Signs You May Have a Zinc Deficiency

While calcium may get all the glory, it is only one of the many minerals that are essential to great health. Zinc is probably one of the most overlooked, except when someone has a cold or flu and is looking for an immune-system boost. But, zinc is just as important to your health as calcium and offers so much more than assistance in fighting off seasonal viruses. It’s time to give zinc some serious consideration.

Zinc is required for the body to make over 300 different enzymes—specialized proteins that are required for many of the body’s biochemical processes. Without adequate zinc, your body is vulnerable to attacks on its immune system, problems with reproduction, poor skin health and vision impairment. We need adequate levels of this critical mineral to survive. The brain, heart, liver, muscles and even our blood depend on zinc for health. Even a minor deficiency can have wide-reaching health effects.

On average, experts believe adults need about 8 to 11 milligrams of zinc on a daily basis; however, there really is no such thing as an average person so our needs may fluctuate depending on our health and at varying stages of life. Men tend to need 11 milligrams daily since zinc is vital to male reproductive health. In a study of men who ate a zinc-deficient diet, researchers found that eating this low-zinc diet for one month was sufficient to significantly reduce sperm quantity and quality.

Infections, stress, trauma and the use of steroid medications can deplete zinc in your body, as can conditions like Crohn’s disease.

We may assume that acne, either during adolescence or adulthood, is just a fact of life, but research shows that scientists are able to induce acne by feeding young men diets that are deficient in zinc—in only 12 days. Acne can be a sign of a zinc deficiency so it may also be reversed by increasing the amount of zinc in the diet. Another study found that 15 percent of elderly people who lost their sense of taste actually had a zinc deficiency.

Plant Sources of Zinc

There are many excellent sources of this mineral, but you’ll probably need to make a concerted effort to get enough from your diet because few people eat sufficient amounts of these foods every day. Here are some of the best sources of zinc and the percentage of the daily intake they provide:

Sesame seeds 25%
Pumpkin seeds 23%
Lentils 23%
Garbanzo beans/chick peas 23%
Cashews 21%
Quinoa 18%

Zinc is also found to a lesser extent in shiitake mushrooms, crimini mushrooms, spinach, asparagus, oats, onions, sunflower seeds, other nuts, dark leafy greens, beets and beet greens, carrots and peas.

Signs You May Have a Zinc Deficiency

There are many signs of a zinc deficiency. Just because you have one or more symptoms/conditions doesn’t mean you necessarily have a zinc deficiency. Conversely, you may not have any of the following health concerns but you can still have a zinc deficiency. The following list is simply a general guideline to help you determine whether you might benefit from boosting the amount of zinc in your daily diet.

Acne
Anorexia or low appetite
Brittle nails
Growing pains or stunted growth (in children or teenagers)
Diarrhea
Difficulty conceiving children
Frequent flus or colds, or other infections
Late sexual maturity, prostate disorders, impotence or low sperm count in men
Loss of sense of smell or taste
Poor night vision
Sleep disturbances
Slow-growing nails or hair
Stretch marks
White spots on fingernails

Supplementing with Zinc

If you choose to supplement with this mineral, zinc gluconate, zinc citrate, and zinc orotate tend to be the most absorbable forms. Different nutrition experts have their specific preferences. Do not exceed dosage amounts indicated on the package of the product you select, as the mineral can build up to toxic levels in the body. Additionally, it competes with copper, which is also important for health. Keep zinc supplements out of reach of children. Do not take zinc supplements within 2 hours of high fiber foods like bran since fiber can bind to zinc and escort it out of your body.