By Amanda Miller MS, RN
Clinical Integrative Nutrition Nurse Consultant
Stubborn acne? Thinning hair? Dandruff? Always feeling run down? You may blame these on stress or aging and may even consider them as minor annoyances. But these symptoms may actually be signs you are suffering from low levels of an essential mineral: Zinc.
Zinc is often treasured as a go-to-support for helping to battle the common cold, but zinc does so much more for the body than just bolstering your immune system. Zinc is a trace element, only required in small amounts, but is used in over 300 enzymatic processes in the body. Perhaps of most importance, zinc is required for the creation of new cells after illness or injury. This allows it to be a key player in healing common ailments such as gut dysfunction and mental health.
The immune system especially requires rapid cell regeneration in order to function properly – allowing zinc to be a critical building block during pregnancy and early childhood development. Zinc also acts as an antioxidant, fighting free radicals, which important for anti-cancer and anti-aging properties.
Those at risk for zinc deficiency include vegans and vegetarians, endurance athletes, alcoholics, those with GI diseases, those taking diuretic medications, and those who over consume iron supplements.
Zinc is essential for the optimal functioning of many organ systems including immune, gastrointestinal, skeletal, reproductive, integumentary, and central nervous systems. As such, zinc deficiency has been associated with the following health conditions:
- Attention and motor disorders
- Digestive disorders
- Hormonal imbalance
- Nerve dysfunction
- Weak immunity
- Autoimmune disease
- Thinning hair (check out this research article by hair loss revolution on zinc deficiency as a cause for hair loss)
- Nutrient malabsorption
- Leaky gut
- Skin rashes and acne
Don’t just guess – TEST! We offer micronutrient testing at The Akasha Center so you can be sure you are getting adequate amounts of zinc. Just ask your practitioner!
The good news? Zinc is prevalent in the foods listed below, which if consuming 2-3 servings of these foods daily, can easily provide adequate levels in the body:
- Organic, 100% grass-fed Lamb: A vital source of not only zinc but vitamin B12, riboflavin, selenium, niacin, phosphorus, and iron.
- Organic, 100% grass-fed Beef: Zinc in addition to healthy, anti-inflammatory omega 3 fatty acids – Reducing the risk of cancer and heart disease, stabilizing blood sugar, and building muscle.
- Organic, Pasture-raised Chicken: A good source of B vitamins and protein, boosting mood, heart health, and skin health.
- Chickpeas: A slow to digest complex carbohydrate rich in fiber, increasing satiety, aiding in weight loss, and improving digestion.
- Cacao/dark chocolate: Rich in flavonoids, helping to prevent inflammation and disease
- Cashews: a nut rich in protein and fatty acids promoting healthy brain and heart function.
- Kefir or yogurt: Cultured dairy if tolerated and not a food sensitivity serve as healthy probiotic sources.
- Mushrooms: Contain the ability to reduce inflammation, fight cancer, and protect heart and brain function.
- Spinach: One of the most nutrient-dense foods in existence. Make sure to buy organic as it can be laden with harmful pesticides and herbicides.
- Pumpkin Seeds: Reduce the risk of breast cancer and promote prostate and mental health.