Zinc is arguably the most important mineral in your body. It is one of the minerals men should never be without (see info lower down on the page) and it has such a wide application in the human body that everybody should ensure that they obtain enough of this trace element.
What is Zinc required for?
Over 300 enzymes are dependent on zinc. It is the most important nutrient for wound healing and is a key to the production of hydrochloric acid. If you are deficient in zinc, your body will not be able to work optimally, plus your ability to digest foods is going to be compromised.
It is necessary for a healthy immune system and it is also used in fighting skin problems such as acne, boils, and sore throats. It is further needed for cell division and for the hair, nails, and skin to be in top form. It is used in the growth and maintenance of muscles.
Zinc is heavily used in times of stress. I believe it is due to stress that so many people are deficient in zinc. More than 50% of the New Zealanders I have tested have tested deficient in Zinc. This comes as surprising news since high zinc foods is commonplace in most people’s diet. High zinc foods include beef, lamb, fish, seafood, egg yolk, milk, pumpkin seeds etc.
Children also require zinc for normal growth and sexual development.
How does a deficiency of zinc affect us?
There is a shortage of zinc in many people’s diet due to stress, but also because zinc is destroyed in the milling process and is lost in cooking. A deficiency will result in
- an under-performing immune system
- open to infections
- catching colds and flu easily
- loss of sense of smell and/or taste
- falling hair
- white spots under fingernails
- skin problems
- stretch marks in pregnancy or rapid weight gain
- sleep disturbances
- night blindness
- not being able to lose weight
- infertility in males
- irregular periods in women
- stunted growth and slow sexual maturity in children
When do we need more zinc?
Men should always ensure enough zinc in their diets since the health of their prostate gland is linked to zinc. Zinc is needed to manufacture testosterone and a shortage may induce a low sperm count, loss of libido and other emotional problems. Zinc may also be helpful in fighting infection and inflammation of the prostate gland in older men. Males lose zinc through ejaculation since sperm needs this mineral to swim towards the egg.
If a woman is taking a birth control pill, or receiving hormone replacement therapy, extra zinc may be indicated, and all vegans and vegetarians should also consider their zinc intake, as well as people suffering from psoriasis and women while pregnant or lactating. People consuming large amounts of alcohol may also be at risk of lowered zinc levels.
Zinc is also lost through excessive sweating.
Zinc is so important that your body needs zinc to uptake zinc, so if you are deficient you really need high doses to get your zinc status back in line.
Is there an enemy of zinc?
Meat is a better source of zinc as certain whole grains contain phytic acid, which binds to zinc, making it difficult or impossible to be absorbed. Here is some info on how to counteract phytic-acid and making sure that you do absorb some zinc from whole grains.
And of course, another big enemy is Stress! In times of stress, our body requires more zinc.
How to test for Zinc deficiency?
It’s a simple taste test. Please don’t hesitate to ask me if you would like to test your zinc status. It only costs $2.
Depending on how low your zinc level is, you may be able to rely on a good quality Multi-Vitamin-Mineral for it. But those with very low or low levels should supplement with zinc for a few months and then get their levels tested again because this is a nutrient that can build up to toxic levels. So it is best to get tested before you take zinc and after a few months to check your levels again. If you do need to supplement then I can recommend that you look for one that is easily absorbed, for example, the Sanderson zinc supplement Triple Zinc FX.