The importance of adequate zinc
The human body contains around 1.5-2.5grams of zinc, of which most is found in the bones and muscles. Because there are no reserves of zinc in the body that are readily mobilised, it is crucial to keep a steady intake of zinc in the diet.
According to some research the zinc losses in our food are significant, with some sources suggesting losses between 1978-1991 of up to 59% in vegetables and 27% on fruit.
This is not to say that we must all be taking zinc supplementation, although a good quality multivitamin and mineral may not be a bad idea for most. High dose and long term zinc supplementation does not come without its risks, namely its opposing effects it has on copper status.
When looking towards nature, some great sources of both zinc and copper include oysters, liver and shrimp, so should be considered as part of a healthy balanced diet. Other good sources of zinc included beef, lamb, asparagus and venison.
Zinc plays a role in how we utilise carbohydrates and fats, supports conversion of thyroid hormone T4 to the more active thyroid hormone T3, is important for reproduction, taste, vision, vitamin A metabolism, digestive enzyme, sex hormone, insulin and serotonin production and is crucial for the optimal function of our immune system.
How do I know if my zinc levels are low?
Good symptom analysis should always be the first step in assessing your zinc levels. Here are some common symptoms if zinc levels are low:
- Poor growth
- Regular colds, infections or flu
- Eye and skin diseases
- Loss of smell or taste
- White spots in the nails
Generally when it comes to testing, red blood cell zinc and alkaline phosphatase levels can give good indications of zinc insufficiencies. Some practitioners will use a zinc taste test with liquid zinc, however the jury is still out for me with this one and at the time of writing this article it is something I rarely use in practice without sufficient symptom evidence and/or low alkaline phosphatase or RBC zinc levels.
The role of stomach acid in zinc levels
Any deficiency in a mineral can be the result of insufficient hydrochloric acid production, thus if you have symptoms of low HCl or pancreatic enzymes then your first measure may be to address any kind of gut dysfunction prior to zinc supplementation.
To read more about the role of HCl, signs and symptoms of deficiencies and so forth, please read Hidden Gut Dysfunctions Part 2: Stomach Acid Insufficiency.
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