Article by Su-lin Sze
Su-lin is a Medicinal Herbalist, Iridologist, Nutritionist & Holistic Movement Instructor
Zinc – An element to be exposed to
Zinc (Zn) is a powerful healer found throughout the whole body, 90% of our zinc content being located in muscles and bones. Many of us recognize zinc as being useful in fighting colds and infections, but it doesn’t end there. It’s also invaluable in pregnancy, providing protection for the foetus from congenital abnormalities and pre-term delivery. Alcoholics are often zinc deficient as are elderly people with a poor diet.
Zinc in the mouth helps oral ulcers and application to the skin improves healing from acne. If you suffer from a vision-related condition, are obese, diabetic or have been on the oral contraceptive pill for a long period, then chances are you are low in this mineral too!
In clinic I consistently find that patients are low in zinc without knowing much about it or what it does. So the purpose of this article is to inform and inspire better health through knowledge. Perhaps you will relate to the symptoms of zinc deficiency, or just make better decisions about which zinc supplement you are now using. Do we all need a zinc supplement? No. However, if the symptoms below resonate with you, then it’s worthwhile having a zinc assessment. If treated with zinc, you usually feel the effects within days. Most natural medicine practitioners test your zinc status as part of an initial consultation.
Zinc is considered one of the major minerals in the human body, and deficiencies commonly occur with malnutrition. In third world countries, zinc deficiency is the 5th leading cause of disease in children. In first world countries the main cause of low zinc status is a lack of bio-available zinc in the diet. Zinc bio-availability in the Australian diet is considered to be medium to low by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
We can do better than this. In short here are some of the things zinc does for us:
|Action||Mechanism of Action|
|Boosts immunity||By strengthening cell membranes zinc helps protect our cells from unwanted invasion by free radicals. It also maintains thymus gland integrity and is involved in the formation of white blood cells|
|Enable normal body growth and development, important for children||Zinc enables cellular division, a precursor to growth|
|Supports foetal development||Zinc is a must have for the nervous system development of a foetus which includes helping build the brain, some neurotransmitters and the myelin sheath which surround nerve cells|
|Regulates retinal production||Zinc controls productions of retinal, the active form of vitamin A|
|Helps regulate blood glucose levels, important for diabetics||Zinc is involved in production, storage and release of insulin, a hormone that helps control blood sugar levels|
|Helps those of us who can’t taste our food anymore!||Zinc is involved in tastebud production and often in zinc deficiency, there is little taste perception|
|Facilitate wound healing useful in wounds as well as skin conditions||Zinc maintains collagen health, supports connective tissue and cell membrane health, allowing better healing and sealing of wounds|
|Reduce cardiovascular disease risk||Zinc maintains connective tissue health, reduces risk of atherosclerosis and high blood pressure as well as helping control cholesterol levels|
Symptoms of zinc deficiency
If you’re wondering about your zinc status now, these are common deficiency signs that indicate you would need zinc. However, it’s best to have a status assessment done first before beginning oral supplementation.
Symptoms of zinc deficiency include:
- loss of taste
- low libido and poor sperm count
- poor wound healing ability, slow healing
- skin conditions such as dry flaky skin or acne
- hair loss
- poor resistance to infections
- white spots on nails
If you fit into any of these categories you are more prone to zinc deficiency:
- elderly with poor nutrition in the diet
If you find that you are zinc deficient you will need a good supplement. Products that contain synergistic ingredients (i.e they help you to absorb the zinc content better) as well as a good bio-available form of the mineral will give you the best value for money. Common synergistic ingredients include ascorbic acid, picolinic acid and vitamin B6. For best results take zinc in the Picolinate form, otherwise the amino acid chelate form will suffice. If you are taking zinc as a lozenge, it will be in the gluconate form.
Herbally zinc can be found in a number of herbs, but especially in alfalfa and stinging nettle, and these are highly recommended herbs to drink as a tea in pregnancy. Not only do they contain zinc, but they are nutrient rich and can offer vitamins A, C, K and other minerals to support foetal development and mothers well being. Herbs containing zinc include fennel, alfalfa, stinging nettle, sage, parsley, chamomile, hops and chickweed.
Zinc can be found in a variety of foods, but most highly in oysters. Always a good choice for men wanting to boost their fertility!
If you eat a variety of foods and a good deal of grains and meats, then you will be getting adequate amounts of zinc from your diet. See the list of food sources for guidance.
– Substances that reduce zinc status or compete with zinc for absorption will hinder your healing, so bear this in mind if you are taking other medicines or supplements at the same time. Such substances include phytates, oxalates, calcium, copper, lead and cadmium.
– Cautions: a dose of more than 50mg elemental zinc may cause headache, compromise copper levels and nausea. Do not take on an empty stomach. Do not take zinc long term, do so under the guidance of your therapist.
Food sources of zinc
|Food sources of zinc||mg Zinc/100gm|
Other sources of zinc include minced beef and animal proteins (minimal amounts in tofu), whole grains, nuts, seeds, oat bran, anchovies and crab meat.