There are a lot of nutrients which your body needs to function properly.
It can be overwhelming to try to keep track of all of them – what do they do, why they are beneficial, and how much do you need?
As a provider of naturopathic nutritional therapy in Mississauga I want to help you make sense of the various vitamins and minerals your body needs to function at its peak.
Today we’re going to take a closer look at the mineral zinc, and why you need it.
What Is Zinc?
Zinc is an essential nutrient which plays a number of roles in the way your body functions.
Being an essential nutrient means your body can’t produce it, so you need to get it through either diet or supplementation.
It’s a mineral, which is different than a vitamin.
Minerals, on the other hand, are elements that come from soil and water, and the plants and animals you eat absorb them from there.
Zinc can be found in a large number of foods and is often added to foods such as cereals and flour.
Zinc plays a role in functions such as:
- Synthesis of DNA
- Functioning of the immune system
- Enzyme reactions
- Development and growth
- Healing of wounds
- Protein synthesis
Health Benefits Of Zinc
Zinc has been associated with a variety of health benefits.
In this section, we’ll review a few of these.
1. It Reduces Wear And Tear From Aging
The risk of developing certain diseases can increase as you age, however, getting older doesn’t mean you’re automatically going to end up with one of these.
Zinc can help lower the chance of developing some conditions, including infections, pneumonia, vision loss, and age related macular degeneration.
In addition, older individuals who used zinc supplements found their bodies had better responses to flu vaccines than those who didn’t use a supplement.
2. It Helps Keep Inflammation Down
Zinc is an antioxidant, which means it can help reduce the number of inflammatory proteins in the body and lowers oxidative stress.
Oxidative stress is an imbalance between the number of antioxidants and free radicals in the body and can lead to inflammation.
Supplementing with zinc has been shown to reduce inflammation compared to those who didn’t use a zinc supplement.
3. It Can Help Manage Acne
Acne is a skin disease caused by a combination of inflammation, bacteria, and overactive oil glands.
It often occurs in people who aren’t getting enough zinc.
Topical, as well as orally ingested, zinc treatments can help reduce acne by repressing oil gland activity, lowering inflammation, and inhibiting the growth of acne causing bacteria.
As a result, zinc can be a useful naturopathic treatment for skin conditions like acne.
As a result, it’s a good idea to speak with your Mississauga naturopath to get to the bottom of your acne.
4. It Helps Support Your Immune System
Zinc is required for immune system function, and not having enough of it can result in a lower immune response.
More specifically, zinc can activate certain immune cells, and also acts to lower oxidative stress.
Taking zinc may also shorten the length of the common cold, and can also reduce the risk of infection.
5. It Helps Your Body Heal From Open Cuts
Zinc is important for helping your body synthesize collagen, which is important for wound healing.
It’s even used in hospitals as part of the treatment for skin injuries such as ulcers and burns.
Using a zinc supplement can help to hasten wound recovery, whereas people with a zinc deficiency are often found to have slower healing times.
Dietary Sources Of Zinc
If you’re looking to get more zinc, without taking supplements, consider adding some of these zinc rich foods to your diet:
- Shellfish, including crabs, oysters, and mussels
- Dairy products including cheese, milk, and yogurt
- Chicken and turkey
- Whole grains such as quinoa, and brown rice
- Meat such as pork, lamb, and beef
- Legumes such as lentils, chickpeas, and black beans
- Fish, such as sardines, sole, and salmon
- Seeds and nuts, including pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, and cashews
- Foods fortified with zinc such as certain snack bars and cereals
It should be noted that the body absorbs zinc more easily from animal products such as fish and meat than from plant based sources, so keep that in mind if you’re following a vegetarian or vegan diet.
Symptoms Of Zinc Deficiency
Zinc deficiency is rare, as most people will get enough of it through their regular diets.
There are some factors, however, which can make an individual more susceptible to zinc deficiency, which includes:
- Alcohol addiction and abuse
- Digestive disorders such as Crohn’s disease
- Being vegan or vegetarian
- Being on certain medications
- Some genetic mutations, such as sickle cell anemia
- Chronic kidney disease
- Infants who are chest or breast feeding, in cases where the feeding parent isn’t getting enough zinc
Symptoms to watch out for, which could indicate zinc deficiency include:
- Skin rashes
- Diminished development and growth
- Impeded sexual development
- Slowed wound healing
- Behavioural issues
Symptoms Of Zinc Toxicity
If you’re using supplements to help get your daily supply of zinc, it’s important to ensure you’re not taking too much, to avoid zinc toxicity.
The symptoms of zinc toxicity include:
- Vomiting and nausea
- Decreased immune function
- Abdominal cramps
- Lowered levels of HDL (“good”) cholesterol
- Low appetite
If you’re planning to take zinc supplements, it’s always best to discuss this with your naturopathic doctor in order to ensure you’re taking the right dosage.
Book Your Appointment With The Mindful Healing Clinic Today
Are you worried you might not be getting enough zinc to meet your body’s needs?
Do you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, and are concerned about this, and other important nutrients?
Or perhaps you have a gastrointestinal issue which inhibits your body’s ability to absorb nutrients.
Whatever the issues, I can help.
I’m Dr. Maria Cavallazzi, ND, at the Mindful Healing clinic, and every day I help my clients with their nutritional concerns, offering nutritional counselling services to ensure you’re getting all the vitamins and minerals you need.
Until next time,
Dr. Maria Cavallazzi is a medical doctor from Colombia where she practiced as a family physician for 8 years until she moved to Canada 16 years ago and became a naturopathic doctor in Mississauga.