Zinc is an essential trace element, only very small amounts of zinc is needed in order to maintain optimal health. 60% of zinc is stored in muscles, 30% in the bones and the remaining 10% is found in the retina of the eye, brain, skin, leukocytes (white blood cells), prostate, sperm and testes. Zinc is not stored for long periods of time in the body, so we need a constant supply from our diet.
Why is zinc so important?
Immunity – Zinc keeps mucous membranes healthy. Your mucous membranes are the first line of defence in your immune system. If you break the integrity of your mucous membranes, you become more susceptible to a variety of diseases. Due to its role in tissue healing, it may also support the integrity of gastrointestinal mucous membranes and improve gut health. Zinc is also a powerful antioxidant, helping to protect cells against oxidative damage.
Skin, hair and nails – Zinc is essential for the formation of collagen, required for the maintenance of healthy skin, hair and nails.
Reproductive health – Zinc is essential for men’s health, such as the maintenance of normal testosterone levels, sperm production and keeping the prostate healthy. Zinc is also needed for the production of estrogen and progesterone in women, which supports reproductive health.
Vision, hearing, taste and smell – Zinc deficiency can interfere with your ability to see, hear, taste and smell. Zinc is also needed by the liver to synthesise vitamin A, which is very important for good eyesight.
Mood and brain health – Zinc can be found in the brain and it has been shown to reduce oxidative damage. Oxidative damage of the brain is linked to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Zinc has a calming effect on the brain and deficiencies can lead to mood disorders. There have also been studies showing zinc benefits children with autism and ADHD.
What can cause a deficiency?
- Phytates found in whole-grains and legumes blind to minerals such as zinc and prevent absorbtion.
- Zinc absorption is reduced by excess iron, copper and calcium.
- Contraceptive pill / antibiotics reduces zinc absorption.
- High perspiration – athletes can lose a lot in sweat.
- Chronic diarrhoea / inflammatory bowel disease and other digestive conditions impair absorption.
- Caffeine and alcohol intake reduce absorption.
- Antacids – Zinc require high levels of stomach acid for it’s absorption, antacids reduce sufficient stomach acid.
- Stress – zinc decreases during times of stress.
- Pyrrole disorder – caused by the overproduction of hydroxyhempyrolin (HPL). The HPL binds to zinc and B6 preventing their use by the body and causing excretion in the urine.
Zinc Deficiency Symptoms include:
- Slow growth and development
- Loss of appetite
- Loss of smell and taste senses
- Rough /pale skin
- Hair loss
- White spots under fingernails
- Brittle nails
- Slow and weak immune system
- Delayed wound healing
- Mood disorders
- Stretch marks (red or purple)
- Pyrrole disorder
Food sources of zinc include:
- Shellfish such as shrimps and crab
- Red meat
- Sunflower and pumpkin seeds
Be aware that too much zinc is also a bad thing. Zinc toxicity symptoms include nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, abdominal cramps, diarrhea and headaches.
Get your levels tested – Zinc tally tests provides a quick, inexpensive and reliable test for the assessment of your zinc status. How does it work? After placing 10 mL of Zinc Tally in the mouth, a lack of taste or a delayed taste perception suggests a possible zinc insufficiency. An immediate taste perception suggests zinc status may be adequate.
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Balch, P.A. (2010). Prescription for Nutritional Healing. Camberwell (Australia): Penguin Group.
Deficiency excess and supplementation – retrieved from URL – https://patient.info/doctor/zinc-deficiency-excess-and-supplementation-pro