Can zinc get you back in sync? It’s relatively easy to find in food, and well absorbed from supplements, yet many people don’t get enough. You may be amazed at what this little element can do for you!
What is Zinc and Why Do You Need It?
Zinc is an essential trace element, meaning very small amounts are necessary for human health. It aids development of epidermal, gastrointestinal, central nervous, immune, skeletal, and reproductive systems… so its effects are wide-ranging.
Zinc deficiency can pose a host of problems, especially for growing children. The Journal of Research in Medical Sciences says, “Since its discovery in … 1961, zinc deficiency in humans is now known to be an important malnutrition problem worldwide.” Though zinc deficiency is difficult to diagnose, there are signs to look for. It’s most accurately measured in blood plasma or serum. Additionally, there is a rare genetic disorder called acrodermatitis enteropathica that specifically affects zinc absorption.
Signs of deficiency include frequent illness, stunted growth, slowed healing, and generally feeling rundown.
Even if you aren’t deficient, you may benefit from boosting your intake through diet or supplements. Infants and children, as well as pregnant or lactating women have increased requirements for zinc. Stress can also lower the amount of zinc in your tissues. So if you fit one of those categories or experience stress–who doesn’t?–read on to find out how getting more zinc could help you.
Benefits of Zinc
The benefits are varied and new ones are discovered all the time. Many are still being explored, and more scientific studies are needed to fully confirm them. However, The Mayo Clinic lists many benefits as having “strong” or “good” scientific evidence to back them up.
- It promotes healthy growth and development in children. Since it’s involved in the development of tissues in all of the areas mentioned above, it is critical for overall healthy development from birth through adolescence.
- It can fight childhood obesity and insulin resistance. It plays an important role in metabolism during the development years.
- It can reduce diarrhea. It has been shown to reduce and shorten episodes of diarrhea.
- It helps heal stomach ulcers. Since it helps aid healing and facilitates new cell growth, zinc can repair the damage caused by ulcers faster than your body would without it.
- Zinc treats acne when taken orally or applied to the skin, especially in combination with other treatments.
- It can reduce symptoms of ADHD. The Mayo Clinic reports, “Zinc may reduce hyperactive, impulsive, and social problems. Zinc may be more effective for older children with higher body mass index (BMI) scores.”
- It can treat herpes type 1 (cold sores) and type 2, although scientists are still assessing its precise role with regard to these viruses.
- It boosts immune function and reduces inflammation
- It may help manage symptoms of two inherited diseases, sickle cell anemia and Wilson’s disease.
- Perhaps the most well known benefit of zinc is that it reduces the length of colds. The Mayo Clinic reports, “an analysis of several studies showed that zinc lozenges or syrup reduced the length of a cold by one day, especially when taken within 24 hours of the first signs and symptoms of a cold.” They say that zinc may prevent rhinovirus from multiplying within the nose and throat.
Some sources report that zinc supplementation benefits cancer patients. The Mayo Clinic says there is “unclear evidence” that it could benefit people undergoing radiation treatment for cancer. I am following the research in this promising area and will report anything new that I learn.
Good Sources of Zinc
There are plenty of food sources of zinc. They include:
- Oysters. According to Livestrong, they are the richest food source for zinc.
- Nuts, legumes and seeds. Good examples are garbanzo beans, pumpkin seeds, squash seeds and cashews.
- Some meat, like grass-fed beef, chicken, and lamb.
- Leafy vegetables like spinach and napa cabbage.
- Dark chocolate or cocoa powder.
- Kefir or yogurt.
To supplement food sources, I recommend Diamond Nutritionals’ Foundation Formula. Each dose of Foundation Vitamins contain 10 Mg. of zinc, in the form of zinc bisglycinate. This type is widely considered to be the best absorbed form of supplemental zinc according to multiple studies like this one from The Ohio State University.
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