Zinc is an incredibly versatile essential trace mineral that plays a role in over 100 functions in the body. It can be however, marginally deficient in many people. This is due to mineral poor soil, food processing and cooking methods. Children and vegetarians and high stress individuals are at particularly high risk for zinc deficiency.
To name a few things, Zinc plays an important role in cell division and repair, healthy hormone balance, proper functioning of the eyes (especially night vision), and, possibly its most known attribute, supporting the immune system. It is very tricky (smart) in this way as it attaches to the same receptor sites as a virus would, blocking the virus from invading the cells. It also helps to improve the white blood cell count (via T-lymphocytes), which are the cells in our bodies that create a natural defense against colds and flu. (picture a superhero with a big “T” on their chest and their hands on their hips keeping at bay any invaders that enter the body)
Prostate health is another aspect that leaps to some people’s minds when you mention Zinc. Zinc, in a healthy prostate, is found in large supply. It has been seen that deficiencies of Zinc in the prostate can lead to diseases in the gland (prostatic hypertrophy, cancer, prostatitis, etc). Low Zinc levels are also correlated with low sperm counts, and considered an important factor with male fertility.
Because Zinc is important in the production of progesterone, it becomes an important nutrient for women. Many of the perimenopausal symptoms (seen as estrogen dominance over progesterone) are also zinc deficiency symptoms. In fact if you raise your zinc intake you stimulate the production of more progesterone, which can help with the signs and symptoms of perimenopause.
Some people are aware of how important Vitamin D is to our bone health and feeling of overall well-being. Well, Zinc is essential in the proper absorption of Vitamin D.
Last, but certainly not least, Zinc is commonly used to enhance tissue repair and wound healing. It is used pre and post surgically to speed recovery time. It is commonly found in skin treatment creams for acne, psoriasis, boils, etc…
Besides poor diet, or poor food sources, some other common factors that can lead to a Zinc deficiency are: high stress, (mental and physical), aging, pregnancy, birth control pills, alcohol, diuretic medications, renal disease, Crohn’s disease, or and chronic degenerative diseases.
Depending on individual needs and lifestyle, optimum daily intake should fall with in the 15 – 50 mg of zinc in your food daily. Food Sources that contain Zinc:
Liver, mushrooms, spinach, green peas, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, shellfish, red
meat, herring, whole eggs, fish, poultry, whole grains, ginger, nuts, beans & legumes, brewers yeast.
Note: Zinc from animal foods better absorbed than from plant foods.
If you were to supplement with Zinc it is best taken in a multi vitamin/mineral that provides about 15-30mg. Taking more than 100mg daily could suppress the immune system, so if you feel like you might fall in that range it would be advised check in with your health care provider.
There are MANY more functions for this amazing mineral, as well as a simple way to test if you are Zinc deficient. If you are interested in learning more about Zinc and many other Vitamins & Minerals, you may be interested in an upcoming class at The Wellspring School called Daily Dose. You can read more about the class here (then click on the “info” button.)
(Photo by Eric Parker on Flickr.)