Despite following a healthy Paleo Diet, if not enough attention is paid to getting a wide variety of different foods, deficiencies are still possible. I've been looking into a number of the more common deficiencies to understand how to tweak your Paleo diet to ensure deficiencies don’t occur. This week, I've been looking into Selenium.
What is Selenium?
It is a trace mineral that is only needed in small amounts but it is essential for good health. Some of the functions selenium performs include helping regulate the thyroid gland, assisting the immune system and protecting our cells from the damage caused by free radicals. In dietary terms the selenium content of plant foods are proportionate to the soil concentration of selenium where the food was grown.
These days severe selenium deficiency in adults is very rare, particularly when following a healthy Paleo diet, but minor deficiencies do occur and that can have some rather unpleasant effects on our health.
Some of the selenium deficiency symptoms include polyneuropathy and muscle damage that can look a lot like the side effects of statins. Selenium supports the synthesis of the thyroid hormone and is needed for the conversion of the T4 thyroid hormone into the active T3 hormone. As a result deficiency can look like hypothyroidism.
So, how do you become Selenium deficient?
It can be as simple as just not eating enough Selenium rich foods, or if you suffer from an intestinal disorder such as Celiac, Chron’s disease or an ulcerative colitis these can all reduce the body’s absorption of selenium from foods. While deficiency does not cause those illnesses it can make the body more susceptible to illnesses caused by biochemical or infectious stress due to the role selenium plays in the immune system.
It can also be due to a lack of selenium in the soil where your food has been grown. Just like other minerals, it must be in the soil or it won’t be present in the food grown in the soil.
Where can you get it from, in keeping with the Paleo diet?
You can find good sources of selenium in lamb, turkey, prawns, salmon, cod, crimini and shiitake mushrooms, kidney’s, egg yolks and halibut.
Keeping your thyroid healthy is important with many people dealing with thyroid conditions such as hypothyroidism. There have been many research studies that have shown the benefits of selenium supplements when treating some thyroid conditions. One such study has found that selenium supplements have reduced the inflammation damage to the thyroid tissues. While studies have shown that selenium supplements can help prevent thyroid tissue damage there is more research needed to determine the long-term effects.
Making sure that your selenium intake is at its peak may give both your thyroid and immune system that little boost it needs to help function better. Whether you use supplements or include more selenium-rich foods in your diet it is important for those who are managing a thyroid condition to make sure their selenium intake is adequate.
As important as it is not to be deficient, it’s also important not to go over board. Over increasing your intake of selenium over long periods of time can lead to complications including garlic breath odour, hair loss, mild nerve damage, gastrointestinal upsets, white blotchy nails, irritability and fatigue.
The best option is to include selenium rich foods in your diet. While high in omega-6 fats it takes just a couple of Brazil nuts a day to boost your immune function and improve the amount of selenium in your diet.
Have you given much consideration to your Selenium intake? Which minerals and vitamins are you most concerned about, in your Paleo diet?