Micronutrients, as opposed to macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates and fat), are comprised of vitamins and minerals which are required in small quantities to ensure normal metabolism, growth and physical wellbeing. VITAMINS are essential organic nutrients, most of which are not made in the body, or only in insufficient amounts, and usually must be obtained through food. When dietary intake of a vitamin is inadequate, deficiency disorders result. Although vitamins are only present and required in minute quantities, compared to macronutrients, they are just as vital to health and need to be considered in the context of nutrition quality. MINERALS are inorganic nutrients that help your body grow, develop, and stay healthy. The body uses minerals to perform many different functions — from building strong bones to transmitting nerve impulses. Some minerals are even used to make hormones or maintain a normal heartbeat.
Your genetics, aging, lifestyle, chronic illness, and medications all affect your cellular nutrient absorption. No single food contains all of the vitamins and minerals we need and, therefore, a balanced and varied diet is necessary for an adequate intake of all micronutrients.
Unfortunately, conventional doctors do not test our nutrition levels except for Vitamin D and/or calcium, but do you know your selenium level? Selenium is the most efficient antioxidant and is found at the subcellular level in the glutathione peroxidase enzyme system and metallo amino acids (selenomethionine, etc.). Selenium prevents body fats from going rancid (seen externally as “age spots” or “liver spots”). Selenium also functions to protect cellular and organelle bi-lipid layer membranes from oxidative damage. High intakes of vegetable oils including salad dressing, margarine and cooking oils concurrent with a selenium deficiency is the quickest route to a heart attack and cancer.
There are a number of diseases associated with selenium deficiency, but the most common selenium deficiency symptoms are listed below.
- Hair loss, fatigue, weight gain from thyroid problems: Selenium helps convert your T4 thyroid hormone into the more active form called T3. If you run low, you may suffer from symptoms of hypothyroidism, such as fatigue, weight gain, and hair loss. This typically happens in combination with an iodine deficiency.
- Infertility from reproductive system: Many studies have addressed correlations between its intake and fertility as well as disorders of procreation processes. Selenium deficiencies may lead to gestational complications, miscarriages and the damaging of the nervous and immune systems of the fetus. A low concentration of selenium in blood serum in the early stage of pregnancy has been proved to be a predictor of low birth weight of a newborn. A deficiency of this element may also cause infertility in men by causing a deterioration in the quality of semen and in sperm motility.
- Muscle pain and weakness: The cause of these symptoms seems to be related to the influence that selenium has on mitochondrial function within muscle tissue. If selenium is deficient then mitochondrial energy production may be limited in skeletal tissues which may then present with pain. But what’s more interesting is that not all patients with selenium deficiency experience muscle weakness and muscle pain. It’s not clear why this is but it may be related to other cofactors that you may be dealing with such as chronic illness, chronic viral infections and so forth. Patients who fit into these categories seem to experience muscle pain with a higher frequency than those without them.
As I mentioned above, Selenium is a powerful antioxidant that helps defend the body from chronic diseases, such as heart disease and cancer. It also enhances immune function and helps prevent mental decline and improve memory loss in people with Alzheimer’s disease. However, please don’t take a selenium supplement unless your doctor recommends it because long term consumption of high doses of selenium can lead to complications such as gastrointestinal upsets, hair loss, white blotchy nails, garlic breath odor, fatigue, irritability, and mild nerve damage.
The focus is a balanced nutrition and each one of us has a different nutritional absorption. There are, in fact, lots of things that influence what percentage of vitamins and minerals are absorbed, such as the other foods you eat at the same meal, how they are prepared, drugs or supplements you may be taking, even your age and the time of day. Your digestive function, stress level, and how much exercise you do also affects your absorption Taking all of these into account, you might absorb anywhere from 10 to 90% of a given nutrient from a given food. So it is very important to pay attention to your mood and energy level and monitor your nutritional level with health professionals.