Updated: Sep 7, 2022
Zinc (Zn) is a trace mineral that’s essential to a multitude of body functions, including both the immune and digestive system, wound healing, skin health and reducing stress levels. Zinc’s health benefits are numerous and one of the leading ones are its ability to activate several hundred enzymatic reactions in the body.
We can store zinc in our skeletal muscles and bones, but it is also found in organs like the kidneys, pancreas and skin and even in our blood cells. Zinc deficiency is uncommon in America; however, it could present as hair loss, frequent diarrhea or issues with taste and smell and can be assessed with an in-office test.
Zinc-rich foods include seafood, nuts and beans, leafy greens, beef, and some seeds like pumpkin and flax. Like any mineral, we need to have adequate stomach acid to properly digest and absorb it. Zinc absorption is also tied to copper levels as these two minerals are antagonists; when zinc is low, copper will be high, and vice versa.
Many patients commonly take zinc for their immune system, for example, when trying to fight off a common cold. However, it is often taken in too high a dose, for too long. To help support a healthy immune system, zinc is most effectively used acutely, for only a few weeks and then discontinued. Long term supplementation with this mineral, especially with high doses, can deplete copper.
There are also different forms of this mineral available (e.g. zinc citrate, zinc gluconate, zinc picolinate, etc.) and depending on the usage, different forms will be recommended. Your naturopathic doctor may recommend zinc as part of a wound-healing protocol, for taste and smell support, immune-boosting, or for eye or GI-system support.
Read more about zinc protecting you from colds – here