Now we come to the end of the first round in our A-to-Z series, which brings us to one of the more interesting topics when it comes to health and supplementation. Nowadays, when we think of zinc, one of the minerals essential to our bodies, we think of those lozenges we are advised to start taking when we feel a cold coming on, with zinc ranking right up there with vitamin C when it comes to dealing with colds.
But there is much more to zinc than just cold prevention, and its importance to your health hits home when you have a zinc deficiency. All sorts of things can go awry with your body – maybe not life threatening, yet there are some things that can happen with our bodies that will get our attention; such as loss of hair from atop your head or being stuck with scrapes or wounds that just don’t seem to want to heal.
A zinc deficiency really isn’t an “equal-opportunity” condition; those who are most susceptible are older adults and infants who are breastfeeding, per healthline.com. Women who are pregnant also need more zinc than usual – which experts say is 40 milligrams a day for an adult – because the zinc in their own bodies is needed to help the developing baby; a shortage of zinc in a growing child can stunt growth, as touched on later in this piece.
Signs of Possible Zinc Deficiency
A proper diagnosis of a zinc deficiency can be difficult because about 90 percent of the zinc in your body is stored in the muscle and bone tissue, per wellnessmama.com, with only trace amounts found among the cells in your body – even when you are fully stocked up on zinc, making it difficult for a typical blood test to detect a deficiency. To get a more accurate reading, your physician might call for a blood plasma test, a urine test, or even a test of a strand of your hair.
Keep in mind that your body uses zinc primarily for regulating metabolism function, sustaining the immune system – which is key to warding off infections, and for producing cells, which is directly related to human development/growth and creating DNA. Following are some of the symptoms of a zinc deficiency:
- Bald patches on head. Low levels of zinc can cause your hair to fall out, per prevention.com. But this is in severe cases, and there could be other factors involved.
- Acne on the face. Zinc’s anti-inflammatory characteristics may help in diminishing the amount of skin oils and bacteria that can make unwanted acne sprout up.
- Wounds won’t heal. Scrapes, too. They take longer to heal when you are short on zinc because of zinc’s role in generating cell growth and body development – that includes skin tissue.
- Worsening vision. Your eyes, most noticeably the retinas, have high concentrations of zinc, so keeping plenty of zinc around is paramount to maintaining excellent vision.
- Food taste is lacking. This goes along with loss of appetite. Per prevention.com, zinc contributes to how our senses work, and that encompasses taste and smell. Research has demonstrated that oral zinc appears to stimulate a part of your brain that regulates food intake, and taste plays a factor in that.
- Stunted growth, especially in children. This is rare in America, where children generally get plenty of zinc in their diets, with meat and poultry each serving up a fair amount of zinc.
- Sleep issues. Note that zinc is needed to make melatonin, a compound that helps us sleep, per wellnessmama.com.
- Lack of mental clarity. Also called brain fog, and even your memory can take a dip with a dip in zinc. Lack of alertness can be an issue, too.
- Food metabolism/nutrient absorption. Gut health along with that. Yup, a lack of zinc can put a damper on your gastrointestinal process.
- Low libido. That’s right, a lack of interest in sex.
Zinc’s Health Benefits
Well, we already know that having a sufficient amount of zinc in your body will go a long way toward helping you avoid those aforementioned pitfalls of a deficiency, so let’s look at the plus side of zinc, the benefits it can bring to the table:
- Bolster immunity and preventing colds, or at least shortening them. There is evidence, per mayoclinic.org, that zinc lozenges or syrup taken within 24 hours of the arrival of cold symptoms can shorten the duration of a cold.
- Oral zinc use might slow the progression of age-related macular degeneration, which can adversely affect your eyesight.
- It might reduce the symptoms of diarrhea in children.
Food Sources of Zinc
Here are some foods you might want to make sure are in your diet as they are known for being healthy sources of zinc, per healthline.com:
- Red meat
- Wheat germ
- Wild rice
- Poultry (chicken, etc.)