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Zinc – The Unbiased Truth, Evidence-Based Health Benefits, How to Take & Side Effects

Zinc – The Unbiased Truth, Evidence-Based Health Benefits, How to Take & Side Effects

Zinc and its vital roles in your body for health. Everything you need to know about its function, benefit, the risk of deficiency, and potential side effects.

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Zinc

Zinc, a nutrient found throughout your body, helps your immune system and metabolism function. (Image: By Author)

Trace minerals are essential nutrients. These tiny substances assist in cell growth, construct enzymes, churn out hormones, and you need them to sustain everyday living. Zinc is one of those trace minerals.

 

What Exactly Is Zinc?

Did you know that zinc is a metal? This micro-nutrient is the second-most-plentiful trace mineral in the human body, right behind iron.

Zinc is essential for you to consume in your diet. Your body does not produce it. This micro-nutrient is valuable – found everywhere in your body – in every single cell! Fortunately, zinc is recognized in a wide variety of plants, animal foods, and as a supplement.

Zinc is involved in more than 200 enzyme systems. Really? Yes! It plays a major role in your white blood cell health along with immune support.

 

7 Functions of Zinc

  1. Curbs aging skin
  2. Accelerates wound healing
  3. Boosts your immune system
  4. Balances hormones
  5. Supports fertility
  6. Nutrient absorption
  7. Enforces eye health

 

Curbs aging skin

We all desire to age gracefully. Zinc can help. Paired with copper, it forms a powerful antioxidant called copper-zinc superoxide dismutase (CuZnSOD), which assists in curbing declining cells.

According to G.Lin, H.J. Bellen, in Current Topics in Developmental Biology, 2017, “Copper zinc superoxide dismutase, SOD-1, is a ubiquitously expressed and a highly conserved enzyme that plays a role in scavenging superoxide radicals.” This scavenging reduces aging in the cell. How fabulous!

Zinc works to treat skin lesions when taken orally. This powerful micro-nutrient fights to decrease the severity of acne and early signs of maturing skin like facial lines, wrinkles, and dark spots.

Note that women who have severe stretch marks after pregnancy are commonly low in zinc. This outstanding nutrient also curbs boils and scars. Zinc performs this dance by the process of collagen synthesis.
 

Accelerates Wound Healing

According to dermatologists, the mineral protects the skin and aids in wound healing and renewal. This is why zinc oxide is in high-performing sunscreens. Zinc reflects the sun creating a protective barrier between the skin and damaging UV rays.

Dermatologic surgeon, Jennifer Herrmann, MD states that, “Using zinc for skin can help when it’s taken both internally and externally. As mentioned earlier, taking it orally can help heal wounds, lessen inflammation, and improve inflammatory conditions such as acne.”

Zinc is critical in supporting the creation of collagen – creating connective tissue. Collagen is the most abundant protein in the entire human body. Collagen helps people recover from burns, ulcers, slow healing wounds, and other types of skin damage or unsightly abrasions.
 

Boosts Your Immune System

Disease development is a scary thought for most of us. On a happier note, it is an effective anti-inflammatory.

Consuming too little zinc can certainly impair your immune function – allowing you more likely to become sick. Zinc is not stored for long periods in the body. A steady supply of quality zinc in your daily diet creates a robust immune system.

According to Jillian Levy, CHHC, June 3, 2020, “Researchers from the School of Medicine at the University of Michigan studied potential benefits from zinc supplements among 50 adults. They uncovered that levels of oxidative stress markers were significantly lower in the supplemented group than in the placebo group.”

During an immune response, this mineral plays an intricate function. The amazing micro-nutrient assists the body to return to homeostasis.

The dictionary term describes homeostasis as the ability of a living organism to adjust its internal environment to maintain a state of dynamic constancy. In other words, balance. This balance keeps you healthy.

A recent PubMed review found that 80 to 92 mg per day of zinc may reduce the length of the common cold by up to 33%. Wow!
 

Balances Hormones

Sufficient levels of zinc are essential for your body to create hormones. And, zinc maintains an appropriate hormone balance.

It plays a role in thyroid hormone metabolism. The mystery concerning many thyroid issues is in the conversion of T4 to T3. Zinc is the key. It underpins the conversion of T4 to activate T3.

Critical to hormone synthesis, this mighty micro-nutrient can calm TPO antibodies (often higher in Hashimoto’s patients). Both testosterone and growth hormone need the support of this tiny but mighty nutrient to perform their best for you.
 

Supports Fertility

Zinc needs to be ringside before, during, and after pregnancy. When a woman is having difficulty getting pregnant, the FSH test will be ordered. This test provides your doctor with vital information about your ovarian function.

Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) encourages ovulation. This hormone stimulates the growth, health, and maturation of eggs.

According to an article in Fertility Answers, “Elevated FSH levels may be a predictor of diminished ovarian reserve. Menopause occurs when the ovaries stop working. Menopausal women, therefore, have very high levels of FSH, as the pituitary makes more and more FSH in a vain attempt to get the ovaries to respond.”

Interestingly, FSH is the hormone in men charging the testes to produce mature sperm. The FSH test will evaluate the testicular function and will be ordered for a low sperm count, low muscle mass, or decreased sex drive.

For the proper growth and development of a baby, zinc needs to be abundant. According to a review published in a 2015 edition of the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, women will have a slightly lower risk of delivering a preterm baby if zinc requirements are met.

Realize that both estrogen and progesterone love zinc.
 

Nutrient Absorption

Consuming this nutrient adequately is required to effectively use amino acids. It is also connected to the breakdown of carbohydrates, creating energy in your body.

So, If you are feeling sluggish or down, low energy levels have been noted with a zinc deficiency. A diagnosis of adrenal or chronic fatigue has also been linked to a lack of this vital nutrient.
 

Enforces Eye Health

Macular degeneration and any degree of vision loss can be unsettling at best. Zinc may help. A PubMed review noted that supplementation alone might not be sufficient to produce clinically meaningful changes in visual acuity, however, it seems to turn the tide, slowing down the rate and progression of macular degeneration.

 

Early Warning Signs of Deficiency

Your body has tight control over its zinc levels. If your body senses even a mild zinc deficiency problems might occur including:

  • Diarrhea
  • Alopecia
  • Brain fog
  • Decreased immunity – constant colds
  • Thinning hair or hair loss
  • Lack of appetite
  • Moodiness
  • Chronic dry skin
  • Fertility issues
  • Reduced or impaired wound healing

Realize that a zinc deficiency is difficult to detect using laboratory tests. Thus, you may still be deficient even if tests indicate normal levels.

 

How to Consume

When choosing a zinc supplement, note that there are a plethora of options. As a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, I commonly recommend a food first option. Your intelligent body knows how to use zinc from your food.

Below are some foods high in zinc:

  • Oysters
  • Grass-fed beef
  • Alaska king crab
  • Lobster
  • Cooked pork chop
  • Baked beans
  • Dark meat chicken
  • Full fat yogurt
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Whole Raw milk
  • Chickpeas
  • Nutritional yeast
  • Nuts

However, in a person who may be severely deficient, a zinc supplement can champion a client becoming sufficient quickly. Experts consider the tolerable upper limit to be somewhere around 40 milligrams per day.

Do compliment these supplements with calcium, manganese, iron, and copper. Take balanced amounts of each recommended by your nutritional professional.

 

Possible Side Effects

As with any dietary modification, call your doctor if you develop troublesome side effects. These might be a sign of a negative interaction between the supplement and medication that you might be ingesting.

Possible side effects:

  • Nausea and or vomiting
  • Lack of appetite
  • Loose stools
  • Stomach cramps
  • Stubborn headache
  • Reduced immune function

 

Final Thoughts

Be sensible using zinc. Note that high doses of zinc supplementation in combination with long term use can result in copper deficiency or anemia.

We all need zinc. Take a balanced approach. This powerful micro-nutrient will work benefits for your overall wellness. I wish you the best from this powerful nutrient.

Cheers to your health!

*Disclaimer: Health Insiders (HI) provides information that should not take the place of medical advice. We encourage you to talk to your healthcare providers (doctor, registered dietitian, pharmacist, etc.) about your interest in, questions about, or use of dietary supplements and what may be best for your overall health. Any mention in this publication of a specific product or service, or recommendation from an organization or professional society, does not represent an endorsement by Health Insiders of that product, service, or expert advice.

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References

1. Mori, R., Ota, E., Middleton, P., Tobe-Gai, R., Mahomed, K., and Bhutta, Z. A. Zinc supplementation for improving pregnancy and infant outcome. Cochrane.Database.Syst.Rev. 2012;7:CD000230. View abstract.
2. Polat, T. B., Uysalol, M., and Cetinkaya, F. Efficacy of zinc supplementation on the severity and duration of diarrhea in malnourished Turkish children. Pediatr Int 2003;45(5):555-559. View abstract.
3. Patel, A., Mamtani, M., Dibley, M. J., Badhoniya, N., and Kulkarni, H. Therapeutic value of zinc supplementation in acute and persistent diarrhea: a systematic review. PLoS.One. 2010;5(4):e10386. View abstract.
4. Nowak, G., Siwek, M., Dudek, D., Zieba, A., and Pilc, A. Effect of zinc supplementation on antidepressant therapy in unipolar depression: a preliminary placebo-controlled study. Pol.J Pharmacol. 2003;55(6):1143-1147. View abstract.
5. Menkes, C. J., Job, Ch, Buneaux, F., and Delbarre, F. [Treatment of rheumatoid arthritis with zinc sulfate. Results of a double-blind trial]. Rev.Rhum.Mal Osteoartic. 1981;48(3):223-227. View abstract.
6. Mei, W., Dong, Z. M., Liao, B. L., and Xu, H. B. Study of immune function of cancer patients influenced by supplemental zinc or a selenium-zinc combination. Biol.Trace Elem.Res. 1991;28(1):11-19. View abstract.
7. Fabris N, Mocchegiani E. Zinc, human diseases and aging. Aging (Milano) 1995;7:77-93. [PubMed abstract]
8. Hunt JR. Bioavailability of iron, zinc, and other trace minerals from vegetarian diets. Am J Clin Nutr 2003;78 (3 Suppl):633S-9S. [PubMed abstract]
9. Interagency Board for Nutrition Monitoring and Related Research. Third Report on Nutrition Monitoring in the United States. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1995.
10. Zinc supplements. Facts & Comparisons eAnswers. http://www.wolterskluwercdi.com/facts-comparisons-online/. Accessed Aug. 8, 2017.
11. Zinc. Office of Dietary Supplements, https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Zinc-Consumer/#h8. Accessed Aug. 8, 2017.
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Laurie Chocholous, NTP

Laurie Chocholous, NTP is a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner. Laurie is a graduate of the Nutritional Therapy Association. She is a con...

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