Let’s Think about Zinc!
Poor Appetite Thyroid Problems
Clearly, zinc is too important for you to ignore! Let’s focus for a moment on two common conditions that can be deeply affected by zinc deficiency: Anxiety and Depression. According to William Walsh, Ph.D, zinc deficiency is the most frequently observed chemical imbalance in mental health populations. He states that over 90 percent of assessed people diagnosed with depression, ADHD, autism,  behavioral disorders, and schizophrenia show low zinc levels ranging from the low end of normal to severe deficiency.  Zinc nourishes your nervous system in several ways that can reduce both anxiety and depression: As an antioxidant, zinc protects your brain from free radical damage which can alter neurotransmitter levels and damage the body and myelin sheaths of brain cells. As a support nutrient for metallothionein, zinc supports border patrol, helping to scavenge harmful chemicals at the blood brain barrier.  As a cofactor, zinc helps you convert vitamin B6 from your diet into the active form pyridoxal 5 phosphate (PLP), which you need to make serotonin, dopamine, GABA, and other neurotransmitters that keep you happy, alert, and calm. As a stored mineral, zinc deficiency can permit a copper overload that can lead to high norepinephrine levels, driving anxiety. As a neurotransmitter, zinc is stored in vesicles in brain cells and released into synapses, independent of any other effects.  For instance, zinc can bind to and increase the firing threshold for NMDA receptors, reducing their activity and potentially reducing anxiety.  As a cofactor, zinc helps you build calcium-dependent potassium channels that you use throughout body and brain. This same chemical manufacturing applies to all the cell membranes in your body, including your brain. In these ways, a zinc deficiency can severely compromise neurological communication.  Diabetes . Zinc has been shown to benefit people with both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, both due to improving blood sugar control and improving cholesterol levels.  There are several reasons this may be the case: Your pancreas’ beta cells need zinc to make insulin, which your body uses to get blood sugar into cells.  In most diabetic patients, insulin receptors are insensitive, and more insulin is needed to communicate effectively. This insulin production taxes zinc levels. Zinc’s antioxidant activity may protect against worsening of both diabetes and its constant companion, heart disease. Zinc is needed to help your body make important free radical scavengers with difficult superhero names like glutathione, metallothionein, superoxide dismutase, and catalase.  Zinc helps burn the sugar you have (boosts glycolysis) and reduces output of new sugar from your liver (reduces gluconeogenesis), a goal sought by some diabetes medications.  Zinc can reduce the activity of certain enzymes in the small intestine that break down sugars, reducing the sugar you may absorb from certain meals. Zinc contributes to cellular repair and cell division. New healthy cells often boast better insulin sensitivity than their aged and battered counterparts.
With all these amazing benefits of adequate zinc status, let’s break down how to get it with a focus on foods, mindful lifestyle choices, and smart supplementation. Zero in on Zinc!
STEP ONE – FOOD: Choose foods rich in zinc and avoid foods that deplete it. Choose foods rich in zinc. Animal proteins have more bioavailable zinc than plant proteins. Most foods rich in zinc are also rich in iron, such as meats and shellfish. Rich sources include oysters, meats especially beef, liver, dungeness crab, dark meat chicken, eggs, pork, lamb, whole grains, nuts, green peas, and pumpkin seeds. Power up with Protein . Vegan and vegetarian diets have been associated with zinc deficiency due to a low animal protein intake and sometimes low stomach acid production, which may negatively affect zinc absorption. Consider diversifying your protein intake or covering your bases with a high quality multivitamin. Avoid Antinutrients. In 1961, it was observed that a zinc deficiency in young men caused “adolescent nutritional dwarfism.” The zinc deficiency was thought to be due to diets high in foods containing large amounts of phytates , which block absorption of zinc as well as niacin (vitamin B3), vitamin D, iron, copper, magnesium, manganese, chromium and calcium. Oral zinc supplementation was able to reduce most overt symptoms of zinc deficiency in these young men. Sprouting and soaking your legumes, grains, nuts, and seeds can reduce (but not eliminate) the anti-nutritive effect of phytates . You’ll find higher phytate levels in grains and plant proteins such as wheat, oats, brown rice, corn, soy and other beans (legumes), nuts, and seeds (including flax and chia). Some fruits and vegetables are particularly high in phytates, such as figs, artichokes, carrots, potatoes, broccoli, strawberries, and apples. You should also be aware that tannins , another plant-based antinutrient, also deplete zinc. Be mindful not to overdo it with high tannin foods such as coffee, tea, red wine, rhubarb, pomegranates, berries, apples, grapes, red beans, lentils, chocolate, barley, nuts, and most spices.  Choose whole foods and consider your cooking methods . Food processing removes 75% of zinc content from grains. Cooking with water will cause greater zinc loss- avoid boiling and blanching. Pass on the Fried Food . Fried and especially burnt foods cause free radical formation With the help of other antioxidants, zinc supports key enzymes like superoxide dismutase that fights those free radicals.  Give thought to Gluten-free. Gluten-free diets have been shown to increase risk for zinc deficiency (as well as vitamin A, the B vitamins, vitamin D, calcium, iron, magnesium, and phosphorus). If you consume a gluten-free diet, you may choose to cover your bases by eating more proteins rich in zinc or consider supplementation for greater peace of mind.  Avoid Excessive Alcohol. Alcohol reduces your ability to absorb zinc as well as fat soluble vitamins, water soluble vitamins, essential fatty acids, other important minerals, and amino acids.  Step away from the Sugar. Consume lots of sugar or high fructose corn syrup and you will risk depleting zinc as well as vitamin C, calcium, chromium, copper, and magnesium. Avoid pre-packaged goods with added sugars in any form, especially corn syrup, dextrose, sucrose, and fructose. For a complete breakdown of sugary additives in processed food products, consult our book, The Micronutrient Miracle .  Monitor for MSG . Monosodium glutamate can drive sensitivities in many people and in depletes zinc, vitamin C, vitamin E, chromium, magnesium, and selenium. Many prepackaged food items and some restaurant foods contain MSG, the “flavor enhancer.” Use natural proteins high in glutamate, such as meats, fish, poultry, beans, or mushrooms to savor the flavor, but skip the MSG. Again, for a list of ingredients that may indicate your food choice contains MSG, consult our book, The Micronutrient Miracle !
STEP TWO – LIFESTYLE: Consider your digestion, medications, and overall health to support your zinc status. While we cannot slow the natural aging process that may reduce overall zinc absorption, there is much you can do to reduce your risk of depletion. Live a Low-Lead Lifestyle . Lead persists in soils, paint, and other sources and depletes many micronutrients, including the minerals zinc, selenium, iron, calcium, and phosphorus. Especially for developing children, lead poses several risks including brain damage. Heavy metals are so toxic and pervasive that we spare no expense with quality testing for our POWER plant protein , guaranteeing you low levels of arsenic, lead, mercury, and cadmium. Love your Lungs . While you may have limited control over the air quality where you live, you can do a lot to avoid exercising in smoggy areas, control the quality of the air inside your home, and take more drastic precautions when travelling to high smog places. Exposure to thick, smoggy air pollution can deplete zinc, selenium, manganese, copper, alpha-lipoic acid, and vitamins A, C, D, and E. If you smoke, find a way to stop- not just to avoid lung cancer directly, but to stop the daily depletion critical micronutrients such as zinc, selenium, alpha-lipoic acid, and vitamins A, B1, B6, B9 (folate), C, and E. Reduce your Toxic Exposure . Common household chemicals are less than innocent, and can deplete your levels of, at minimum, zinc, selenium, alpha-lipoic acid, and vitamins A, C, and E. We have written extensively about this topic in our books and on our blog, where you can read some top tips on reducing your exposure to common household toxins . Mind your Medications . These medications can deplete zinc levels. Make careful choices for both your short and long term needs. Check out this list and determine whether you are at risk for medication-induced zinc deficiency: NSAIDS such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), and naproxen (Aleve, Midol) Aspirin (Bufferin, St. Joseph, Bayer, Excedrin) Antacids (Gaviscon, Gelusil, Maalox, Mylanta) H2 inhibitors / H2 blockers such as Axid, Pepcid, Tagamet, and Zantac Proton Pump Inhibitors such as lansoprazole (Prevacid), omeprazole (Losec, Prilosec), rabeprazole (Aciphex), and pantoprazole (Pantoloc, Protonix, Nexium) ACE Inhibitors such as lisinopril (Prinivil, Zestril), ramipril (Altace), quinapril (Accupril), and enalapril (Vasotec) Thiazide Diuretics such as hydrochlorothiazide (Esidrix, Hydrodiuril, Oretic) Loop Diuretics such as bumetanide (Bumex, Burinex), ethacrynic acid (Edecrin), furosemide (Lasix), and torsemide (Demadex) Potassium-Sparing Diuretics such as amiloride (Midamor), spironolactone (Aldactone), triamterene (Maxzide, Dyazide, Dyrenium) Corticosteroids such as cortisone (Cortone), hydrocortisone (Cortef, Hydrocortone), prednisone (Deltasone, Meticorten, Orasone, Panasol-S), prednisolone (Delta-Cortef, Prelone, Pediapred), triamcinolone (Aristocort, Atolone, Kenacort), methylprednisone (Medrol), fluticasone (Flonase, Cutivate, Veramyst), and beclomethasone (Beconase, Qvar, Vancenase, Vanceril) Conjugated Estrogens such as estrogen replacement therapies (Alora, Cenestin, Climara, Estinyl, Estrace, Estraderm, Estratab, FemPatch, Menest, Ogen, Premarin, Premphase, Prempro, Vivelle); and estrogen and progesterone–containing oral contraceptives (Ovral, Lo/Ovral, Low-Ogestrel) Fluoroquinolone antibiotics such as ciprofloxacin (Cipro), enoxacin (Penetrex), gatifloxacin (Tequin), levofloxacin (Levaquin), lomefloxacin (Maxaquin), moxifloxacin (Avelox), norfloxacin (Noroxin), ofloxacin (Floxin), sparfloxacin (Zagam), and trovafloxacin HIV-focused reverse transcriptase inhibitor s such as azidothymidine (AZT) and zidovudine (Retrovir) Soothe Stress . Make time for yourself to rest, digest, and relax. Excessive stress puts you in di-stress and depletes zinc, selenium, magnesium, potassium, iodine, iron, copper, calcium, chromium, vitamin A, all of the B vitamins, vitamins C, D , and E , omega-3 fatty acids , and certain amino acids.  That’s stressful just to think about. Support Sleep . Lack of sleep is a chronic American affliction. Numerous studies have shown that lack of sleep can ruin blood sugar control, worsen risk of all cause mortality, compromise digestion, hinder liver detoxification, and more. We doubt you’d be surprised to know that lack of sleep pulls more strongly on certain nutrients, and can deplete your levels of zinc, potassium, magnesium, calcium, iodine, vitamins A, D, E, and K, and omega-3 fatty acids. Exercise Efficiently . Avoid extreme athleticism if you don’t plan on supplementing extra zinc to deal with the damage to your tissues. We don’t mean you should avoid regular activity as part of a balanced lifestyle. We mean you should have a balanced Excessive sweaty exercise can deplete zinc, selenium, potassium, manganese, magnesium, iron, CoQ10, alpha lipoic acid, and vitamins A, B2, C, and E. Both male and female athletes have lower serum zinc levels compared to sedentary individuals, and studies show that those who train without days off lose zinc even more quickly.  Consider the value of balancing hard, driving exercise with bodywork or meditation,, followed by a thorough night’s sleep. Munch Mindfully . Giving your body time to eat makes a huge difference in the production of the stomach acid that can can help you digest your zinc-containing protein-rich foods.
STEP THREE – SUPPLEMENTATION: Zinc is great- in moderation. Be smart! Avoid excessive supplementation of zinc. Zinc toxicity can cause nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, and headaches. The tolerable upper level intake for zinc is 40 mg for adults.  We don’t recommend that you exceed that intake, especially when you consider micronutrient competitions! For example, high zinc intakes can compete with copper for absorption and lower copper levels, which you need for hundreds of important metabolic reactions.  Additionally, if you are supplementing with higher doses of zinc, micronutrient competitions may also be reducing your levels of calcium, iron, magnesium, and folate (vitamin B9). Seek Synergy. Seek out the sweet spot for supplementation to get the most out of your micronutrients- help them work together! Zinc can help you absorb and use certain vitamins and fatty acids. For instance, zinc helps convert vitamin A to its active form and is a component of retinol-binding protein, which helps carry vitamin A in your blood, as well as folate (vitamin B9)-binding protein. When adequate riboflavin (vitamin B2) is present with zinc, they improve each other’s absorption. Zinc also enhances vitamin D activity, supporting bone formation. Zinc deficiency can exacerbate an iodine deficiency. You may benefit from getting adequate levels of all of these vitamins and minerals from a balanced multivitamin such as nutreince . Furthermore, you need zinc to help you metabolize omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids into anti-inflammatory forms, such as EPA and GLA. Choose beneficial forms. Chelated forms of zinc, where zinc is complexed to an easy-to-absorb amino acid, both reduces the likelihood of nausea and improves absorption. Beneficial chelated forms include zinc arginate, zinc picolinate, and zinc glycinate, the form found in nutreince . Roll with the Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) . The new adult RDI for zinc is 11 mg, the amount we provide in nutreince . Because we can obtain zinc from a diet rich in clean protein, the RDI is a good insurance policy and more should not be necessary to obtain micronutrient sufficiency- unless you have your reasons to suspect depletion! We strongly advise respecting the tolerable upper level intake set at 40 mg for long term supplementation .
Zinc may be at the end of the alphabet, but as you can see, it is truly a superstar! With potent antioxidant activity, support for healthy growth, development, and aging, and the rejuvenation of body and mind, zinc deficiency can make a huge difference in your quality of life. We highly recommend you don’t forget this essential nutrient when considering your overall wellness and long term mental health.