Zinc is an important nutrient. It helps regulate genetic activity and is important for maintaining balanced blood sugar. Zinc is involved in carbohydrate, fat and protein metabolism. There are no specific storage sites for zinc inside our bodies, so we need to continuously include it in our diet. Zinc also is vital for healthy skin because it helps repair and renew skin cells. In women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, zinc is especially important for the proper development and growth of the baby. Anyone who suffers from inflammation (allergies, chronic pain, and arthritis are just a few of the health problems associated with inflammation) requires adequate amounts of zinc to help balance their body.
Zinc deficiencies can lead to weakened immunity, lack of appetite, hair loss, difficulty with taste and smell, depression, and mental and physical growth issues in infants and children. Many people do not even realize they are zinc-deficient until a doctor or nutritionist notices they have symptoms. Some symptoms include anemia, dandruff, arthritis, eczema, acne, dry skin rashes, diarrhea, hair loss, irregular menstrual periods, preeclampsia in pregnancy and reduced fertility.
As usual, I recommend getting your zinc from whole food sources. Great sources of zinc include liver, lamb, spinach, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, shrimp, crimini mushrooms, beans, lentils, sea vegetables, basil, thyme, squash, asparagus, chard, mustard greens, collard greens and broccoli.
Cooking and processing foods causes some zinc to be destroyed, depending on the food. For example, the processing of flour kills off about 75% of all zinc. This is the same flour used in most typical breads, pastas and baked goods. Again, look for whole food (not processed food) sources of zinc!
Some people may be getting enough zinc from their diet, but still have a deficiency. This happens for a few different reasons. A damaged digestive tract and issues with abnormal bowels can lead to a zinc deficiency. People who exercise intensely (such as athletes) lose a lot of zinc through sweating. There are also certain medications that interfere with zinc absorption, including blood pressure medications, antacids such as Zantac, birth control pills, and some antibiotics used to treat things like acne or urinary tract infections. If you fall into one of the above categories, you may need to supplement your diet with zinc in some way.
How to Know if You’re Deficient
Zinc deficiency is especially common in the elderly, athletes, or people who have certain diseases or digestive issues. If you have any of the symptoms listed above, I recommend doing further research to see if you need to increase zinc in your diet. There is an at-home test you can perform at home to see if you’re deficient. Purchase Zinc Tally or any other zinc solution designed for testing zinc inside your body (I think you can order this from Amazon). Do not eat or drink for one hour, and then drink a big sip of it and swish inside your mouth for 10 seconds. Then spit it out or swallow it. If you taste nothing, that indicates you have a zinc deficiency. If you taste something, you have good zinc levels. If you taste a strong, terrible flavor right away (such that you want to spit it out), that indicates you have a great zinc levels. This is a good thing to do with your kids too – even if they don’t have clear signs of zinc deficiency, kids tend to have limited diets and you don’t really want to mess around with being zinc-deficient.