Zinc is a mineral that helps regulate cell production in the immune system and has a pivotal role in protein synthesis. It’s necessary in small amounts every day to perform important bodily functions. Zinc is most prevalent in the larger muscles of the body and is found in the white and red blood cells, retina, skin, liver, kidneys, bones, and pancreas.
It is essential in just about every biochemical pathway in the gastrointestinal, central nervous, immune, skeletal, and reproductive systems. A zinc deficiency can increase the susceptibility to infections. It fights free-radical damage, slows the aging process and plays a big part in regulating hormones.
Zinc is required to regulate proper functioning of the immune and digestive systems, helps control diabetes, reduces stress levels, improves metabolism and is essential in the reproductive process. It is also helpful with hair damage, eczema, weight maintenance, vision problems and can lessen the severity of the common cold.
Zinc lowers inflammation and oxidative stress in the cells within the cardiovascular system. The endothelium, a thin layer of cells that lines the blood vessels, relies on adequate levels of zinc. A proper amount of zinc helps with high blood pressure and lowers cholesterol levels from clogged or damaged arteries.
Studies show that zinc, combined with vitamin B6 has an impact on the brain to ensure the proper function of neurotransmitters and it is also found in high concentrations in the hippocampus that controls thought and memory.
Zinc affects protein synthesis and is necessary for the body to use amino acids from food.
The most common symptoms of zinc deficiency are:
- Changes in appetite, often cravings for salty or sweet foods
- Digestive problems
- Excessive weight gain or loss
- Feeling tired all the time
- Hair loss
- Hormonal problems, including worsened PMS or menopause symptoms
- Lingering wounds or skin infections
- Loss in ability to taste and smell
- Poor concentration and memory
- Weakened immune system
Vegans and vegetarians, those with GERD, leaky gut syndrome or have problems with alcoholism are likely to have a zinc deficiency. Women on birth control pills or who are on hormone replacement therapies should also make sure they are getting enough zinc in their diets.
The best food sources of zinc are meats and fish, oysters, turnips, peas, oats, peanuts, almonds, whole wheat grain, pumpkin seeds, ginger root, and pecans. Other sources include chickpeas, cashews, yogurt (or Kefir), eggs, mushrooms and cocoa powder.