Zinc is a nutrient that plays many vital roles in your body. Because your body doesn’t naturally produce zinc, you must obtain it through food or supplements. ⠀
In fact, zinc is the second most abundant trace mineral in your body, after iron, and is present in every cell. ⠀
Zinc is necessary for the activity of over 300 enzymes that aid in metabolism, digestion, nerve function and many other processes. ⠀
Because zinc plays such an important role in your body, the symptoms of a deficiency can show up in hundreds of ways. Symptoms can include:
- Decreased immunity⠀
- Poor wound healing⠀
- Depression, anxiety⠀
- Acne, eczema and other skin conditions⠀
- Altered/loss of taste and smell⠀
- Hair loss⠀
- Impaired memory⠀
- Hormonal problems⠀
- Loss of appetite
Other symptoms often associated with decreased zinc include hang nails, inflammation of nail cuticles, white spots on fingernails, transverse lines and poor nail growth, sleep and behavioural disturbances, psychiatric illness, all types of inflammatory bowel disease, impaired glucose tolerance, dandruff, arthritis and alcoholism.
About 90% of the body’s zinc is found in muscle and bone tissue, making it difficult to test for zinc deficiency. In fact, plasma zinc only makes up about 0.1% of the zinc in the body. When consumed, zinc is absorbed in the small intestine and it is excreted though the skin, the kidneys and the bowels.
What Causes Zinc Deficiency?
- Not getting enough zinc through food sources:This is the leading cause of zinc deficiency. Therefore, in many cases, simply adding zinc-rich foods is an effective way to correct a zinc deficiency.
- Poor absorption: Even people who eat plenty of zinc-rich foods can become deficient in it. That’s because it’s not just how much you consume that matters; instead, it’s how much you your body actually absorbs. Alcohol, gut problems, chronic disease like Crohn’s and Celiac, and low stomach acid can all hamper zinc absorption.
HOW TO DIAGNOSE A DEFICIENCY?
Only a blood test can diagnose a true deficiency, but it’s not so simple. Your body can’t store zinc. A blood test will show what’s currently in your blood, and if you ate enough zinc rich foods, your results can return normal.
As your body doesn’t store zinc, you need to make sure you eat enough every day to ensure you’re meeting your daily requirements. Some good sources of zinc include meat, shellfish, seeds, nuts, dairy, eggs, dark chocolate and some vegetables.
It is important not to supplement with zinc without checking with a health practitioner, as consuming too much can lead to reduced iron and copper levels in the body.
There are also many different forms of zinc so it is best to speak to a qualified practitioner who can advise you on the best form for your particular health concerns.