In order to function properly, your body needs an assortment of vitamins and minerals. One key mineral that your body needs is zinc. Although large quantities of zinc are not needed for optimal health, it’s possible to experience a zinc deficiency, especially if you are a vegetarian.
Studies have found that approximately 12 percent of Americans are at risk of a zinc deficiency. Furthermore, about 40 percent of elderly Americans will experience a zinc deficiency in their life due to decreased absorption rates and inadequate intake of foods rich in zinc.
Zinc Rich Foods
The body does not have a specialized storage system; therefore, it is essential that you maintain a steady supply of zinc rich foods. So what are some of the best sources of zinc? Zinc is found in foods including –
- Seafood and oysters
- Red meat and poultry
- Nuts like Brazil nuts, almonds, pecans, and cashews
- Beans and lentils
- Seeds like flax seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and chia seeds
- Whole grains
Although zinc is found in certain whole grains, beans, and legumes, the bioavailability is much lower than animal based foods.
Benefits of Zinc
Most people have seen zinc advertised as an over the counter cold remedy; however, it is involved in hundreds of processes throughout the body. Your body uses zinc for-
- Cellular metabolism
- Cell division
- Protein synthesis
Zinc also supports growth and development, helps maintain your sense of smell and taste, is needed in the healing process, and is used during the creation of DNA.
Zinc Deficiency Symptoms
When your body is deficient in zinc, it can lead to a number of unpleasant symptoms. The severity of these symptoms is associated with the severity of the zinc deficiency.
- Brain Fog
Research has shown that zinc impacts how neurons in the brain communicate. Low zinc levels have been associated with memory issues, decreased cognitive function, brain fog or foggy thinking. Because zinc is vital to brain health, supplementation may help improve a variety of issues, including ADHD and memory loss.
Zinc helps with insulin production and naturally helps regulate blood glucose levels. If you do not consume enough zinc rich foods, you can experience lower insulin levels, regardless of any underlying health conditions or body weight. Increasing consumption of zinc rich foods or supplementation may help prevent diabetes and help regulate blood glucose levels.
Did you know that not getting enough zinc can increase your risk of developing diarrhea? Nutritional deficiencies prevent the body from being able to adequately fight off infections. Supplementing with zinc may help to shorten the symptoms of infectious diarrhea.
- Growth Retardation
Zinc is needed for optimal growth and development. Typically, prenatal vitamins contain zinc to ensure the proper growth and development of the fetus. If a child is not developing or growing properly, zinc deficiency may be the cause.
- Hair Loss
Zinc is necessary for hair growth and repair. This all important mineral ensures the oil glands around your hair follicles are functioning properly. Hair loss can occur when your body is not receiving an ample amount of zinc. Zinc supplementation may help reduce hair loss; however, certain studies have shown that high doses of zinc may contribute to hair loss.
- Increased Frequency of Colds
Because zinc is needed for a strong, healthy immune response, a zinc deficiency can increase the frequency of colds, viral infections, and bacterial infections. Adequate amount of zinc can decrease the length of illness if taken within the first 24 hours of an illness.
- Reduced Sense of Smell and Taste
There are several things that can cause you to lose your sense of smell or taste. One of the most common reasons is not having enough zinc in your body. Why? An important enzyme is needed to be able to properly smell and taste. The body requires zinc to produce this enzyme.
- Slow Wound Healing
Zinc is needed for blood clotting, cellular regeneration, and healthy skin. If you have a wound that will not heal, it may be a sign of a deficiency. You can improve your skin health, decrease wound healing times, and relieve acne by increasing your zinc levels in the body.
- Vision Changes
High zinc concentrations are found in the eye. One of the symptoms of a zinc deficiency is blurry vision. If the deficiency becomes severe enough changes can occur in the retina, causing altered vision. Correcting the deficiency through a healthy diet and zinc supplementation may help improve your eyesight.
- Weight Loss
If you have a zinc deficiency, you may begin experiencing unexplained weight loss caused by appetite changes. Although many consider weight loss a good thing, weight loss caused by a zinc deficiency can cause mood swings, depression, and irritability.
Zinc supplements are great for immediate relief; however, you should focus on increasing your zinc levels by eating zinc rich foods.
How We Can Help
Your body is multifaceted. When one system does not function properly or you have a nutritional deficiency, it can impact all areas of your life. Rather than just reaching for a zinc supplement, our team will work to determine the root causes of any underlying conditions that could be causing the zinc deficiency. We develop a health plan that will address these underlying conditions, a diet that will increase your zinc levels, and whether supplements are needed. Get started on your journey toward optimal health.