ASK DR. H: Extra selenium not recommended

Q: What’s your opinion on taking a selenium supplement? I’ve been taking one for years, but now I’m hearing that it might not be such a good thing. — M.C., Wilkes-Barre, Pa.

A: Beyond the selenium content in food and a multivitamin you might be taking, I would not advise taking any extra selenium.

Although selenium is a known anti-oxidant that had been thought to protect against cancer and heart disease, several recently published studies suggest that too much selenium may actually be harmful. One study published in the Aug. 21 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine showed that people receiving 200 micrograms of selenium daily might have a higher incidence of diabetes. Another recent study from the University of Warwick, England, found that taking too much selenium or consuming too much dietary selenium was associated with an 8 percent rise in total cholesterol and a 10 percent rise in triglycerides and LDL “bad” cholesterol levels.

Q: I have a burning sensation in my mouth when I brush my teeth. I’ve changed toothpaste, but it does no good. I cannot eat spicy or hot foods. My doctor said it’s from a yeast infection in my mouth. He gave me some kind of medicine that I suck on like a lozenge. Could it be from my diabetes medication? — D.H., Waynesfield, Ohio

A: The burning you’re describing is because of irritation of the delicate tissue lining of your mouth. It’s not caused by your diabetes medication; rather, it’s caused by your blood sugar being too high.

This yeast infection, caused by the fungal organism Candida albicans, is also known as thrush. Yeast is normally present in the mouth in numbers too small to be of consequence. Healthy bacteria we have in our mouth keep the fungal population under control, but if there’s some sort of disruption in the balance of things, fungal overgrowth can occur. When blood sugars are too high, there’s more sugar in the saliva. Fungi love sugar and thrive on it like fertilizer. In order to properly treat thrush in a diabetic, blood sugars need to be brought under control.

Thrush is treated with antifungal medicine in the form of lozenges, rinses and pills. To help soothe the raw mouth tissue: Hold low-fat yogurt, cold milk or ice cream in your mouth; use milder children’s toothpaste, because toothpaste irritates the mouth; rinse your mouth with liquid antacid; avoid spicy, hot, salty or vinegar-containing foods; and avoid acidic foods such as citrus and tomatoes.

Dr. Mitchell Hecht is a physician specializing in internal medicine. Send questions to him at: “Ask Dr. H,” P.O. Box 767787, Roswell, GA 30076. Because of the large volume of mail received, personal replies are not possible.

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