Selenium vs Selenomethionine: What's the Difference?
Selenium is an essential (read required) nutrient that your body MUST have.
It's part of several very important pathways that we will talk about in a second.
But what you need to know here is that if you don't have enough selenium in your body then you will suffer symptoms ranging from hair loss to thyroid problems and more.
Not only is it required for optimal health, it's actually fairly common for people to suffer from a deficiency (1), meaning they don't have enough in their body.
This happens because selenium is only found in certain foods and because the selenium content in food has diminished over the last several years due to modern farming techniques (2).
And many people know this, especially those people who have thyroid problems.
Because you can supplement with over the counter selenium to FIX this deficiency and to help you FEEL better.
But here's the deal:
Not all selenium supplements are created equal and some of the supplements which contain 'selenium' have inorganic forms that are not really usable by the body.
So if you are using one of these low quality supplements then you may not be getting the nutrients you think you are which will NOT fix the problem.
Selenomethionine is an organic FORM of selenium which is the same form naturally found in foods that you would normally consume in your diet.
It gets its name because it is found to an amino acid (protein).
Is selenomethionine selenium?
Yes, and no.
Yes because it contains selenium and no because selenium is often used as a broad term to define anything that might ultimately turn into selenium after digestion (even if this process isn't very efficient).
Which brings us to the topic of this article.
Today we are going to discuss:
- The importance of selenium in your body and how supplementing with it can help you feel better
- Symptoms of selenium deficiency and how to know if you should supplement with selenium
- The different types of selenium formulations that over the counter supplements use and why they are not all that great
- How much selenium you should be supplementing with and the best supplement to use
Let's jump in...
What does Selenium do for the Body?
If you are reading this then the chances are high that you are probably already well aware of the importance of selenium in your body.
But let me just remind you of a couple of key points:
Why is selenium so important?
Because it powers a group of enzymes that are selenium dependent (3).
In other words, these enzymes do NOT work unless you have enough selenium in your body.
If you don't, then the enzymes may work but they are only functioning at partial capacity.
What do these enzymes do?
They power the production of important anti-oxidants such as the master antioxidant glutathione.
They help control free radicals in your cells and prevent your own body from damaging itself.
This is why thyroid patients with Hashimoto's like to supplement with selenium, by the way!
If you can provide your body with enough selenium then these enzymes will be able to produce glutathione at 100% which can help reduce inflammation in tissues such as your thyroid gland.
These enzymes also have other important functions such as helping your body produce energy in your mitochondria, help activate thyroid hormone, and more.
The bottom line?
You NEED these enzymes to be functioning at 100% if you want to live a healthy life and you can ensure that they do by ensuring that you have adequate selenium levels in your body.
The Different forms of Selenium Matter
As I mentioned earlier, not all formulations of selenium are created equal.
And the problems with selenium exist with virtually ALL types of natural supplement ingredients as well, by the way.
Here's how it works:
Nutrients, like selenium, can be formulated in such a way that changes what type of carrier they are bound to.
This carrier can either HELP with the absorption and break down of the nutrient or make this process harder.
Why are there so many versions of these ingredients like selenium?
Well, the short answer is money.
It costs more money to bind selenium to naturally occurring substances than it does to take an inorganic form and throw it in a supplement and call it a day.
But if you aren't someone who understands this difference you may be buying a cheaper supplement that doesn't actually work very well.
When it comes to selenium you want to look for a selenium supplement that contains selenomethionine as the SOURCE of the selenium.
Other formulations that are ideal include selenium glycinate complex.
This form of selenium is an ORGANIC form of selenium and contains selenium in the exact same form as it is naturally found in food.
Consuming selenomethionine is like getting your selenium from a natural source such as a brazil nut but sans the other ingredients.
This organic form of selenium is more absorbable and usable by the body (4).
The form that you want to avoid is selenium in the form of selenite.
Selenite is an INORGANIC form of selenium which is more difficult to absorb and utilize by the body.
It also happens to be cheaper so typically the cheaper the supplement the more likely it is to contain this type of selenium.
Also, be sure to watch out for people who combine both selenomethionine and selenite into a 'complex'.
If they don't disclose what percentage of the selenium is selenomethionine and which is selenite then you may be getting a supplement which is 95% selenite and 5% selenomethionine.
It's obviously better than getting 100% selenite but it is still not what you want.
Signs You May Need to Supplement with Selenomethionine
How do you know if you need to use selenium?
It's actually fairly easy to tell, and also very safe to supplement with (as long as you follow a few important directions).
It's far better to look at your SYMPTOMS instead of serum lab values when it comes to diagnosing selenium deficiency.
Even though some lab companies may have tests available for selenium and other micronutrients does not mean that these are accurate nor should you pretend that they are.
It's incredibly difficult to assess nutrient deficiencies in the body because these nutrients are primarily found INSIDE of your cells.
And when you get a blood draw guess what you are checking?
Not the amount of nutrients in your cells but the amount of nutrients floating around in your bloodstream.
You can make inferences on what that means for your cells but I find these inferences to be hit or miss and often very inaccurate.
A better way to determine if you have a deficiency is to simply take a look at your symptoms, your diet, and your lifestyle.
Are you consuming foods that are naturally high in selenium?
Are you consuming foods that are naturally high in nutrients such as whole foods (on a DAILY basis) or supplements fortified with selenium?
Are you experiencing any of the symptoms of selenium deficiency?
Answering these questions will be far more useful than looking at your blood selenium level.
If you are NOT consuming a whole food diet with foods naturally high in selenium AND you find that you have some of the symptoms of selenium deficiency (which we are about to discuss) then supplementing with selenium is probably a good idea.
And, as long as you do it correctly, there's virtually no risk involved.
How can you tell if you are selenium deficient?
These are the most COMMON symptoms of selenium deficiency:
- Hair loss or changes to hair quality and texture
- Thyroid dysfunction of ANY type including problems with T4 to T3 conversion and a diagnosis of Hashimoto's thyroiditis
- A weakened immune system or susceptibility to colds and viruses
- A lack of energy or fatigue
- Low serum free thyroid hormone lab tests (low free T3 and low free T4)
- Elevated serum iron
- A history of other mineral deficiencies such as magnesium, calcium, iron, copper, or zinc (if you have a deficiency in one you most likely have a deficiency in the others as well)
How to Supplement with Selenomethionine and Where to Get it
Getting selenomethionine is easy, understanding how to dose it correctly is the slightly harder part.
It turns out that it is possible to take TOO much selenium and doing so may worsen the very symptoms you are trying to treat.
And you can't really trust the RDA when it comes to supplementing with selenium.
It's set so low as to be unhelpful for the majority of people.
Instead, you have to go off of other information.
It's been shown that consuming up to 400mcg of selenomethionine each day is a safe dose.
It's when you start to exceed this 400mcg dose that you can get into trouble.
And dosing anything less than 50mcg per day is probably not likely to cause any benefit as that dose is simply too small.
I recommend trying to find a dose somewhere in the 50 mcg to 150 mcg dose range.
This will ensure that you are getting ENOUGH (more than the RDA which is set around 50mcg per day) but far enough away from the high end at 400mcg per day which can cause issues for some people.
This dosing range also leaves room for any extra selenium that you may get from your diet or other supplements.
Because let's get real for a minute, you should be trying to eat as healthy as possible and by doing so you will naturally get your selenium from your diet.
Selenium is an incredibly important nutrient that plays a pivotal role in helping to manage and regulate specific enzymes in your body.
Because many people are deficient in selenium it's often a great idea to consider supplementation.
But when you consider supplementation make sure you find the BEST source and form of selenium.
That form is selenomethionine.
It's the most usable form by the body and it happens to be organic and in the same state as selenium you would find from your diet.
When taking selenium, make sure you find a supplement that contains this formulation and use a dose of around 50mcg to 200mcg per DAY.
Now I want to hear from you:
Are you currently taking selenomethionine?
If not, what type of selenium are you taking?
Did you know that there was a difference in the types of selenium on the market and that some are better than others?
Do you have any of the symptoms of selenium deficiency?
Leave your questions or comments below!
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