Zinc, the immune mineral?
Wait, there's more!
Alphabetically, zinc may be found last in the supplement line-up. But you may want to make it first on your shopping list for two very good reasons. One, zinc is quite well-known for supporting the activation of many immune cells involved in defensive actions. Two, it’s often low in fibromyalgia and affects the severity of symptoms in this multi-symptom disorder of pain, brain fog and poor sleep.
The truth is, there are many, many more reasons why you need zinc as there is a long list of accolades beyond immunity and fibro. This in itself is remarkable, given that the RDA was not established for humans until 1974 by the National Academy of Sciences Food and Nutrition Board. The RDA for adult men is 11 mg and 8 mg for women. The research on zinc is young, though, and many fascinating facts about zinc are only recently unfolding.
Zinc seems to be everywhere. It can be found throughout your body and brain and is involved with hundreds of enzymatic processes, including how cells signal each other, organs function and even in bone building. The biochemical job of zinc in the body is complicated and its to-do list -- although partial -- is amazing!
- involved in multiple phases of cell metabolism, regulation & division
- required for immunity, immune cell development & activation
- active as antioxidant to reduce risks in age related disorders (heart, diabetes, certain cancers, macular degeneration)
- aids bone regeneration & maintenance
- a signaling helper for hormones involved in sexual health & sex drive
- responsive as receptors for cellular interactions with steroids, hormones, vitamin D & A
- critical for brain & nervous system function for cognition, memory & recall
- a positive effect on neurotransmitters serotonin for mood/pain & GABA to calm the mind
- involved in the sense of taste & smell
- therapy for colds when taken within first 24 hours & then 2-week therapy
- vital for skin health & every stage of wound healing
You do not want to be low in this essential mineral but you might be.
Around 2 billion people worldwide are estimated to be low in zinc. Now that you know that both your body and your brain need daily zinc to function optimally, don't be in the low group!. Even mild zinc deficiency can affect the body’s health.
Other health experts agree. According to the National Institutes of Health, “Because zinc has many functions throughout the body, zinc deficiency affects many different tissues and organs…for example, skin, bones, and the digestive, reproductive, central nervous, and immune systems.”
Common symptoms of low zinc include problems with thinking and memory, slow wound healing, loss of taste and smell, impaired immunity, low libido, fatigue and poor sleep. Because these symptoms could fit so many other health issues, zinc is often unsuspected as a cause and thus not given as a remedy.
How do you feel? Do you have any of these symptoms?
- Anemia, not responsive to iron
- Anxiety, stress
- Brain fog
- Cognitive issues, concentration, memory & recall
- Fatigue, low energy
- Hormonal problems (hair loss, infertility, impotence, libido, menopause, PMS, weight)
- Hyperactivity, inability to relax
- Immunity (low resistance to illness)
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Salty or sweet food cravings
- Sleep quality (restless/interrupted)
- Skin disorders & acne
- Taste & smell (loss of)
- Wound healing (delayed)
If you think you might be low in zinc, how do you get it? Zinc can be found in common foods such as seafood, meat and eggs. However, many Americans combine these foods with whole grains and veggies that contain phytates which inhibit zinc absorption. Vegans may also be at risk due to their diets which are higher in phytates. (Phytates are antioxidant compounds found in nuts, seeds, whole grains and legumes so they are not all bad in a diet.) Besides low dietary consumption, low levels may be caused by malabsorption, GI disorders like celiac and Crohn's, being over age 65, and taking prescription medications that can interfere or compete with zinc absorption.
Let’s be very clear.
You need 10-20 mg of zinc every day because your body does not make it. That means it is essential and maintaining sufficient levels required by the cells, muscles, skin, heart, liver, bones, and so on is important for proper functioning. If you are not getting zinc in your diet, if you have conditions or medications that impact zinc absorption, the health of your brain and body are compromised!
Taking a Zinc Supplement Wisely
Given the essential nature of zinc, taking a supplement may be a good option for many. Toxicity with zinc is rare. The National Institutes of Health suggest a dose of no more than 40 mg/day. Research suggests that 80 mg/day may be taken at the first sign of a cold for up to 2 weeks only. With other conditions, including fibromyalgia, 30-40 mg a day is a good start. As we mentioned above, multiple symptoms of fibromyalgia could be reduced in severity by fixing a zinc deficiency if one exists (brain fog, pain tolerance, sleep, low GABA and serotonin to name a few).
Although some medical professionals may test zinc serum (blood) levels, Alan Gaby, M.D. advises that there is no definitive test to check for low levels. Thus, if you try zinc and feel better, chances are your body level was low.
Get the Best Zinc
As with most supplements, the type of zinc you take should be bioavailable as many minerals are in a low absorbable form that also distresses the stomach and GI tract. It is also critical to balance zinc and copper when supplementing. David’s Zinc
™ contains 30 mg of L-Opti-Zinc®, a patented form of zinc based on branded research findings and benefits. David’s Zinc™ also contains 0.3 mg of Copper in its formula to keep these two minerals balanced.
There you have it! Zinc is amazing and often overlooked despite its role in many, many brain and body functions. Although you cannot get a test (yet) for zinc levels, supplementing for a month or two is a good way to find out if you are low by how much better you feel!
Caution: Zinc may interact with, be inhibited by or inhibit medications. If you are on a prescription medication, please consult with your health care professional. Usually, allowing 2 hours between may be the recommendation.
Resources: 1) Gaby, AR, Nutritional Medicine, Zinc; 2) Linus Pauling Institute MicroNutrient Information Center, Zinc; 3) NIH, Health Professional Fact Sheet on Zinc.
©TyH Publications (M. Squires). For informational purposes only. Not intended to replace your healthcare professional’s medical advice.