Zinc is a vital mineral for our health and well being, yet unfortunately 85% of Australian women and 50% of men are not getting enough zinc in their diet. This is due to many factors, including poor zinc levels in the soil and over processing of food.
Getting enough zinc in our diet every day is important because there are no specialised storage systems for zinc in the body. Sadly, even the healthiest diets may not contain adequate amounts of zinc to meet the physiological needs of many people.
Additionally, zinc absorption and utilisation may be blocked by toxins, heavy metals, excess copper and even phytates in our food. Lifestyle factors, such as increased exercise, alcohol and coffee consumption and vegetarian diets also increase the need for zinc, while higher levels are needed during pregnancy and breast feeding, in the elderly and those with ongoing health conditions. For these reasons, supplementing with a bioavailable form of zinc is a ‘must’.
However, the first job is recognising the key clinical clues of zinc deficiency.
1. White spots on the fingernails – It’s true that white spots classically occur in zinc deficient individuals and might be a good clue that your client is low in zinc. However, white spots can easily occur from a knock or injury to the nail bed and the absence of white spots does not rule out zinc deficiency.
2. Poor immune function – Zinc is essential for healthy immune cell function and its deficiency can be an underlying cause of frequent colds and flu and other immune challenges such as allergies. Zinc may also help inhibit the excessive release of histamine known to be problematic in allergies as a zinc deficiency likely to increase histamine production.
3. Issues with taste and smell – Researchers have confirmed that people with zinc deficiency have reduced sensation of taste and smell, and they’ve found that supplementation improves taste recognition and sensation.
4. Mood and neurological disturbances – Zinc plays an important part in modulating the brain’s response to stress, in fact, the highest levels of zinc in the body are found in the hippocampus - an area of the brain that regulates motivation, emotion, learning, and memory .
Zinc is a co factor for neurotransmitter function, It is no wonder that zinc deficiency is associated with mood changes ranging from depression, to rapidly changing thoughts, nervousness, hyperactivity and even psychosis.
5. Gastrointestinal problems – Supplementation with zinc may help strengthen the intestinal lining to protect against ‘leaky gut’ and heal intestinal cells. Most gastro-intestinal conditions benefit from zinc supplementation and often require higher levels.
se the intestinal absorption of zinc may be affected.
6. Skin complaints – It’s common knowledge that zinc is good for the skin and is important for wound healing. Low zinc levels might present with delayed wound healing or the appearance of stretch marks. More severe zinc deficiency may cause atopic dermatitis and a cracked, fissured appearance of the skin.
7. Thinning and greying hair –Zinc deficiency is associated with de-pigmentation of the hair. Zinc is also an essential cofactor needed for healthy thyroid function. Poor zinc status and an underlying thyroid issue may cause hair thinning and even alopecia.
There are many health conditions where zinc deficiency is also highly likely, such as hormonal complaints and reproductive issues, obesity and metabolic syndrome, liver disease, inflammatory bowel diseases, cancer and many more.