Your body requires zinc to live and symptoms of zinc deficiency are often misdiagnosed. This essential element plays an important role in many of your bodily functions. Most of your zinc is found in your bones and muscles as well as the prostate and semen in men.
During pregnancy, cells rapidly divide as the fetus develops. Zinc is necessary for healthy growth and the prevention of congenital birth defects. It continues to be pivotal to growth as children age.
For adults, zinc is crucial to fertility in both genders, a healthy prostate throughout life in males, important for female menstruation regularity, a powerful vitamin to fight the outward signs of aging, and helps to protect vision. More than 300 enzymes require it for activity and it plays a role in more than 2000 forms of gene expression.
The most important function that zinc boosts for every person at every age is your immune system. Experts consider it the most essential vitamin for strong immunity because it “bulks up” your T-cells so they more accurately seek out and fight infection.
Common Zinc Deficiency Symptoms
- Weakened immune system and increased susceptibility to infection, digestive distress, and common illnesses.
- Fatigue no matter how much sleep you get.
- Increased risk of diabetes and metabolic syndromes.
- Poor appetite, which can lead to eating disorders.
- Rapid aging accompanied by decline in basic functions throughout your body that include macular degeneration, night blindness, Alzheimer’s, dental deterioration, and bone loss.
- Loss of smell and loss of taste for food and drinks.
- Hair loss, early graying, thinning, and damage to the skin in the form of lesions.
- Decrease in cognitive function that causes confusion and reduced motor skills – if a pregnant woman has zinc deficiency, she can pass cognitive function issues on to her child.
- Stunted growth or impaired mental development in babies and children.
- Discoloration of nail beds in the form of a white half-moon shape or nails that are brittle.
- Higher levels of inflammation throughout your body.
- Dyslexia, behavioral issues such as mood swings, and increased risk of depression.
- Low sperm count in males.
- Dry, rough skin that leads to psoriasis, acne, dermatitis, and unexplained rashes.
Experts estimate that as many as 2 billion people in the developed world are dietary zinc deficient – they do not get enough zinc through food sources. The number of people who have conditioned zinc deficiency – problems absorbing zinc due to stress or other health concerns – is unknown but considered to be extremely common.
Zinc is so crucial to health that it is ranked as the fifth leading cause of disease development – especially in undeveloped countries.
Since symptoms of zinc deficiency cover a broad range of bodily functions, they are often misdiagnosed. Zinc is found in more animal foods than plant sources so those who follow a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle are particularly at risk for zinc deficiency. The fiber in plant-based foods can slow or prevent the absorption of zinc.
Approximately half the population of the United States is affected with an infection known as H. pylori. It is a condition that stops the body’s production of stomach acid and makes it difficult to absorb zinc. Alcohol and antibiotics affect zinc absorption as well as steroids, cortisone, allergy medications, and diuretics.
Zinc absorption is improved when combined with vitamins A, D, and B6. Vitamin D also aids in the absorption and use of calcium and magnesium.
Excellent Natural Food Sources of Zinc
- Grass-fed beef
- Organic poultry
- Leafy greens (spinach, broccoli, Swiss chard, and bok choy)
- Nuts and seeds
- Shrimp, oysters, and scallops
- Dairy products and eggs
If you choose to take a zinc supplement, the upper limit is approximately 30mg daily for adults. Too much zinc is also dangerous and can inhibit your absorption of other vitamins and minerals. If you begin to experience nausea, abdominal cramping, or develop a metallic taste in your mouth, you may be getting too much zinc.
Your body will more easily process zinc found in food. If you are experiencing any symptoms of zinc deficiency, examine your diet and add foods abundant with this essential vitamin. If problems persist, talk to your doctor and consider supplementation.
You need zinc at every age. Make sure your body has what it needs to keep you healthy for decades to come and hold back some of the worst signs of aging.