Over the past 21 months, many began taking Zinc specifically because of SARS-CoV-2. It is fantastic to see the increased awareness of vitamins and minerals for their medicinal use. However, we want to up-level the old way of looking at health and not replace a "pill for every ill" with just another kind of pill and once again placing our power outside of ourselves. Yes, having our natural medicine cabinet or apothecary stocked is something I do myself, and encourage others to do. Yet, ultimately we optimize nutrition through food and supplements to promote health, rather than to prevent or fight dis - ease.
Zinc is an essential (the body doesn't make it) mineral that is a cofactor for more than 300 enzymatic reactions, meaning we have enzymes that are dependent on zinc in order to perform hundreds of activities throughout our bodies.
It is estimated 2 billion people suffer have at least marginal zinc deficiency that results in serious health effects for our hormones, skin, vision, and immunity.
Zinc's Role in Our Immune System
Zinc is needed for T-cell growth and differentiation into the white blood cells that we need to ward off disease.
Zinc is needed for the process of programmed cell death called Apoptosis to kill bacteria, even cancer cells.
Zinc is needed for gene transcription, the first step of gene expression, and for the protective functions of our cell membranes.
Signs of Zinc Deficiency
Weak immunity – Frequent Colds and Flu
Poor Wound Healing
Allergies: Food & Environment
Skin Issues: Acne or Rashes
How Much Zinc Do We Need?
The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for zinc is 8mg for women and 11mg for men however it is still not known what our optimal levels are. (Remember, RDA’s were created based on the minimum needed for survival, and we want optimal levels for thriving!)
For most of us, 25 to 40 mg per day is a good guideline. Although there is good amounts of zinc in many foods including lamb, chicken, grass fed beef, pumpkin seeds, chick peas, and lentils, no individual food ranks as an excellent source, so if you are seeking to increase your dietary intake of zinc, it is wise not to count on any one food but to focus on diversity. The average North American consumes approximately 10 mg of zinc through their food with only 2-3 mg being absorbed. Individuals with ertain conditions such as digestive illnesses like Crohn's Disease, alcoholism, and those following a vegan/vegetarian diet, and women who are pregnant or nursing are more likely to suffer from deficiency.
Should You Take a Zinc Supplement?
The absorption of zinc is just as important as finding your optimal intake levels. Absorption of Zinc is often poor because our bodies’ zinc receptor sites are quite often taken up by toxins. If you supplement with zinc and do not see improvements in about 4 weeks, there is a good chance your body is unable to absorb the zinc you’ve been taking. It’s important to clear the toxicity from the receptor sites, which then allows our cells to perform the way they are designed to do. (A typically simple process - contact me if you're interested.)
Are You Getting Too Much?
While zinc toxicity is rare, long term supplementation between 50 - 150mg/day or acute intake of high doses can result in nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal or epigastric pain and flu-like symptoms (headache, chills, cough, fatigue and fever). Intestinal bleeding over 200 mg/day is even more rare but has been documented.
Chronic intake of zinc at high doses can compete (and win) with other minerals such as calcium, and iron for absorption, and especially Copper. Copper deficiency can result in low iron levels and low neutrophils,and suppression of leukocytes (types of white blood cells ) which lowers the immune response. It is more common to not get enough zinc, though, and to reap the immune benefits. Just be aware of this possibility and listen to your body.
If you have been taking zinc for some time, especially in large doses, consider including a small amount of copper, whether through diet or supplementation. We are all different, and so consult a practitioner who can look more closely at your situation. Contact me if you'd like to book a session.