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Selenium is a trace mineral found in soil and food. It is an important antioxidant, which means it helps prevent harmful chemical reactions from occurring in the body's cells. Protected cells are better able to fight off diseases, including heart disease, cancer, and disorders associated with aging.
Most of us do not get enough selenium from food. When our selenium levels are low, we run a higher risk of getting a variety of illnesses because our immune systems may be sluggish and toxins build up in the blood.
If you need to add selenium to your diet, your health care provider will probably suggest that you take a selenium supplement in combination with vitamin E. Research shows that selenium taken together with vitamin E promotes overall health and prevents or treats many diseases.
Selenium cures Keshan disease, a serious heart disorder common to women and children in China, where the farmland lacks minerals. However, clinical studies conclude that selenium also protects the body from more common illnesses, including the following.
Selenium also helps with the following.
Much of your selenium comes from dietary sources. Brewer's yeast and wheat germ, liver, butter, fish and shellfish, garlic, grains, sunflower seeds, and Brazil nuts are all good sources of selenium. It's also found in alfalfa, burdock root, catnip, fennel seed, ginseng, raspberry leaf, and yarrow.
Selenium is destroyed when foods are refined or processed. You should try eating a wide variety of whole, unprocessed foods. This means eating foods in their original state, not canned, frozen, or commercially prepared.
Your health care provider may recommend that you add selenium to your diet. You can do this by taking a vitamin-mineral supplement, a nutritional antioxidant formula, or a separate supplement. Selenium is also available in nutritional yeast.
How to Take It
Clinical trials suggest that you take 50 to 200 mcg of selenium daily to see real benefits. Men need at least 70 mcg daily; women at least 55 mcg. Pregnant and nursing mothers' needs increase to 65 to 75 mcg daily. Researchers say that most of us need to take more than 100 mcg of selenium supplements daily to see improvements in disease resistance and overall health.
As with all medicines and supplements, check with a health care provider before giving selenium supplements to a child.
Take selenium with vitamin E daily for best results. Ask your health care provider to recommend an appropriate dose. (200 to 400 mcg of selenium daily taken with 200 IUs of vitamin E is typical.)
Do not take vitamin C with selenium because it may make the selenium less effective and, possibly, more toxic.
Selenium is usually not toxic. However, high doses (more than 1,000 mcg a day) over time may produce fatigue, arthritis, hair or fingernail loss, garlicky breath or body odor, gastrointestinal disorders, or irritability. Researchers have also discovered high levels of selenium in children with behavioral problems.
No harmful drug interactions have been reported.
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