Are you Zinc Deficient? Zinc is an essential trace mineral needed for different body functions.  It’s called a trace mineral because the body doesn’t require too much of it. However, one can still run into deficiencies. This is because zinc is not produced in the body, so it has to be taken through food or supplements, but more often, people don’t get enough leading to deficiency and complications.

This article explains why zinc is important for your health and why deficiencies are actually dangerous.

zinc material sign blue

Why is zinc important?

Zinc is present in every cell throughout the body and is essential for different functions, including:

  • Improves metabolism
  • Promotes healthy heart and blood vessels
  • Supports childhood growth
  • Slows the progression of macular degeneration
  • Promotes wound healing and skin regeneration
  • It boosts the immune system
  • It’s great for the management of diarrhea in children
  • May reduce the risk of age-related conditions such as
  • May help treat acne
  • Fights inflammation

What are the Effects of Zinc Deficiency in the Body?

According to the World Health Organization, approximately 31 percent of the world’s population suffers from zinc deficiency.

 Zinc deficiency is also responsible for 406,000 pneumonia deaths, 176,000 diarrhea deaths, and 207,000 malaria deaths, primarily in the eastern Mediterranean, Africa, and Southeast Asia.

Zinc deficiency occurs when you don’t consume enough zinc-containing foods regularly.

Here is what zinc deficiency can do to your health

1.   It can weaken your immunity

Zinc is essential to boost and maintain a healthy immune system.

It helps maintain the integrity of immune-mediating cells such as neutrophils and killer cells, without which one will be susceptible to infections.

Specifically, zinc destroys bacteria, Viruses, and cancer cells; hence a deficiency will increase your risk for these infections. Read More.

2.   It can lead to poor wound outcomes

Zinc deficiency can slow wound healing since it’s essential for collagen synthesis, inflammatory response, and immune functions which promote wound healing.

That’s why zinc is commonly used in hospitals to treat ulcers, burns, and skin injuries.

In a 12 week study, individuals with diabetic foot ulcers treated with 200 mg of zinc every day noted reduced ulcer size compared to those who didn’t.

3.   May increase your risk of diarrhea

Zinc deficiency impairs immunity, which automatically leaves you susceptible to various bacteria and viruses, including those responsible for diarrhea, such as E.coli.

4.   It may cause thinning hair

Zinc is an important mineral for hair tissue growth and repair. A deficiency may lead to hair loss and, in worst cases, alopecia.

According to research, thyroid hormones play a major part in the absorption of zinc. However, in hypothyroidism where the thyroid gland is underperforming, zinc absorption is an issue hence why there is hair loss in hypothyroidism. So, in addition to thyroid medication, one must include a zinc supplement to promote strong and healthy hair.

5.   Zinc may promote allergies

Zinc inhibits the release of histamine from the immune system. It also facilitates zinc storage. Any deficiency will allow more histamines to be released, which increases your sensitivity to food and environmental allergens. Common symptoms associated with allergies include sneezing, running nose, and hives.

6.   Zinc deficiency may cause acne

Insufficient amounts of zinc may cause skin problems such as acne.

A review of past studies found that zinc protects against inflammation and bacterial infection and prevents overproduction of oil, which can clog your pores and cause acne.

7.   It may lead to leaky gut

Too little zinc can cause a shift in your gut microbiome, cause inflammation, and break your mucosal barrier leading to leaky gut or intestinal permeability. This may lead to nutrient malabsorption, autoimmune conditions, skin disorders, and allergies.

One study found that taking zinc supplements may help tighten leaky gut in patients with Crohn’s disease.

How Much Zinc Should You Take?

The recommended daily intake is 11 milligrams for men and 8 milligrams for women. The higher tolerable intake is 40 mg/day for adults. Read More.

You can obtain zinc from food or supplements. However, supplements may have side effects such as headache, nausea, vomiting, indigestion, and diarrhea.

 A high intake of oral zinc for a long time may lead to a copper deficiency which may present with neurological problems like numbness or weakness in the legs and arms.

Unless you have to take a supplement, food sources of zinc are always recommended to avoid excessive intake.

Best food sources of zinc

  • Pumpkin seeds – a cup provides 6.6 milligrams of zinc or 44 percent of your daily requirement.
  • Hemp seeds – 2 tablespoons provide 28 grams of zinc or 34 percent of the daily requirement.
  • Chickpeas (garbanzo beans) – a cup of cooked chickpeas provides 2.5 milligrams of zinc or 17 percent of the daily requirements
  • Lentils – a cup of cooked lentils provides 2.5 milligrams of zinc or 17 percent of the daily requirements
  • Cashew nuts – an ounce provides 1.6 milligrams of zinc or 11 percent of the daily requirement.
  • Mushrooms – a cup contains 1.4 milligrams of zinc or 9 percent of the daily requirement.
  • Spinach – a cup provides 1.4 milligrams or 9 percent of the daily requirement.
  • Avocado – one ripe avocado provides 1.3 milligrams or 8 percent of the daily requirement.
  • Almonds – an ounce provides 0.9 milligrams of zinc or 6 percent of the daily requirement

Final Thoughts

Zinc is an essential nutrient needed for different functions, including boosting immunity, supporting growth in children, and improving metabolism.

It’s only required in small amounts, however, most people still end up having deficiencies due to poor intake of zinc-containing foods.

The best plant-based sources of zinc to incorporate into your diet include legumes, whole grains, some vegetables, nuts, and seeds.

Zinc deficiency may result in poor wound healing, weak immune system, thinning hair, acne, leaky gut, diarrhea, and allergies.

Though you can obtain zinc as a supplement, food sources of zinc are the best to consume to avoid excess intake that may cause health problems.

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