Our Immune system functions to protect our body against various infections and diseases.
What we eat, affects our immune system. Inadequate intake of selected micronutrients can lead to immune deficiency.
A good way to build your immune system is to understand your need for important vitamins and minerals that play an essential role in your immunity.
In this article, we will look at the most important mineral that is needed to build a properly functioning immune /system that is efficient in protecting yourself from various kinds of bacterial and viral infections.
And the mineral is non-other than the ZINC
Benefits of Zinc
Zinc is an essential micro-nutrient that our bodies need in small amounts to function properly.
Zinc is involved in only a few biological processes like Protein and DNA production, cell division, and wound healing.
However, zinc is also known for playing a crucial role in the function of the immune system.
Many people believe that supplementing zinc can help prevent colds and other infections and illnesses.
Although zinc deficiency is relatively rare in the developed world, certain populations such as the elderly and the vegetarians do have an increased likelihood of not getting enough zinc.
As many as 50% of the alcoholics have low zinc levels because the ethanol present in the alcohol decreases the zinc absorption and increases its excretion.
Also, the diet that is consumed by most of the youngsters living outside their homes contains very low quantities of zinc and can lead to a deficiency.
Zinc plays a critical role in virtually all aspects of the immune system.
Zinc is required for the optimal function of many different types of white blood cells that protect the body from illness and infection.
In addition, zinc also plays a role in Cytokine production, Phagocytosis, and other immune system processes.
Activation of the immune system results in an increased generation of reactive oxygen species which can intern damage the immune system cells and processes.
As an Anti-oxidant compound, zinc can help neutralizes damage, indirectly improving the function of the immune system.
Even MILD ZINC deficiency can weaken the immune system, whereas people with severe zinc deficiencies suffer from constant infections that can even lead to deaths as early as 25 years of age.
Zinc dosage trials on Humans
Human trials confirmed that zinc supplementation can improve immunity in the elderly and help us to fight many infections like the common cold.
Zinc 45 mg supplementation appears to boost the immune system function of older adults.
A study was done to test the immune benefits of Zinc supplementation in the elderly population.
50 healthy adults aged 55-87 received zinc Gluconate 45 mg for 12 months.
The trial found out that older adults had naturally lower zinc levels than younger adults and that supplementation raised zinc levels along with a significant reduction in the occurrence of infections and the production of Tumour Necrosis Factor-alpha (TNF- Alpha), a Cytokine that promotes infection.
The researchers concluded that after supplementation, the incidence of infection was significantly lower, Plasma zinc was significantly higher, and the generation of Tumour Necrosis factor Alpha was significantly lower.
Another research was done with 75mg daily dosage of zinc and it was found that 75mg dosage also reduced the duration of colds, but not significantly more than that provided by 45mg of daily zinc.
So, the researchers suggest that around 45 mg of zinc Gluconate is enough to boost immunity.
We recommend zinc for helping with the cold infections and for older adults to boost their overall immunity.
Older individuals tend to have lower zinc levels and researcher confirms that the zinc deficiency can weaken the immune system.
Zinc Gluconate or Zinc acetate is ideal.
Most of the zinc supplements come in one of these two forms.
While zinc does appear to have some use as an immunity booster, taking too much zinc can also have many opposite effects.
One study reported that men taking 300mg of zinc twice daily for 6 weeks had an impaired immune response.
Symptoms of Zinc Deficiency
1. Loss of smell and taste.
Zinc is responsible for a lot of neurological receptors of our body and when we have a deficiency of Zinc, we are not able to get the actual taste of the food we are eating.
Many people in the case of loss of smell or taste try to eat more sugars and salts to make the food tastier.
And as we know that those foods are processed foods that are already deficient in Zinc levels. Thereby decreasing your Zinc levels furthermore.
2. White spots on Finger nails
This is one of the earliest symptoms to determine the deficiency of zinc.
Many a time we see a white spot on our nails and sometimes we just ignore it without knowing the cause.
Right now, check your nails for any white spots and if you find any with other symptoms of zinc deficiency in this article, then you need to be smarter in taking your next step.
3. Hair Loss/ weakening of hairs
If you are having hair loss issues then it may be due to the deficiency of zinc.
Here, I am not talking about hair disease like Alopecia, in which the patient loses his/her hair in the form of patches.
I am talking about Hair Problems like thinning of hairs, split ends, hair fall, etc. So, if you are facing these problems then you might be suffering from a deficiency of Zinc.
4. Chronic Repeat Infections
If you are a person who is caught by every cold and flu then you might be having a deficiency of zinc.
This might be due to the side effects of other medications or a weak immune system.
5. Skin Inflammation
There are different medical conditions linked to skin Inflammation and the Deficiency of Zinc is one of them.
There are some people, who are born with Inflammation diseases such as dermatitis, Psoriasis, or Eczema.
But those who are taking medication for inflammation disease and not getting results might consult with their doctor for checking their zinc levels.
6. Loss of Sleep
As we discussed earlier that zinc is responsible for the neurological receptors of our body, so, deficiency of zinc can cause you sleeping issues as well.
7. Fertility problems in males and females
Zinc plays an important role in the quality of egg and sperm, so if you and your spouse are trying to have children and you are not able to then it is very important that both of you must get checked for your zinc levels.
8. Irregular Periods in women
Here irregular means, you are not on the 28-day cycle.
This can because of the capacity of zinc to regulate different sex hormones such as progesterone and estrogen.
So, if you are experiencing irregular cycles, then you should get your zinc levels checked.
9. Low blood counts
You might see on your Blood test report the level of your Blood counts.
Zinc deficiency can manifest a low White blood cell count and a low red blood cell count or a low platelet count.
If you’ve had that low blood counts coming back repetitively in your lab reports, you might go for a zinc level count.
10. Blood Sugar Problems
If you’ve got blood sugar swings up and down then deficiency of zinc might be a problem which you need to look into.
One of the functions of zinc is to regulate INSULIN.
Insulin is a long protein made up of different amino acids. Zinc is the center point of the insulin holding it together.
So, if you are low in zinc, you could be producing an Insulin that is less effective which can lead to blood sugar level swings.
So, if you are eating right, doing workouts, and your blood sugar levels are still not in control, then the Deficiency of zinc might be the culprit.
Foods Rich in Zinc
Here are 25 of the best zinc rich foods
- Wheat germ
- Pumpkin seeds
- Sesame seeds
- Wild rice
- Cashew nuts
- Sunflower seeds
- Flax seeds
- Pine nuts
- Brazil nuts
- Navy beans
- Chia seeds
- Squash seeds
- Brown rice
FAQ About Zinc
How does zinc help your body?
Zinc is involved in many biological processes like cell division, protein and DNA production, wound healing, proper functioning of the Immune system, and many others as we read above.
What are the benefits of taking zinc?
The benefits of taking zinc include
• Proper functioning of the Immune system
• Good quality of hairs
• Good quality of the skin
• Helps in maintaining blood sugar levels
• Good sexual health for both males and females
What happens if your Zinc is Low?
If the level of zinc is low in your body, the body starts reflecting symptoms like white patches on nails, sleeplessness at night, hair damage, delays in wound healing, and other symptoms that we have already discussed in this article.
What are the signs of Zinc deficiency?
Some of the major signs of zinc deficiency are:
• White spots on nails
• Hair fall or weakening of hairs
• Loss of sleep
• Skin inflammation
• Frequent illnesses
• Weaker immune system
• Fertility problems in both men and women
• Swings in Blood sugar level
• Problem with the menstrual cycle in females.
• Loss of smell and taste
How common is zinc deficiency?
As per the studies, Zinc deficiency is more common in Adults of more than 50 years and youngsters. Moreover, pregnant ladies are also found deficient with zinc.
What depletes zinc?
Some of our bad habits that deplete zinc are
• Eating lots of processed food
• Consuming too much Alcohol
• Taking a lot of stress
Which foods are high in zinc?
Some of the foods which are high in zinc are
• Wheat germ
• Pumpkin seeds
• Sesame seeds
• Wild rice
• Cashew nuts
• Sunflower seeds
• Flax seeds
• Pine nuts
• Brazil nuts
• Navy beans
Who is most at risk for zinc deficiency?
Youngsters, adults of more than 60 years, and pregnant women are the most at risk for zinc deficiency.
What does zinc do for you sexually?
Zinc plays an important role in the production of sex hormones that are testosterone in males and progesterone and estrogen in females, zinc also improves the quality of sperm and egg.
How much zinc should we take daily?
The recommended amount of zinc as per the various medical associations is 45 mg per day for women and men, you can take this amount of zinc in the form of natural foods which we have already discussed above or in the form of Zinc Supplements available in the market.
I hope, we have covered almost everything about zinc, its benefits, symptoms of deficiency, and natural foods that are rich in Zinc.
If still, you are having any doubts or questions regarding zinc, you can ask me directly by commenting in the comment section.
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