Improving your zinc can dramatically improve your health, well-being and quality of life.
We think of zinc as the last mineral mentioned on our multivitamins or something we take during cold season. Truth be told it’s much more.
Zinc deficiency affects about 2.2 billion people global and right now that number may be significantly higher. Why is that? Because stress depletes your zinc, whether it’s physical, emotion, or mental. Stress causes your body to hemorrhage zinc. For billions worldwide, these are stressful times we’re living in and thus an increase in the number of people with zinc deficiency.
Signs and Symptoms of Zinc Deficiency
Take a look at the list of signs and symptoms below and see if any sound familiar to you. You may not make it to the end of the list, let alone article before you rush off to share it with your friends, family and colleagues. Please note signs and symptoms are listed in alphabetical order, not my frequency of occurrence or severity of zinc depletion.
- Burning mouth syndrome
- Chronic infections, such as, but not limited to, colds, flus, gastrointestinal infections, skin infections, etc.
- Chronically, dry, irritated, flaky skin
- Decreased fertility
- Decreased quality of erections
- Decreased sex drive
- Decreased testosterone production and consequential physical manifestations thereof
- Diarrhea, increased severity thereof
- Distorted sense of smell and taste
- Dry, scaly skin (xerosis)
- Impaired immune system
- Impaired wound healing
- Inflammation of the mouth and lips (stomatis)
- Ingrown hairs
- Ingrown nails
- Loss of appetite
- Night blindness
- Sores at the corners of the mouth (angular cheiltitis)
- White tongue coating
Yowza! If you made it to the bottom of the list and you’re feeling a bit worried, take a deep breath and continue reading. Your zinc levels won’t change in the time it takes to finish this piece, but you will learn helpful ways to bring up your zinc levels and when to see a professional.
Recommendations for Zinc Intake
The RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) for zinc is 11 mg for adult men and 8 mg for adult women. Women who are pregnant need 11 mg and those that are breastfeeding need 12 mg. Please note that these recommendations of based on physiological gender, not gender identity.
Adult male recomendations are higher because for testosterone production. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding need to speak with a health and nutrition professional prior to supplementation. An increase in organic dietary sources until you can speak with your healthcare professional is safe and highly recommended regardless of gender.
Addressing Zinc Deficiency
Here’s the catch. Those recommendations are based on “normal” people and we can all agree that the normal is nothing more than a setting on the washing machine. If you’re one of the 2+ billion humans rocking a zinc deficiency, or suffering from conditions that increase the rate of zinc utilization such as high stress, recent injury, anxiety or depression, your body needs more zinc than a normal person.
Think of nutrient deficiency, especially minerals and fat soluble vitamins, like getting out of debt. When you’re climbing your way out of debt you’ve got to pay your day to day expenses (bus fair, food, whatever bill is due that day), put money aside in savings to boost your credit and provide a financial cushion, and you’ve got to put a dent in that debt.
When you’re climbing out of nutrient depletion you’ve got to use the nutrient for your immediate needs (for zinc think immune system, mental health, hormone regulation, healthy skin, etc.), pack some away for nutrient storage for days you don’t get enough or high stress events, and you’ve got to replenish depleted stores.
Consequentially, you’ve got to consume, and often supplement, above and beyond the recommended dosage. This is akin to getting a second job, AKA side hussle, to help get on top of and eliminate your debt problem.
There’s another way that nutrient deficiency is like getting out of debt – you’ve got to solve the problem that got you there in the first place or the deficiency is going to continue. In debt, it tends to be spending habits beyond income reality. Nutritionally it can be chronic low intake, deficiency in the nutrients needed to absorb and use zinc, consuming foods that don’t have that nutrient highly available (example zinc in cereals is bound to phytates and not available to use), or have a condition that is causing loss of this nutrient.
Trust Your Gut
Stress, injury and mental health conditions have been mentioned as things that increase the loss or utilization of zinc, but there is another that is also common, but overlooked: leaky gut syndrome. If you have leaky gut syndrome and don’t know or fully understand what it is, supplementation of zinc is not going to be of much help because your intestinal tract is unable to properly absorb nutrients. While prolonged digestive issues are not something we like to discuss, they are an absolute must in seeing a health care professional.
Let’s focus on the positive, the benefits of zinc. Eating zinc rich foods, which we will discuss here soon, and properly supplementing if need be, can make a significant improvement in your health, mood, and well-being.
We’re talking proper hormone production (in both men and women), cellular growth and repair (think healthy appearance on the outside and things functioning as they meant to on the inside), healthy nails and nail beds, healthy skin and hair, improved immune system, improved mental health, better digestion, and yes men, improved erectile quality.
Oysters are by and far the richest source of zinc. A single 3 ounce serving contains 74 mg! That is significantly more than the recommendations of 11mg for adult men and 8mg for adult women. This is why oysters are claimed to be a major aphrodisiac. Steer clear of the breaded and deep fat fried assortment.
Beef and crab are great sources packing nearly half the RDA in a 3 ounce serving. Other great sources include lobster, pork, and chicken. If you’re a vegetarian zinc rich options include yogurt, almonds, cashews, pumpkin seeds, broccoli and Brazil nuts.
People at Risk of Zinc Deficiency
Zinc deficiency can be caused by not consuming enough zinc rich foods on a regular basis, a vitamin D deficiency that prevents the proper absorption and utilization of zinc, stress (chronic or acute) and digestive disorders, especially leaky gut syndrome. Lactation, alcoholism, older age, and metabolic disorders all increase the need for zinc and thus put a person at higher risk for zinc deficiency.
Individuals who follow plant based diets (vegetarians and vegans) are at higher risk for zinc deficiency due to low bioavailability and amounts of zinc in plant based foods. Pair all that with globally zinc depleted soils, higher than ever stress levels and rates of mental illness and deficiency is nearly inevitable.
Consistent supplementation and focus on foods rich in zinc and you’ll be on the mend in no time. Definitely speak with a well versed health and nutrition provider to find the right supplement for you and to identify any other factors that may be contributing to your zinc deficiency.
The Takeaway on Zinc
If you’ve been experiencing any of the aforementioned signs and symptoms of zinc deficiency start eating more zinc rich foods. Also reach out to a true nutrition professional to find a long-term solution. If you choose supplementation do your research on the best option for you. Take your supplement with a meal, and also make sure to take with vitamin D. Do not skip seeing a health professional or you may not fully address the cause of the zinc deficiency. If you are taking medication check to see if it has any contraindications related to zinc. Speak with your pharmacist to find a solution that may be as simple as time of day you take your meds and zinc.
Do not glance over chronic digestive issues, mental illness, decreased sex drive and functionality, or chronic skin conditions. Take care of yourself.