Zinc is one of the most important minerals in the body, and it plays an integral role in ensuring the optimal function of the body. Often referred to as the must-have mineral, Zinc has so many functions in the body that it has been recognized as a crucial element without which the body’s varied systems are interfered with. To put this in perspective, it may help to learn that zinc is used by just about every cell and organ in the body.
This indispensable element is involved in metabolism at the cellular level, proper immune response, digestive processes as well as healing of wounds. Most importantly perhaps, is Zinc’s function in the expression of DNA, the genetic material of every living organism. With its use in every single cell, its importance is as diverse as it is varied.
One of the best things about Zinc is that it is among the most ubiquitous minerals in the earth. As such, it is present in many foods and is easy to get from dietary intake. This, however, is not the case for everyone as some people experience zinc deficiency. A deficiency occurs when the body does not get enough zinc, and this could be due to a number of reasons.
The most common cases of this deficiency are people who suffer from disorders of the digestive system, alcohol addicts, as well as those who take up fad diets. Pregnant and lactating women are also at risk since their bodies need additional zinc to meet the demands of the growing fetus and developing baby respectively. Below are 5 signs you are not getting enough zinc as well as the best way to prevent and deal with Zinc deficiency.
NOTE: Since zinc plays such a key role in the body, its deficiency manifests symptoms in a myriad of ways. Needless to say, diagnosing zinc deficiency does not take a singular approach. This is largely because its symptoms are varied and many of them ‘non-specific’. The latter means that a number of the symptoms have been linked to other different health conditions. For this reason, it is important to get a doctor to carry out a medical assessment to note the symptoms as well as carry out blood tests if need be.
1. You Experience Stomach Discomfort Every so Often:
As mentioned above, zinc works with just about every cell in the body. With respect to this, this mineral also aids in enzyme function for hundreds of enzymes. Digestive enzymes are among these enzymes for which zinc plays a key role. During digestion, zinc acts as a co-factor in an array of activities in the gut.
What this simply means is that the body is unable to digest food properly. Zinc deficiency also helps with the process of nutrient absorption in the body. This results in an array of symptoms within the gastrointestinal system. Most people will experience diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. Depending on the extent of the deficiency, a number of cases present gluten intolerance.
Zinc deficiency has, in past research, been linked to a leaky gut. Just as the name suggests, these involves the leaking of food particles into the bloodstream. A leaky gut is also known as intestinal permeability. This symptom leads to different health conditions that include allergic reactions, problems affecting the thyroid gland as well as skin disorders. Some people will develop rashes on the skin and even acne depending on the severity of the condition. It has been shown that the use of zinc supplements helps resolve a leaky gut.
2. You Suffer from Chronic Condition(s):
Zinc deficiency has been tied to a slew of chronic diseases. At the core of this is the fact that zinc is required for immune function and proper cell growth. In its absence, the body’s immune system is compromised and this predisposes affected people to chronic diseases. Additionally, low levels of zinc cause oxidative stress at the cellular levels and increased inflammation in the different body systems. Some of the most prevalent include Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes and atherosclerosis among others. Note too that people with zinc deficiency also get sick rather often.
If you start chronic conditions that never seem to go away, it is time to consider the possibility of zinc deficiency. As a general guide, it helps to keep track of your symptoms. This way, you can pinpoint instances when you are constantly under the weather and mention this to your doctor. In addition to these conditions, low levels of zinc are among the causes of poor neurological function. This essential trace element has been implicated in attention and motor disorders particularly in infants and young babies. For this group, the symptoms often carry on well into adulthood.
3. You Notice Your Hair Thinning (Hair Loss):
One of the most common signs that your body is not getting enough zinc is hair thinning. The moment you start noticing a lot more hair strands in your hairbrush is when you realize that the underlying cause may just be low levels of this life-giving mineral element. This happens because zinc deficiency is linked to an underactive thyroid gland. Also known as hypothyroidism, an underactive thyroid produces significantly low levels of the thyroid hormone. This affects zinc absorption in the body, and in some cases, leads to zinc deficiency.
Since the thyroid hormone is involved in the growth and production of hair cells, its absence causes hair to thin or fall out altogether. This is why hair loss is known to be one of the symptoms that indicate the likelihood of zinc deficiency. In line with this, hypothyroidism-induced hair loss may not be treated effectively if thyroxine treatment is administered without zinc supplements, thus underpinning the importance of zinc in the body.
4. You are Extremely Sore:
Feeling sore after an intense workout is pretty common. If, however, you tend to feel sore for a prolonged period of time despite maintaining a specific routine, then you need to pay attention. This also goes for bruises and wounds that take a long time to heal. As mentioned above, one of the functions of zinc in the body is the quick healing of wounds.
Without zinc, wounds undergo slow healing. Note that while the progress of healing is largely individual, every person’s body has a typical way of making a recovery. If you notice that this has changed and that your body takes longer to bounce back than it used to, it is time to consider that a zinc deficiency may be to blame. Look out for wounds that don’t heal quickly, even simple bruises are a key indicator of low levels of zinc in the body.
5. Your Sense of Smell, Taste, Vision and Hearing are all Affected to a Certain Degree:
Zinc is an indispensable mineral element because it affects every cell in the body. It may come as a surprise, but zinc also has a profound effect on one’s sense of smell, taste and hearing. This is often a subtle set of symptoms whose gradual onset takes patients by surprise. Little wonder why the best way to notice loss of the senses in tasting and smelling is by practicing mindful eating.
This, by definition, involves noting down what you eat, when you do and how the food tastes. It revolves around taste perception, which is described as whether or not you can actually taste the food you eat. What’s more, the cells tasked with the sense of taste are also found in the nasal cavity. This explains in part why taste and smell are closely linked. Since zinc plays a critical role in taste perception, its deficiency causes affected people to gradually lose their sense of taste and smell.
Another sense that is affected is that of hearing. Zinc deficiency causes hearing loss to a certain degree, with the severity linked to the extent of the deficiency. This has been underpinned by research studies which show that zinc supplements go a long way in reversing partial hearing loss. It is thought that this happens because zinc reduces inflammation and oxidative stress in the cells of the inner ear.
Thirdly, zinc deficiency affects vision because the mineral is required for the production of Vitamin A which, as is well known, is necessary for proper health and function of the eyes. This often manifests with a phenomenon referred to as dark adaptation. You must be aware of the sensation you feel when you enter a dark room and your eyes take a short while to get accustomed to the dark. If you notice that this takes a little longer than is usual, perhaps it is the effect of a deficiency in zinc. In extreme cases, this may lead to macular degeneration.
Other symptoms associated with zinc deficiency include stunted growth in children, impaired attention, and difficulty focussing on simple tasks as well as inexplicable weight loss. It is important to remember that since these symptoms are non-specific, it helps to look out for a combination of the symptoms alongside diagnostic tests.
What to do About Zinc Deficiency:
For the long term treatment of zinc, it is important to make dietary changes in order to incorporate foods that are rich in zinc alongside zinc supplements if necessary. Some excellent sources of zinc include the following:
– Fresh oysters
– Grass-fed beef and lamb
– Pumpkin seeds
– Ginger root
– Oats and Buckwheat
– Whole grains
Vegetarians may opt for foods fortified with zinc for this purpose. Zinc supplements also play an integral role in the treatment of zinc deficiency. There are supplements that contain only zinc while others provide both multivitamins and zinc. Consult your doctor for the proper supplements dosage since excessive use has negative effects on the body. In addition to the use of natural sources of zinc and supplements, other lifestyle changes may help alleviate zinc deficiency. Top on this list is reducing your alcohol intake as alcohol dependency predisposes the body to low levels of zinc. This is because alcohol is thought to hamper zinc absorption in the gut while increasing its excretion in urine.