral. People with HIV or those who are on kidney dialysis also need to watch out for low selenium levels.
  • Eating foods like nuts, seafood, meat, and eggs or taking a supplement can help fix low levels of selenium, but be careful not to get too much because it can harm your body.
  • Talk to doctors about the right amount of selenium for you, especially if you live in an area with less selenium in the ground or if you have certain illnesses that could lead to a deficiency.

What is Selenium?

Selenium is a trace mineral your body needs to stay healthy. It plays a key role in metabolism and thyroid function, helping to produce thyroid hormones. This mineral acts like an antioxidant, which means it fights damage from harmful particles called free radicals.

Your brain and immune system also need selenium to work their best.

You don’t need much selenium; small amounts keep you in good shape. Foods like nuts, seafood, meat, eggs, and some grains are great sources of selenium. Soil has selenium, too, so the food can vary depending on where it’s grown or raised.

Causes of Selenium Deficiency

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Selenium deficiency can occur due to limited intake or absorption of selenium, living in regions with low soil selenium content, undergoing kidney dialysis, and living with HIV. These factors can contribute to a decreased supply of this essential mineral in the body, leading to potential health issues.

Limited intake or absorption

Your body needs a little selenium every day to stay healthy. If you don’t get enough from your food, you might have problems like weak muscles and hair falling out. Some people don’t eat enough foods that are high in selenium.

Others may eat enough, but their bodies can’t take it in well. This could happen if they have a health problem like Crohn’s disease, making it hard for their gut to absorb nutrients.

Eating foods with more selenium, like nuts, meat, and fish, can help. If you also get enough vitamin E from things like nuts and green veggies, it helps your body use the selenium better.

But be careful not to eat too much because it’s possible to get too much selenium, which can cause other health issues.

Living in selenium-deficient regions

People living in places where the soil has low levels of selenium face a bigger risk of not getting enough. The amount of selenium in foods can depend greatly on how much is in the soil where plants grow or where animals graze.

If you eat mostly foods from an area with little selenium, your body might not get what it needs for strong health.

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In some parts of the world, like certain areas in China, this problem is very serious. Diseases linked to not having enough selenium are more common there. Keshan disease, which hurts the heart and can be deadly, happens often in these low-selenium spots.

To stay healthy, people need to find good sources of selenium or think about taking supplements if they’re at risk for deficiency.

Undergoing kidney dialysis

Patients undergoing kidney dialysis are at high risk for selenium deficiency as the dialysis process removes selenium from the body. This can lead to various health issues due to low selenium levels, an essential trace element.

End-stage renal disease (ESRD) patients commonly experience trace element deficiency, including selenium, because their bodies lose it during dialysis. Hence, selenium supplementation may benefit these patients to prevent deficiencies and associated health problems.

Selenium is crucial in maintaining overall health, and its deficiency can exacerbate existing medical conditions. Therefore, individuals undergoing kidney dialysis should be aware of the potential risk of selenium deficiency and consider discussing supplementation with their healthcare providers to ensure they receive adequate amounts of this vital nutrient.

Living with HIV

HIV infection is linked to lower levels of selenium in the blood, which can lead to a deficiency. Nutritional deficiencies are common in people living with HIV, contributing to low selenium levels.

Selenium supplementation is recommended for those with HIV to address this deficiency and support overall health.

People living with HIV may experience reduced selenium levels due to the infection and associated nutritional challenges. Incorporating selenium-rich foods into the diet or taking supplements can help address this deficiency and support better health outcomes for individuals managing HIV.

Symptoms of Selenium Deficiency

Hair loss, weakness and fatigue, reduced immune function, cognitive decline, and thyroid dysfunction are common symptoms of selenium deficiency that individuals should be aware of.

These symptoms can have a significant impact on overall health and well-being.

Hair loss

Selenium deficiency can lead to hair loss and brittle hair. It’s an essential mineral for maintaining healthy hair follicles, and low selenium levels may contribute to hair thinning or loss.

Adequate selenium intake supports the production of enzymes that combat oxidative stress, which can help protect your hair from damage. Chronic high selenium intake, on the other hand, might also result in adverse effects such as hair loss.

Ensuring sufficient selenium levels through a balanced diet with foods like Brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, fish, and eggs can support overall health and potentially prevent hair loss associated with selenium deficiency.

Weakness and fatigue

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Weakness and fatigue are common symptoms of selenium deficiency. When the body lacks enough selenium, it can affect how food gets turned into energy. This impacts metabolism and can lead to feelings of tiredness and weakness.

Moreover, muscle weakness is often associated with moderate selenium deficiency, further contributing to fatigue. In addition, selenium plays a crucial role in supporting the immune system; thus, its deficiency may weaken the body’s ability to fight off illnesses, making individuals more susceptible to feeling run down or fatigued.

In conclusion, when there isn’t enough selenium in your body, it can lead to weakness and fatigue due to its impact on energy production and metabolism. Additionally, muscle weakness is often linked with moderate selenium deficiency while weakening the immune system—setting the stage for increased susceptibility to illness.

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Reduced immune function

Selenium deficiency can weaken the immune system, making it harder for the body to fight infections. This can lead to increased susceptibility to illnesses and longer recovery times.

Selenium plays a vital role in supporting the proper functioning of immune cells, and its deficiency may compromise the body’s ability to respond effectively to pathogens, exacerbating the risk of falling ill.

Low selenium levels may hinder immune cell activation, proliferation, and differentiation. These crucial functions help the body mount an effective defense against invading microorganisms.

Cognitive decline

Selenium deficiency has been linked to cognitive decline, potentially impacting brain health and function. Research suggests that maintaining adequate selenium levels is crucial for promoting cognitive functioning.

Low selenium status has shown a notable effect on cognitive function, emphasizing the significance of addressing selenium deficiency to prevent potential declines in mental acuity.

Studies have discovered widespread selenium deficiencies in the brains of individuals with certain health conditions, underscoring the vital role of selenium in supporting cognitive function and overall brain health.

Thyroid dysfunction

Thyroid dysfunction is closely linked to selenium deficiency. Inadequate selenium can contribute to various thyroid conditions, including Hashimoto’s disease and Graves’ disease. People with these conditions, as well as thyroid cancer and nodules, especially benefit from maintaining adequate selenium levels.

Research has shown that mild iodine deficiency alongside sufficient selenium intake does not cause thyroid issues due to the administration of selenium supplements.

A case study demonstrated hypothyroidism caused solely by a lack of selenium, highlighting the critical role of this mineral in thyroid health. Ensuring sufficient daily selenium intake through diet or supplementation is pivotal for supporting optimal thyroid function and preventing associated conditions.

Treatment and Prevention of Selenium Deficiency

Consuming selenium-rich foods and taking selenium supplements effectively treat and prevent selenium deficiency. It is also important to monitor for side effects, manage underlying medical conditions, and educate patients on the importance of selenium in their diet.

Consuming selenium-rich foods

Selenium is a vital mineral found in certain foods. Including selenium-rich foods like Brazil nuts, seafood, organ meats, and whole grains can help address selenium deficiency.

These foods provide the body with essential selenium for good heart health and well-being.

Ensuring adequate consumption of these selenium-rich foods may be a first-line treatment to combat selenium deficiency. Incorporating them into your regular diet can effectively boost your selenium levels and promote better health.

Taking selenium supplements

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Selenium supplements can help prevent or treat thyroid disease, supporting the production of thyroid hormones. However, it’s crucial to consult with a doctor before starting selenium supplements as they might be linked to an increased risk of skin cancer.

Monitoring for side effects and managing underlying medical conditions are important when considering selenium supplementation. Consuming selenium-rich foods is also an effective way to maintain adequate levels of this essential mineral in the body.

It’s essential to consider the potential risks and benefits of selenium supplements and seek professional advice before incorporating them into your daily routine. A balanced approach that includes dietary sources of selenium can contribute to overall health without unnecessary risks associated with supplementation.

Monitoring for side effects

Keep a close eye on any possible side effects of taking selenium supplements. High intake can lead to issues like garlicky breath, fatigue, gastrointestinal symptoms, lines on the nails, and hair loss.

When using these supplements, it’s crucial to be vigilant about potential toxicity symptoms. Also, conducting more research to fully understand the impact of selenium supplements on health and disease risk is important.

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Monitoring for mental health outcomes is also essential in individuals with low selenium levels.

Managing underlying medical conditions

To manage underlying medical conditions that may contribute to selenium deficiency, working closely with healthcare professionals is essential. Conditions like HIV, kidney dialysis, or severe gastrointestinal problems can impact selenium absorption and utilization in the body.

Ensuring proper management of these medical issues through medication adherence, regular check-ups, and appropriate lifestyle adjustments can help mitigate the risk of selenium deficiency.

Additionally, individuals undergoing bariatric surgery should receive guidance from their healthcare team on maintaining adequate nutrient levels post-surgery to reduce the likelihood of developing deficiencies.

Educating patients on the importance of selenium in their diet

Patients, it’s crucial to understand the significance of selenium in your diet. Selenium is vital in various bodily functions and can help prevent deficiency-related symptoms such as hair loss, weakness, and reduced immune function.

You can increase your intake of selenium-rich foods like Brazil nuts and seafood. However, be mindful that excessive selenium intake may lead to health issues, too.

Hence, it’s essential to strike a balance and ensure adequate levels of this essential mineral for overall well-being.

Selenium is needed for heart health as low levels can contribute to heart failure and worsen atherosclerosis. This emphasizes the importance of incorporating selenium into your diet.

Additionally, educating patients on potential health problems associated with chronic high intake of selenium is important, as an excess amount might lead to muscle tremors or stomach upset.


Q: What is selenium deficiency?

A: Selenium deficiency occurs when the body has inadequate selenium levels, an essential mineral that must be obtained through the diet.

Q: What are the causes of selenium deficiency?

A: Selenium deficiency can be caused by a diet low in selenium, poor absorption of selenium due to certain health conditions, or cases of parenteral nutrition without selenium supplementation.

Q: What are the dietary sources of selenium?

A: The primary dietary sources of selenium include seafood, organ meats, Brazil nuts, and grains grown in selenium-rich soil.

Q: What are the symptoms of selenium deficiency?

A: Selenium deficiency can cause symptoms such as fatigue, muscle weakness, hair loss, and a weakened immune system. In severe cases, it may lead to cardiomyopathy.

Q: What is the recommended selenium intake per day?

A: The recommended dietary intake of selenium for adults is around 55 micrograms per day.

Q: Can selenium deficiency lead to cardiomyopathy?

A: Yes, severe selenium deficiency can lead to cardiomyopathy, a condition that affects the heart muscle and can result in heart failure.

Q: How does selenium affect cardiovascular health?

A: Selenium is essential for cardiovascular health as it produces selenoproteins, including glutathione peroxidase, which helps protect against oxidative damage to the cardiovascular system.

Q: What are the signs and symptoms of selenium deficiency?

A: The signs and symptoms of selenium deficiency can include muscle pain and weakness, discoloration of the hair and skin, and, in severe cases, heart problems.

Q: Can selenium deficiency be addressed through supplementation?

A: In cases of confirmed selenium deficiency, using selenium supplements or increasing dietary intake of selenium-rich foods may help address the deficiency.

Q: Is selenium deficiency a common issue?

A: Selenium deficiency is a concern in many parts of the world, and an estimated 1 billion people may be at risk of inadequate selenium intake.