Everyone talks about the importance of macronutrients like protein and carbohydrates, but micronutrients, including minerals like zinc, are also essential for good health. In this article, we’re going to explain what zinc is, what it does, its benefits, daily requirements, and much more.
What is zinc?
Zinc is an essential trace mineral that the human body requires in small amounts for proper function. Zinc is considered essential because the body cannot synthesize or store it, so it must be consumed through diet or supplements every day to maintain optimal levels.
Why do we need zinc?
We need zinc because it has unique antioxidant properties that are required for more than one hundred enzymes and a multitude of vital functions in the human body. A few of the key functions that require zinc include:
- Immune function
- Protein synthesis
- Creation of DNA
- Sense of smell and taste
- Healthy pregnancy
- Fetal and early childhood growth and development
How much zinc do you need every day?
Adult men need at least 11 milligrams of zinc per day and adult women need at least eight milligrams daily. During pregnancy and lactation, zinc requirements increase to at least 11 or 12 milligrams daily.
What are the health benefits of zinc?
Improved Gut Health and Reduced or Reversed Autoimmune Symptoms
Zinc is crucial for producing the gastric juices that your gut needs to break down food. According to the medical experts in Integrative Medicine by Rahav Wellness in NYC, zinc supplementation is a common therapy used in healing because if you aren’t breaking down your food efficiently, you aren’t absorbing nutrition efficiently, either. Poor nutrient absorption can lead to chronic health issues, including fatigue.
Zinc also plays a major role in the gut barrier function. Patients with autoimmune disorders may benefit from zinc supplementation because it can help to heal leaky gut, which can be a root cause of autoimmune issues. In fact, zinc deficiency has been linked to autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis, thyroid disease, lupus, autoimmune hepatitis, type 1 diabetes, and more.
Supports healthy immune function.
The immune system is our body’s first line of defense against illness and infection. The immune system requires zinc for healthy function, and even slight deficiencies in this essential micronutrient have been linked to autoimmune issues, skin issues, recurrent infections, and chronic health issues.
Zinc is vital for the production and function of many immune cells required for our innate and adaptive immune responses. Studies show that supplementing with at least seventy-five milligrams of zinc per day can reduce the length of the common cold by about 33 percent.
Zinc is a key cofactor in managing inflammation. If you are not getting enough zinc, your inflammatory response can become heightened, which can cause damage to your body and organs over time. It may even lead to systemic inflammation and impaired immune function.
In senior adults, zinc supplementation has been shown to reduce the production of inflammatory cytokines, the frequency and severity of infections, and oxidative stress.
Promotes healthy skin.
Zinc may also promote healthy skin. Although acne can be triggered by several things, zinc’s anti-inflammatory properties may help to clear up your skin. It may also help with other inflammatory skin conditions like rosacea and psoriasis.
Promotes wound healing.
Studies show that zinc promotes wound healing. For example, in a study published by Wound Repair and Regeneration, sixty diabetic patients with foot ulcers were divided into two groups. One group was given a placebo, while the other group received a 50-milligram zinc supplement.
After twelve weeks, the group who received supplemental zinc had a significant reduction in the size of their foot ulcers, while the placebo group showed no significant change.
In addition, the participants who received zinc showed improvements in several metabolic markers, including improved insulin sensitivity and an increase in HDL or good cholesterol. Overall inflammation was also reduced, likely due to improved antioxidant status and increased glutathione levels.
Protects your vision.
Zinc may slow down the progression of age-related macular degeneration by promoting autophagy and reducing oxidative stress. Age-related macular degeneration is a leading cause of vision loss affecting the macula, a part of the retina that contains a high concentration of zinc.
What are the symptoms of zinc deficiency?
Symptoms of mild zinc deficiency can include frequent infections, low resistance to illnesses like the common cold, decreased appetite, dry skin, fertility issues, and impaired wound healing. In severe cases, zinc deficiency can lead to chronic diarrhea, slow wound healing, behavioral issues, and impaired growth and development.
Which foods contain zinc?
The best dietary sources of zinc include poultry, meat, and shellfish. It can also be found in nuts seeds, whole grains, dairy products, and fortified cereals. However, it’s important to know that the body cannot absorb zinc from plant sources as efficiently as it can from animal protein. If you follow a plant-based diet, a zinc supplement may be a good idea.
Tips for Adding a Zinc Supplement to Your Daily Routine
It’s always best to consult with your healthcare provider before taking any supplement, especially if you have a health condition or take other medications or supplements.
For most people, a supplement that contains forty milligrams or less of zinc is plenty, but if you have a zinc deficiency your doctor may recommend a higher dose. That said, zinc toxicity doesn’t usually become an issue unless you take a dose of 225 milligrams or more.
If you take an iron supplement, consider taking your zinc supplement at a different time of day to improve absorption of both. Zinc gluconate and zinc citrate are the most bioavailable forms, while zinc oxide is the most poorly absorbed.
Zinc is an important nutrient for many functions of the human body, including healthy vision, healthy skin, and reducing systemic inflammation. Since your body can’t produce its own zinc, it must come from the diet or a supplement every day. Be sure to choose a high-quality, chelated zinc supplement.