Second after iron, zinc is the most common mineral found in your body. It plays many roles and is required for the healthy functioning of all your cells, tissues, organs, and bones. Yet, as important as it is for health, hardly anyone suspects a zinc deficiency when they are not feeling well.
While zinc deficiency is a widespread concern for people around the world, nearly one in three individuals may be deficient, and yet, zinc deficiencies remain undiagnosed; so why is that?
- The signs of possible zinc deficiency mimic other common conditions
- Zinc as an essential mineral was overlooked for years, while experts focused on iron and other nutrients
Foods that many people eat regularly, like beef, poultry, mushrooms, spinach, and pumpkin seeds are natural sources of zinc, so why would anyone be deficient?
Why You Might Be Deficient in Zinc and Not Know It
Even if you are getting enough in your diet, certain conditions can keep you from absorbing and utilising zinc. And because zinc is found throughout your body as part of proteins and nucleic acids, plasma or serum zinc levels don’t always measure your true zinc status. The same is true for urine tests and hair analysis.
So what signs should you watch for that may suggest a zinc deficiency?
- Brain fog and decreased alertness
- Frequent respiratory illnesses or other infections
- Difficulty sleeping
- Slow wound healing
- Lack of appetite
- Leaky gut and gastrointestinal complaints
- Occasional moodiness and feeling blue
- Food doesn’t taste and smell as good as it used to
- Impaired hearing
- Reduced libido
- Occasional loose stools
- Increased food and environmental allergies
- Hair loss, rashes and other skin issues
The fact that these signs mimic other conditions is one of the reasons many people never suspect a zinc deficiency. None of these stand out as a ‘zinc’ red flag all by itself! If you have one or several of these signs, and neither you nor your doctor can explain why, I suggest trying a high-quality zinc supplement and see if it helps. You may be one of the 1-in-3 people who are deficient.
Also, if you’re dealing with any type of chronic illness, ask your health practitioner about zinc.
Because zinc plays such a critical role in immune function, healthy cell growth, and a healthy inflammatory response, you want to make sure a zinc deficiency isn’t affecting your health.
How Stress Can Lead to a Zinc Deficiency
Do you lead a stressful lifestyle? Do you find yourself sometimes feeling overwhelmed with life’s many responsibilities? If so, you may be deficient in zinc.
Emotional stress is one of the biggest factors behind zinc deficiency. When you’re stressed, your body shunts zinc to your brain, organs, muscles, and skin to help repair damage from stress. If you’re unable to control the stress in your life, it can affect your adrenal health. In turn, adrenal fatigue can lead not only to a zinc deficiency, but calcium and magnesium deficiencies as well.
For a healthy balance of hormones, including your thyroid hormones, you need enough zinc. Zinc also helps produce progesterone, cortisol, and aldosterone; hormones essential for optimal well-being and a healthy inflammatory response.
If You’re 60 or Over, You May Be at a Greater Risk for Zinc Deficiency
There are many factors that come into play as you age and your risk of zinc deficiency grows. According to one US government survey, up to 45 % of adults aged 60 and above were found to have zinc intakes below the estimated average requirements of 6.8 mg/day for senior women and 9.4 mg/day for men.
As you age, your ability to absorb and utilise zinc declines. Add that to a marginal intake, and you’re suddenly at greater risk of deficiency. Too little bioavailable zinc can mean more frequent infections and degenerative changes in your body.
Here is something else to keep in mind: The part of your brain that houses zinc is the cerebral cortex, including your hippocampus and amygdala. This crucial region is responsible for memory, spatial ability, thinking, and emotions.
Having the right amount of zinc is absolutely necessary for your healthy brain function, memory and mood!
One of the biggest challenges with zinc and people of any age is this: Zinc isn’t stored in your body, so you must get the amount your body needs and can absorb each and every day! For people over 60 especially, this can be a challenge.
If You Fall Into Any of These Other 5 Groups, You May Also Be More Likely to Be Low in Zinc
In addition to those 60 and over, there are several other groups who may be at a greater risk of developing a zinc deficiency:
- Those with GI and Digestive Disorders: Gut and digestive disorders can decrease zinc absorption and increase the loss of zinc from your intestinal tract, tract and even your kidneys.
- Vegetarians: Bioavailable zinc is highest in animal foods, like oysters, liver and pastured beef. Not only are they the best sources of zinc, eating these foods may also enhance your absorption of zinc from all sources. Plant sources of zinc are not absorbed nearly as well as animal sources. If you are a vegetarian, you may need as much as 50 percent more zinc than meat eaters.
- Grain, Seed, Nut, and Legume Eaters: Many legumes, whole grains, seeds and nuts contain phytates, or compounds that bind to zinc and make it harder for your body to absorb. While vegetarians tend to eat plentiful legumes, grains, nuts and seeds, even if you’re not a vegetarian but eat a lot of these foods, you may also be at greater risk. Helpful hints for increasing your zinc bioavailability include soaking beans, grains, nuts and seeds in water for at least several hours or overnight, and, if possible, allowing them to sprout after soaking. This also helps reduce harmful lectin content.
- Pregnant and Nursing Women: A developing foetus requires high levels of zinc. If a woman starts her pregnancy with marginal zinc levels, she may be at risk of developing a zinc deficiency. Lactation can also deplete a mother’s zinc stores. For these two reasons, the recommended daily amounts of bio-available zinc are higher for pregnant and nursing women than other women.
- Excessive alcohol consumption: Up to half of alcoholics have low zinc levels. The consumption of ethanol both decreases intestinal absorption of zinc and increases the excretion of zinc in the urine. Plus, many alcoholics don’t get enough zinc in the types and amounts of foods they typically eat.
9 Key Reasons Why You Need the Right Amount of Zinc
Researchers now recognise that zinc is important for:
- Supporting immune function: Even mild to moderate zinc deficiencies can depress your immune function and impair your body’s response to invaders. Without enough zinc, your protective white blood cells can’t function optimally.
- Supporting healthy cell growth and replication, and helping to reduce everyday ‘wear and tear’ on your cells’s DNA: Your cells’s DNA is the blueprint for healthy cell replication. Research shows that a moderate increase in zinc status can lead to improved repair of DNA strand breaks along with serum protein concentrations involved with DNA repair, and help restore antioxidant and immune functions.
- Supporting respiratory health: Studies show that adequate zinc improves respiratory well-being, even during seasonal challenges to your health.
- Aiding in the absorption of other nutrients and supporting a healthy metabolism: Zinc plays a delicate dance with other nutrients in your body and helps with the absorption of nutrients, including folate from food. Too little zinc can increase your need for vitamin E. Zinc also acts as a co-factor in carbohydrate and protein metabolism.
- Helping to prevent the accumulation of defective proteins in your brain: When proteins in your brain lose their correct shape due to damage, they cease working properly and can clump together. Zinc plays a key role in creating and holding proteins in their correct shape, an important factor for healthy cognitive function.
- Promoting protein synthesis and wound healing: Zinc supports healthy skin and the integrity of your mucosal membranes.
- Supporting healthy bones: Zinc plays a key role in your bone matrix and regulates the delicate balance between bone building and bone breakdown, especially important as you age. It also promotes bone mineralisation through its role as a cofactor of alkaline phosphatase, an enzyme found in your bone cells.
- Helping to prevent cellular damage in your retina: Researchers have found that zinc may help delay age-related vision loss, possibly by protecting against free radical damage to cells in your retina.
- Supporting your sensory organ function, like taste, smell and vision: A shortage of zinc can lead to a loss of taste, and therefore, appetite. With a deficiency, the cells in your taste and smell organs can actually die faster. For your vision, zinc works together with vitamin A to help your eyes sense light and transmit nerve impulses to your brain.
This is just an overview of what zinc does in your body. Zinc is an essential trace mineral with more biological roles than all your other trace elements combined! Used in all of your cells, it is a building block for about 3,000 proteins and required for over 300 enzymatic reactions.
However, as beneficial as zinc may be, there’s also a real danger from getting too much zinc. Excessive amounts of zinc can reduce your immune function and also lower your ‘good’ HDL cholesterol levels. Plus, too much zinc can adversely affect your healthy copper levels as well as your hearing and taste.
The ‘Goldilocks’ of Zinc… Plus Two Other Essential Minerals for a Healthy Balance
There’s no doubt that zinc is an essential mineral for optimal health and one that no one can afford to run low in. But you must get just the right amount of the right form. Too little zinc and you boost your risk of a potentially health-jeopardising deficiency. Too much and you could risk serious side effects.
That’s why Dr. Mercola has reformulated it’s Zinc supplement to reflect the latest research and recommendations for the ideal form and dosage. The form of zinc Dr. Mercola has chosen is zinc bisglycinate chelate, a high-potency source of zinc that’s been formulated for enhanced absorption.
This special form combines zinc with two glycine molecules to help it cross your intestinal wall. Plus, this unique combo helps protect the zinc from competing minerals and phytate binding. Because it’s high-potency, Dr. Mercola has reduced the amount to 15 mg, the ideal daily dose that won’t give you too much zinc.
However for the formula revision, Dr. Mercola has also added two more valuable minerals to their Zinc Plus Selenium.
Like Armour for Your Cells, Selenium Serves as Your First Line of Defence Against Harmful Free Radicals
There’s another mineral that may be just as important as zinc for healthy cells and overall health support and that is selenium. Selenium as a trace element was discovered nearly 200 years ago. Today, it’s recognised as an essential mineral for human health.
While researchers suspect selenium may support cardiovascular health, cognitive health, and thyroid health, they do know it serves two very important roles for your cell heath:
- Provides first line defence against the build-up of harmful free radicals in your cells
- Supports normal cell health because of its powerful ability to reduce free radicals
Selenium is an active component of glutathione peroxidase, an enzyme with potent antioxidant properties.
While researchers have long believed that glutathione peroxidase was primarily responsible for selenium’s cell health support, more recent studies show there may be yet another function of selenium. It turns out that it doesn’t matter what form of selenium you choose if you just want glutathione production.
However, for truly optimal support for cellular health, the form makes all the difference!
When It Comes to Cell Health, the Form of Selenium You Choose Matters
Protecting cells and supporting normal cell health is the number one reason why many holistic health practitioners recommend taking selenium. But not just any selenium provides the cell health-supporting benefits you expect. In multiple studies evaluating the effectiveness of selenium in promoting normal cell growth and development, one form stands out.
A specific form of standardised selenium-enriched yeast has proved to be the most effective form, beating out all the others, including sodium selenite and selenomethionine.
Dr. Mercola especially likes high-selenium yeast because it is the full protein form, rather than a single amino acid like selenomethionine. Plus it’s a more natural food. Selenium yeast gives you two things that the commonly form used in supplements, selenomethionine, doesn’t: methylselenocysteine and selenocysteine. These complimentary active forms of selenium may be invaluable for your cellular health.
High-selenium yeast is made from a non-pathogenic, non-GMO Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast strain. It goes through a fermentation process that replicates the natural way plants absorb and transform minerals from the soil into a more bioavailable form. That means the form of selenium you get is closest to the form found in the top food sources of selenium, Brazil nuts and pastured meats.
Plus, this healthy yeast is able to accumulate and incorporate selenium into the protein structure, which enhances the antioxidant properties that fight oxidative stress in your body. In fact, studies show this unique form of bioavailable selenium significantly reduces the biomarkers for oxidative stress, which are a measure of healthy aging and reduced risk for chronic illness.
As your cells age, your body’s antioxidant response to oxidative stress caused by free radicals fades and loses its ability to keep up. The resulting damage can speed up your ageing process and increase your risk for cellular changes and illness.
This exceptional form of selenium could potentially help change all that for you if you’re deficient.
6 More Hidden Clues That Could Mean You Have a Selenium Deficiency
Another way to find out if you may be deficient is to take a closer look at your body and daily activity:
- Are you losing more hair than normal, including on your legs and underarms?
- Are the beds of your fingernails turning white, in place of your normal skin colour?
- Are you feeling more tired than usual, either physically or mentally?
- Are you having greater difficulty focusing or remembering things?
- Are you dealing with underactive thyroid symptoms?
- Are you getting sick more often?
While many of these signs can be related to other issues (including a zinc deficiency), they are also associated with low levels of selenium.
One simple, risk-free way to find out if selenium may be at least partly to blame is to try Dr. Mercola’s Zinc Plus Selenium with high-selenium yeast and see if your symptoms improve.
Dr. Mercola’s has included just the right amount (200mcg) of yeast-based selenium to match the levels researchers used in their leading studies. And it’s in the optimal ratio to zinc!
For Extra Mineral Balance, Dr. Mercola Added Copper to Zinc Plus Selenium
Your body has an elaborate system to maintain balance between trace minerals, especially zinc and copper.
When you get the right amount of these minerals from your diet, balance tends to take care of itself. However, whenever you supplement minerals, you tamper with nature’s delicate balance. Supplemental minerals can easily create an imbalance of too much of one and not enough of another.
Taking a zinc supplement helps increase your zinc, but it can also reduce your copper, an important micronutrient. This is especially true with zinc and copper as they compete for absorption in your gut, with copper losing out if it’s not supplemented along with zinc. And, of course, you don’t want a copper deficiency.
Copper deficiency can lead to an abnormal low white blood cell count and increase your risk for infection. A shortage of copper can also affect your lipid metabolism and lower your ‘good’ HDL cholesterol, putting your cardiovascular health at risk.
Every time you take a zinc supplement without copper, including a simple zinc lozenge for a cold, you could be adding to a zinc-copper imbalance in your body.
Whenever you take a zinc supplement, Dr. Mercola recommends taking a very small amount of copper at the same time. Zinc Plus Selenium makes that easy to do as a very tiny, yet adequate amount of 0.250 mg of copper has been added to the formula for balance in its preferred copper glycinate chelate form.
Don’t overlook these minerals and their potentially harmful deficiencies for one more day, especially if you fall into any of the higher risk groups for zinc or selenium deficiency.
Your age, your diet, your current health status, your lifestyle, and even your postcode may be placing you at a greater risk for a deficiency that doesn’t need to happen.
With Zinc Plus Selenium, you get bioavailable forms of zinc, selenium, and copper to help you maintain a healthy mineral balance.