Could Zinc deficiency be the cause of your health issues?

zinc a vital nutrient

image courtesy of Marcus /

Zinc is a vitally important mineral for our bodies and adequate zinc levels are essential for good health and wellbeing. Zinc is found in every body cell and is a component of more than 200 bodily enzymes and is necessary for the proper action of many body hormones.

Good zinc levels are essential for normal growth and development, for a healthy reproductive system and fertility and for healthy foetal development. It helps keep skin healthy, helps wound healing, regulates the sense of taste and is important for immune system strength. It also helps to destroy surplus free radicals. Zinc is so important for the functioning of the immune system that even a mild deficiency can lead to an increased risk of infection.


Signs and symptoms of deficiency

Although severe zinc deficiency is rare, there are increasing numbers of people with marginal deficiency.

Do you suffer with any of the following?

  • Poor immune system with frequent or severe infections
  • Poor healing of wounds
  • Reduced appetite / annorexia
  • Poor sense of taste or smell
  • Impotence
  • Fertility issues
  • Skin problems – acne, psoriasis, eczema, dermatitis
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Menstrual problems
  • PMS
  • Sleep and/or behavioural disturbances
  • Mental health issues – depression, anger, violence, delinquency, obsession, mood swings
  • Dull, brittle hair
  • Fingernails speckled with white spots or curved, dented and misshapen.

Causes of deficiency

Zinc deficiency can occur at one of three levels; inadequate intake, inadequate absorption or inadequate absorption and retention at tissue level. Often it is a combination of all three. There are many factors in modern living which promote depletion of zinc from the tissues. These together with poor dietary intake and hindered absorption lead to zinc deficiency becoming an increasingly widespread and common occurrence. Causes of zinc depletion include:

  • The contraceptive pill – taking steroid pills for contraception rapidly depletes zinc status. The longer a woman has been on the pill the more her zinc levels will have been eroded
  • Excess alcohol consumption
  • Stress, shock or burns. Stress of any kind depletes the body of zinc
  • Mineral Imbalance – Mineral imbalance in the form of excess copper, cadmium, calcium, iron, lead or sodium will affect the uptake and retention of zinc
  • Ceasing to eat meat – if a heavy meat eater suddenly ceases to eat meat then their zinc balance will suffer a sudden loss of zinc and their whole zinc balance may be upset
  • Excessive iron intake usually comes from medically prescribed supplements that are often given without any balancing zinc. As a result zinc levels fall
  • High sodium intake promotes zinc loss, so the use of salt and other high sodium food additives is a major factor in promoting zinc deficiency
  • Smoking – smoking increase cadmium levels. Cadmium is antagonistic to zinc.

 Food sources of Zinc

The best source of zinc is shellfish – particularly oysters. It is found in good quantities in meat, eggs and dairy produce. Zinc is also found in grains but is more easily absorbed from animal proteins such as meat, eggs or dairy produce.

Zinc is also found in good amounts in whole-grain cereals,  pulses, nuts and seeds, (especially pumpkin seeds), but its absorption, may be hindered because it binds to phytic acid (a component of fibre) to form an insoluble complex. Also the zinc in cereal grains is found in the outer layers which are discarded during milling, so processed grains will be lacking.

Vegetables are a relatively poor source. The zinc content of vegetable foods is variable and may depend a great deal on the soil in which they are grown as well as the type of agricultural practices that were used. The addition of conventional chemical fertilisers can reduce the available zinc in the soil by half.

The importance of zinc for fertility

Zinc is incredibly important for women hoping to conceive and those who are already pregnant. It is a vital component of the reproductive process. Egg production and the correct functioning of oestrogen and progesterone are dependent upon good levels of zinc, as is the growth and development of the embryo.
Zinc is found in very high concentrations in sperm, and poor dietary intake will lead to reduced sperm counts.
During pregnancy zinc is vital for all areas of growth, development of the nervous system and brain, bone and teeth formation. It has been shown that mother’s who supplement with zinc tend to have babies of greater birth weight and head circumference. It is also important for the mother’s health. Zinc can help with skin elasticity and hence prevent stretch marks.
Zinc deficiency can also cause loss of libido and an increased risk of miscarriage.

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