Zinc is great for keeping our immune system running in tip top shape. It is a very important mineral that our cells need to keep our body running smoothly, especially our metabolism, growth, and senses. They say that real zinc deficiency is uncommon in North America because the average diet has plenty of zinc through the foods eaten. Beef and poultry provide the majority of zinc in the American diet, along with beans, nuts, certain types of seafood, and fortified dairy products. The only people that are at risk for true zinc deficiency are those that struggle with eating disorders, alcoholism, and digestive diseases. The symptoms of
true zinc deficiency can be severe and may include diarrhea, hair loss, loss of appetite, and eye and skin lesions.
Now zinc inadequacy is a different story, and is more common. It most often shows up in adults over 60 but that doesn’t mean you have nothing to worry about if you are younger or are sticking to a mostly plant-based diet. Plant-based food can contain less zinc and legumes and whole grains have compounds that make it harder for you to fully absorb zinc. Your body does not store zinc like it does other vitamins and minerals so this can be a problem.
So how do you know that you are possibly not getting enough zinc?
- Hair Loss. Low levels of zinc can cause your hair to fall out. There have been reports that found that people that suffered from alopecia, an autoimmune disease that causes hair loss on the scalp and/or other parts of the body, are deficient in zinc. They are still doing more research on this to fully understand the connection, but there is a connection.
Acne flares. Researchers talk about zinc and its anti-inflammatory properties that reduce the amount of acne-triggered oil and bacteria in your skin. Of course, there are other things that may trigger your acne like hormones, birth control, your make-up or skincare, and even your diet. It is worth looking in to if you have other symptoms on the list.
- You have a chronic disease. Zinc deficency is linked to many health conditions…..diabetes, neurological disorders, autoimmune disorders, Alzheimer’s and many more. What is the connection you say? Zinc keeps our immune system running and promotes healthy cell growth. If you are not getting enough of it, your body cannot fight the affects of free radicals and inflammation spikes, which are two risk factors that are ties to chronic disease.
- Wounds do not heal properly. Remember that zinc is essential for your immune health so a deficiency can make you become more vulnerable to viral and bacterial infections. You cuts and scrapes may take longer to heal because your body relies on it to repair tissue.
- Your vision is getting worse. Our eyes contain high concentrations of zinc, particularly in the retina. Zinc helps to transport vitamin A from your liver to your retina to produce protective pigments in your eyes. With that being said, it is a key player in keeping your vision sharp.
- Food does not taste as good as it used to. Zinc plays a role in most of our senses, including taste and smell. People who are deficient in zinc can actually have difficulty tasting their food. Research has shown that just giving oral zinc meds to people with taste issues did improve their symptoms.
- Trouble hearing? A lack of zinc can mess with your hearing too! There was a study done of 100 people with tinnitus and around 12% of them had low zinc levels. And the study showed that the study authors believed that zinc could act as an antitoxidant and tame inflammation in the cochlea, or inner part of your ear, preventing severe symptoms or hearing loss.
- You stop growing. This one really is seen in young children with a zinc deficiency. Children need enough zinc in their diets because of its influence on cell development . This means a lack of it can stunt their growth. This would mainly affect those that don’t eat or don’t have access to animal protein. That is not the case with most of the children in the U.S. One hamburger patty has 5 milligrams of zinc, which is more than half of what a child needs in a day.
Even if you notice a few of these symptoms, many can be caused by other issues. There is no clear test for zinc deficiency so it may be difficult to tell whether this is the problem.
We do not need a ridiculous amount of zinc everyday. We can just load up on foods rich in the mineral, like oysters, beef, baked beans, cheese, oats, lobster or crab, fortified cereals, chicken and yogurt. Women should aim for 9 milligrams while men need 11. There is a limit of 40 milligrams per day for adults because taking in too much can actually block your absorption of other nutrients, like copper or iron. You can also have toxic effects such as vomiting, cramping, diarrhea, loss of appetite, and headaches. That is why most people don’t need a zinc supplement, unless you are part of a high-risk group ( if you have a GI disorder or stick to a plant-based diet). A multivitamin that includes around 10 to 15 milligrams of zinc may be sufficient. I would talk to your doctor if you have a questions about your vitamin and mineral intake.