Zinc and immunity
I want to take a Zinc supplement to improve my immunity, is this a good idea?
Zinc is an essential trace mineral, it is used in every enzyme pathway in the body and is present in all tissues. It is a common mineral deficiency seen in developed countries due to over farming practices depleting this mineral from the soil. Food processing also decreases the amount of Zinc contained in packaged and processed foods. The most common cause of Zinc deficiency is a poor diet high in processed foods and low in protein.
There are many health benefits related to taking Zinc supplements and a deficiency may be related to many health conditions.
Functions of Zinc
- Cardiovascular system - powerful anti-oxidant.
- Immunity - reduces inflammation, decreases allergies, optimises white blood cell function, immune protection, speeds recovery from injury and convalescence, protects from the common cold and sore throats.
- Digestion - repair of leaky gut (digestive tract permeability), ulcers, blood sugar imbalances, inflammatory bowel and digestive conditions. Improves absorption of other vitamins, carbohydrate digestion, sense of taste and smell, loss of appetite, liver detoxification and alcohol detoxification.
- Circulation - eye health, anti-oxidant, healthy ageing, arthritis, inflammation.
- Integumentary system - hair growth, greying hair, healthy nails, skin and wound healing, acne, skin irritations and inflammation, dandruff, dry skin, alopecia, dermatitis and excema.
- Energy - fatigue, lethargy, energy production, metabolism and thyroid gland health.
- Reproductive health - fertility, male impotency, healthy sperm production and prostate, pre-menstrual symptoms, synthesis of hormones, pregnancy,synthesis and regulation of hormones.
- Nervous system - decreases severity of depression, anxiety and nervousness.
Foods which contain Zinc
- Oysters, salmon and tuna
- Beef, poultry and liver
- Ginger and parsley
- Milk products
- Sunflower and pumpkin seeds, cashews
- Whole grains, wheat germ, oats, barley and brown rice
- Yeast and Brewers yeast
There are different forms of supplemental Zinc available on the retail market, the most common supplements contain Zinc citrate, Zinc Amino acid chelate, Zinc picolinate (is said to have a high bio availabilty), Zinc gluconate and Zinc sulfate (has been found to cause gastric irritation in some cases). You might like to inquire at your local Health food store about the different forms of Zinc available in the products they stock.
Products that contain co-factors such as Vitamin C, Vitamin A, Magnesium and B6 help to increase Zinc absorption in the small intestines.
It is best to take Zinc supplements on an empty stomach (providing they dont cause nausea) and away from any other mineral supplements, especially Calcium, Copper and Iron. Foods which contain phytic acid (fiber) decrease the absorption of Zinc.
Meat contains the most concentrated source of Zinc. Considering that vegetarians don't consume meat (and their diets tend to be higher in foods containing fiber) it is important that vegetarians ensure that they are receiving adequate amounts of Zinc.
Trivia - Approximately 20% of the total body Zinc content is stored in the skin.