Zinc is a natural mineral that the human body uses for fighting infections and producing cells. Our body would not be able to create and repair DNA without Zinc.

The fundamental role of Zinc is still not well understood by modern science. 

When you’re zinc deficient, your body cannot produce new healthy cells.

This leads to symptoms such as:

  • unexplained weight loss
  • wounds that won’t heal
  • lack of alertness
  • decreased sense of smell and taste, funny-taste sensations
  • diarrhea
  • loss of appetite
  • open sores on the skin
  • delayed sexual maturity
  • eye and skin lesions
  • feeling lethargic
  • Men and boys can also experience impotence due to the inability of the body to produce enough testosterone. Testosterone is an essential male hormone.

 

It is estimated over a billion people in the world are zinc deficient. How one may become zinc deficient?

Reason 1. Not enough zinc in one’s diet. Foods rich in zinc:

  • Red meat, poultry, oysters
  • Legumes, wholegrain cereal, baked beans, chickpeas
  • Low-fat milk, yogurt
  • Nuts, especially almonds

Reason 2. Poor absorption of zinc in the gut due to: 

  • abnormally high alcohol intake
  • Coeliac disease
  • chronic diarrhea
  • Crohn’s disease
  • pancreatic disease
  • ulcerative colitis

Reason 3. Some chronic conditions.

  • chronic kidney disease
  • chronic liver disease
  • cancer
  • diabetes
  • pancreatic disease
  • sickle cell disease

 

The role of vegetarianism in zinc deficiency is not entirely clear. 

Vegetarians and vegans are, typically, low in zinc. One possible explanation is that vegetarians and vegans consume a significant amount of legumes, soybeans, beans, nuts, and whole-grain food products.

These products contain chemicals called phytates. Phytates bind to zinc, making it less available for absorption into the human body.

A simple and inexpensive blood test can quickly identify zinc deficiency. Some more test may be required, along with zinc levels. This is because zinc is closely related to other mineral and substances in the human body.

A prudent practitioner rules out serious causes such as cancer or chronic conditions first in case of zinc deficiency. 

Once serious causes were ruled out, supplementation with zinc may be prescribed. The supplementation with zinc is not a simple matter. There are other factors in play. There is a possibility of overdosing on zinc and acquiring zinc poisoning (zinc toxicity). Overdoing the supplementation with zinc may result in copper deficiency. That would become a problem of its own.

The bottom line is – if you suspect zinc deficiency, start with testing.