Selenium is a trace mineral, which means that it is needed in only small amounts. It is beneficial for the heart, soothes arthritis, and helps to prevent cancer. Taking selenium supplements in large amounts or for a prolonged period of time, however, can have adverse affects and cause selenium side effects to surface. Some of these selenium side effects include organ damage, hair loss, and fatigue. Another reason to be cautious around selenium is that it can interact with certain medications, such as anticoagulants and statin drugs.
Dietary sources for selenium include fish, meats, and many plant-based foods that have been grown in selenium-rich soil. Selenium supplements are often recommended for those who suffer from deficiencies. In many cases, it is also recommended for heart problems and to help reduce the side effects of chemotherapy treatments. To avoid selenium side effects, the supplements should not be taken on a long-term basis, and doses should not exceed 400 micrograms per day.
Selenosis is one of the common selenium side effects. It is a condition wherein the selenium builds up in the blood and causes fatigue, irritability, and possible damage to the nerves. Selenium side effects often resemble those of arsenic poisoning, which can include symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and an odorous garlic breath. Other symptoms can result in hair loss, inflamed nails, and white lines on the nails.
Although selenium can help to prevent cancer and reduce the side effects of chemotherapy treatment, it has been noted to increase the risk of dying from cancer as well. There is also evidence to suggest that selenium might increase the risk of recurring skin cancer. As a result of this evidence, those who have had skin cancer in the past should refrain from taking extra selenium.
Excess amounts of selenium can affect the muscles and cause them to become sore and tender. In some cases, selenium side effects can also cause damage to the organs, such as the kidneys and liver. Long-term use of selenium supplements has been linked to an increased risk of type II diabetes and infertility in men.
Precautions should always be taken when taking selenium with other medications or supplements. It has been shown to reduce the absorption of zinc, which is an important mineral for good health. Selenium should not be taken in conjunction with anticoagulants, such as warfarin and heparin, because they have similar effects and can be dangerous when both are taken at the same time. When taking selenium with other vitamins, such as A, C, and E, it can interfere with niacin. Niacin helps to increase the production of high-density lipoprotein, which is the good cholesterol that helps to eliminate the bad cholesterol.