Although I recently wrote about some of the risks of taking supplements, Zinc is on the good guys’ list and is a necessary component of a healthy body.
You know, of course, that there are certain nutrients and foods, such as minerals, our body must have to work optimally.
Your body needs them but cannot produce them on its own. These are called the “essential” minerals and include some inorganic compounds (not consisting of or coming from living matter).
Included in this list of must-haves are:
Trace minerals are those needed only in small amounts, generally less than 20 milligrams per day. They’re called “trace” because the body typically only has 5 grams or less of the mineral in the body.
The trace minerals include:
One of the essential minerals is Zinc, which is found in small amounts in food.
Although the body doesn’t need a large amount of it, it’s possible for someone to be zinc-deficient and experience a number of symptoms
Fast facts on zinc deficiency:
➡ The body uses zinc for several important processes, and doctors often recommend supplements to prevent deficiency.
➡ Worldwide, about 1.1 billion people are zinc-deficient
The role of Zinc In the body:
➡ Zinc helps cells divide and promotes wound healing.
➡ It supports cell function, helping an estimated 100 enzymes (molecules that make chemical reactions happen) perform their duties.
In the body, Zinc plays additional roles including:
- Boosting immune function
- Maintaining the sense of smell and taste
- Supporting a person’s growth and development
As such, it is an essential mineral for pregnant women as well as growing children.
Your body does not store zinc, which means that getting enough of it from food is important to prevent a deficiency.
➡ Loss of appetite
➡ Slowed growth
➡ Poor immune system function
Severe zinc deficiency can cause even more troubling symptoms:
➡ Delayed sexual maturity
➡ Eye and skin lesions
➡ Feeling lethargic
➡ Funny-taste sensations
➡ Hair loss
➡ Poor wound healing
➡ Unexplained weight loss
➡ Men and boys can also experience impotence and hypogonadism, which is when a male’s body does not produce enough testosterone.
Causes of Zinc deficiency:
There are three main causes of an underlying zinc deficiency:
➡ Not taking in enough zinc through one’s diet
➡ Losing excess amounts of zinc from the body, such as through poor absorption
➡ Alcohol addiction
➡ Chronic diarrhea
➡ Chronic kidney disease
➡ Chronic liver disease
➡ Crohn’s disease
➡ Pancreatic disease
➡ Sickle cell disease
➡ Ulcerative colitis
Traditionally, Vegetarians have lower zinc levels because the body breaks down the zinc found in meats more efficiently.
➡ Vegetarians tend to eat higher levels of legumes, soybeans, beans, nuts, and whole-grain food products.
While they’re healthful food choices, they can impair the body’s ability to absorb zinc due to the presence of substances called phytates, which bind to zinc, preventing the body from absorbing it.
➡ Older adults are at risk for zinc deficiency because they may not eat or have access to a variety of foods. In addition, certain medications, such as diuretics, commonly prescribed for high blood pressure. can also speed up the body’s release of zinc.
While a doctor can order a blood test or urine test to check zinc levels, these may not give a definitive result, as zinc is only present in small amounts in the body’s cells.
For a correct diagnosis, a doctor will need to take a full health history. They’ll ask questions about the person’s dietary intake, the number of calories taken in daily, the types and varieties of foods they eat.
In fact, when considering poor calorie intake or a limited variety of food choices, the zinc deficiency itself could be an underlying cause.
Treatment of Zinc deficiency:
Speak to your doctor before taking any supplement. While they’re readily available at pharmacies and health stores, you don’t really know how much you can safely take without consulting with your physician.
In addition, store-bought supplements can contain different amounts of zinc and be labeled by other names such as zinc gluconate, zinc sulfate or zinc acetate. Best to speak with your doctor.
- beef chuck roast
- fortified breakfast cereals (skip the sugar)
- baked beans
- instant, plain oatmeal
Eating a variety of foods, including lean meats, fruits, vegetables and dairy products is more likely to give you enough zinc for your body to work effectively. The key is to consistently eat well.
A few tips for preventing zinc deficiency:
How you prepare the foods determines the availability of zinc. For instance:
➡ If you’re cooking beans, soak them in water before cooking them. This reduces the presence of phytates, (which actually bind to the mineral making it less digestible) and makes it easier for the body to process the zinc.
➡ Choosing leavened grain products can also help reduce the number of phytates, thus increasing the amount of zinc the body can use.
Be safe: Just as there are problems with zinc deficiency, a person can also take in too much zinc.
This usually happens when someone takes too many zinc supplements to boost their immune system.
➡ Too much zinc intake can cause symptoms that range from nausea and vomiting to impairing the person’s immune system (instead of boosting it).
➡ As a general precaution, adults older than age 19 should not take more than 40 milligrams (mg) of zinc a day.
But again, don’t self-prescribe supplements of any kind.
Ignore the commercials, internet ads and unproven information out there…Stick with your Doc!