Signs of Zinc Deficiency and Ways to Increase Levels

Zinc is a mineral which we need to remain healthy, but which gets little to no attention. It is essential for health, yet most Zincof us consume far too little of it. The medical community ignored Zinc until 1974. The World Health Organization now estimates that Zinc deficiency is a global problem affecting the health of millions. Some estimate 12% of the US population has a Zinc deficiency. The symptoms of a Zinc deficiency mimic those of many other disorders. The potential that these disorders could be diminished simply by increasing our Zinc levels is profound.

Among other things, Zinc is responsible for:

  • Over 300 enzymatic reactions affecting the function of every body system
  • Maintaining healthy immunity
  • Wound healing
  • Forming healthy sperm and eggs while regulating hormone levels
  • Maintaining healthy skin
  • Synthesis of healthy DNA
  • Maintaining normal metabolism
  • Maintaining normal blood sugar levels
  • Maintaining normal vision
  • Maintenance of normal connective tissues and collagen levels in the body

Obviously, a Zinc deficiency can have a negative affect from head to toe. Many people have a Zinc deficiency but do not realize it. The symptoms of a Zinc deficiency may include, but are not limited to:

  • Body odor and stinky feet (Stinky tennis shoes a problem in your teen’s room? Increase his or her Zinc intake)
  • Acne and other skin disorders
  • Frequent illness from compromise immunity
  • Slow healing wounds
  • Hair loss
  • Skin rashes and sores or dry, scaly skin
  • Splits and cracks at the corners of the mouth
  • Diarrhea, loss of appetite, malabsorption and decrease in stomach acid
  • Infertility, impotence, menstrual irregularity and PMS
  • Premature graying of the hair
  • Multiple white spots or lines on the fingernails (This is NOT caused by a Calcium deficiency. Let’s please kill that myth. A single white spot may be a positive sign that the body combatted an infectious organism. Multiple white spots or bands are often seen in a Zinc deficiency.)
  • Loss of sex drive
  • Diminished or lost sense of taste and smell
  • Anemia
  • Brain fog
  • Hang nails
  • Sleep problems
  • Depression and anxiety (Many psychiatric conditions improve when a combination of Zinc and B Vitamins is administered)
  • Stretch marks not caused by pregnancy or weight loss/gain
  • Inflamed gums
  • Allergies (To both food and environmental allergens. A Zinc deficiency is common in those with multiple food allergies and may make symptoms and sensitivity worse)
  • Joint pain
  • Emotional Instability, PMS, OCD and irratibility
  • Benign tremors in the hands
  • Vision changes (Poor night vision may be partially caused by a Zinc deficiency. People with cataracts and glaucoma typically have low levels of Zinc.)
  • Post-partum depression (and development issues in infants born to Zinc-deprived women)
  • Changes in cell death which may lead to increased cancer levels

So how can you test for a Zinc deficiency? A simple test I use in my practice is to have people swish a liquid Zinc assay in their mouth for 10-20 seconds. If they taste metal or a very bitter taste immediately, their Zinc levels are probably fine. If the solution tastes like water, that is a good indicator of a Zinc deficiency. Zinc levels can be tested in the blood, but these tests are somewhat inaccurate and may vary greatly based on meals, time of day, etc.

If you suspect you have a Zinc deficiency, you may notice a quick decrease in symptoms simply by increasing foods that are high in Zinc. The food highest in Zinc is oysters, preferably raw. Raw oysters provide an incredibly high amount of Zinc. (This may be why they are touted as an aphrodisiac.) Eating a half cup or more of Pumpkin Seeds on a daily basis is also a healthy way of increasing Zinc levels. Other foods high in zinc include meats, fish, nuts, liver, crab and legumes. Increasing your dietary intake of Zinc will only be beneficial if your digestion and absorption are suffcient. (See my post The Top Six Ways to Maximize Digestion for tips on improving absorption.)

If you suspect you have an extreme Zinc deficiency, it may be wise to use a Zinc supplement for one to two months. I prefer liquid Zinc supplements and recommend swishing them for 30 seconds before swallowing. Two of my favorites include:

If you prefer to take a Zinc supplement in capsules, I like:

Most multivitamins also contain Zinc. When taking a Zinc supplement, I recommend taking no more than 50 mg daily. Some experts have found it beneficial to take higher amounts – up to 100 mg daily – for a very short amount of time during periods of illness or during extreme healing. Never take more than 50 mg daily for more than two weeks except under the direction of a professional practitioner. Please be aware that taking too much Zinc can cause problems and may result in liver issues.

If you are experiencing unusual symptoms but are not sure of what is causing them, please consider scheduling a consultation with me. I will help you identify the source of your challenges and will then work with you to create a personalized plan to address them. To schedule, please email me or call 317.489.0909.

Do you take a Zinc supplement? Which one do you take?

 

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Dr. Pamela Reilly is a Naturopathic Physician dedicated to helping people improve their health and eliminate symptoms using natural, integrative methods. She has over 25 years of experience and has helped men, women and children improve their health using a holistic, client-centered focus. She sees clients in Indianapolis, does house calls, and also conducts consultations via Skype or telephone. Please feel free to contact her or visit her Consultations page for more information. Dr. Pamela speaks nationwide on a wide variety of health topics and welcomes speaking invitations.

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31 Responses to Signs of Zinc Deficiency and Ways to Increase Levels

  1. Nakul Arora says:

    I am 17yrs old and i think i have zinc deficiency as i have so many pimples on my face and i have grown my chest tissue into breast tissue sounds funny but yes i have read so much about this and it result in finding that increase in estrogen lead to that breast enlargement and zinc helps in reducing estrogen in the body so please recommend me what should i do to increase zinc in my body should i start taking zinc tablets or not and in how much quantity?

    • Hi. This is something you should discuss with your physician. If you decide to take a zinc supplement, I would take on that has between 30-50 mg of zinc per day and which contains a small amount of copper. I wish you the very best.

  2. […] absorbed. Stomach acid is also essential for the absorption of minerals such as calcium, magnesium, zinc, […]

  3. […] May 22, 2012 … Provides detailed information about the effects of a zinc deficiency … A Zinc deficiency is common in those with multiple food allergies and may … [more] […]

  4. Rachel Champlin says:

    Very informative article.
    Thanks for sharing! !

  5. […] and can be made in less than 10 minutes. It is also high in magnesium, potassium, lycopene, zinc, antioxidants and more. It’s a win-win! Please try it and let me know what you […]

  6. U & J says:

    health food rep only had pill form zinc not liquid and suggested zinc with chelator… or something like that… bought assay online instead and now want pill form. should we buy zinc chelated?

  7. John says:

    Informed now than ever before on zinc.Thanks.

  8. […] Signs of Zinc Deficiency and Ways to Increase Zinc Levels Discusses ways to spot a zinc deficiency and the best ways to boost your zinc levels. The statement, “You need zinc to think,” is very true! .  […]

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