Why Zinc is Important for Your Health
Zinc is an important mineral that is essential for many of your bodily functions such as supporting your immune system, metabolism function, thyroid function, wound healing, blood clotting, and cellular health, as well as supports senses such as taste and smell, and growth and development of body tissues. Because zinc is not produced or stored in the body, food or supplements are the only way to ensure the body receives this important nutrient.
Zinc Deficiency, Causes, and Symptoms
Zinc deficiency is a common problem around the world because unfortunately, we live in an era in which everyone is in a hurry and paying less attention to the foods they eat and the importance of having a nutrient dense, well-balanced diet.
A zinc deficiency can result from several reasons to include:
Digestive issues: zinc is absorbed in the small intestine. When the intestinal walls are damaged (such as with leaky gut), it can be more difficult for the body to absorb nutrients such as zinc.
Chronic stress: being under constant stress puts strain on your body’s ability to properly digest foods as you are not in “rest” mode, which is necessary for the digestive system to do its job in a relaxed manner.
Having a poor diet: this includes eating foods high in carbs and sugar (such as processed foods, fast food, and alcohol) which prevent the body from properly absorbing zinc. Alcohol decreases intestinal absorption and causes the body to lose nutrients through urination.
Eating a vegetarian diet: meat is one of the foods with the highest content of zinc and because vegetarians get most of the protein from sources such as legumes and grains (which contain phytates that bind to zinc and prevent proper absorption), it may be more difficult to sustain necessary levels of zinc since the body does not store zinc.
Being a pregnant or lactating woman: women who are pregnant or lactating have a higher risk of deficiency due to the fetus’s need for zinc or when the woman is lactating and having to replace what is being provided to the baby.
Some of the most common zinc deficiency symptoms include:
-impaired immune system
-breast or prostate cancer
-poor memory function
-lack of sex drive
-diminished thinking process
-spots on fingernails
-loss of taste or smell
-lack of appetite
-stunted growth (in children)
-low insulin levels
-slow wound healing
If you suspect a zinc deficiency, talk to your health care provider to evaluate symptoms and determine what is the best protocol for you.
Best Food Sources Containing Zinc and Recommended Daily Allowance
Fortunately, a zinc deficiency can be reversed once the underlying issues have been addressed and you have determined the reason for the deficiency.
As stated previously, food is the best way to improve zinc levels. It is important to have a healthy and well-balanced diet that includes foods rich in zinc.
The best sources food sources containing zinc include:
-shellfish: oysters, crab, mussels, lobster, clams
-meat (preferably grass-fed sources): beef, pork, lamb, bison
-poultry (preferably free-range): turkey, chicken
-fish (wild caught): flounder, sardines, salmon, sole
-nuts and seeds (sprouted): pumpkin seeds, cashews, hemp seeds, sunflower, chia
-dairy products (preferably grass-fed sources): milk, yogurt, cheese
-vegetables: mushrooms, kale, peas, asparagus, beet greens
-cacao and dark chocolate
The recommended daily allowance for zinc is between 8 and 11 milligrams for most adults. In functional medicine, however, many practitioners recommend between 30 and 40 milligrams per day (maybe more if there is a severe deficiency that is not fully addressed with food). If you must supplement, the easiest forms of zinc to absorb include zinc citrate or zinc gluconate. If, after you begin zinc supplementation, you experience symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, and/or headaches, make sure to contact your health care provider as this may indicate zinc toxicity.