Zinc is a mineral which plays many vital roles in our bodies. Because our bodies don’t naturally produce zinc, we must obtain it through food or supplements if we want to have great health. Zinc is involved in over 300 enzymatic reactions within the body that aid in metabolism, digestion, it’s crucial for normal growth, DNA synthesis, cell division, tissue repair, nerve function, hormonal health, wound healing and helps keep the immune system strong, making it a key nutrient to boost in your diet during the winter months. Zinc deficiency is something I’m coming across more and more often in clinic. Zinc is present in every cell of our bodies which is why it’s important to make sure you’re consuming this mineral day for great health.
The Low Down on Zinc Deficiency
Immune related disorders are one of the most common health problems in today’s world. While it may be common, it’s not normal to be constantly suffering from colds and infections; it’s a sign that your immune system needs a little bit of extra loving. Inadequate dietary intake, increased physiological needs, a diet high in sugar or alcohol and profuse sweating are common causes of zinc deficiency. Following a vegetarian or vegan diet can also result a zinc deficiency.
How To Determine If You’re Deficient
You can ask your doctor for a blood test or self-prescribe one at your local Labtest office (there is a cost involved). You can also see a qualified health care practitioner such as a Naturopath or Holistic Nutritionist to help assess your symptoms and diet to see if you’re lacking in zinc or have any common zinc deficiency symptoms.
Some symptoms include:
Frequent colds and infections
White spots on nails
Slow wound healing
Loss of sense of smell and taste
Loss of appetite
It’s also important to know there are some factors that may make you more likely to experience zinc deficiency, such as:
Aging is one of the biggest ones, as our absorption of nutrients goes down as we age.
Birth control pills increase copper levels, and zinc competes with copper for absorption so zinc deficiency can be common in women who take birth control or have a copper IUD.
Stress also increases zinc needs, so really slowing down and taking time to manage stress effectively is important. (I know, I know, you hear it all the time – but it really is worth saying again!).
Zinc deficiency is also very common in vegetarians and especially vegans, as the grains and legumes consumed in this diet can inhibit the absorption of zinc.
Food Sources Rich In Zinc
Oysters are the richest food source of zinc, but if you are not an oyster fan grass fed beef, lamb, pork, chicken, seafood also contain zinc.
Plant-based sources include pumpkin seeds, cashews, chickpeas, mushrooms, spinach (but at much lower levels compared to meat sources).
Zinc and The Immune System
Zinc is one of the pillars of immune health and has proved successful as a preventative and therapeutic mineral in many studies. Zinc contributes to the normal function of the immune system. Some studies have found that supplementing with zinc within 24 hours from the start of viral infection or cold symptom, can cuts the risk of still having the cold seven days later by about half. Most studies indicate that supplementing around 15-25mg daily for adults can be useful immune support during the winter months. And it’s important to note that when supplementing with zinc it’s best taken with food, as it can make some people feel nauseous on an empty stomach.
Important note: There are numerous different forms of zinc, if you’re considering supplementing with this mineral I recommend consulting with a qualified healthcare practitioner first to find the best form of zinc for you, otherwise you could be wasting your money on a zinc supplement that is poorly absorbed and goes straight out in your urine.