It is no secret that zinc is an incredibly beneficial mineral. Zinc is essential for maintaining a healthy immune system. Zinc also plays a big role in healing our wounds, protein synthesis, cell division, and DNA synthesis, and is required for taste and smell. Zinc is very important when it comes to cell growth during pregnancy, and it also promotes growth in children and young adults. How exactly does zinc benefit us in these ways? How does it work in our bodies?
How Does Zinc Work in Our Bodies?
Zinc does not have a place of storage in our bodies. While there is a place to store fats and sugars and water, there is nowhere to store zinc. Zinc also gets lost every time that we sweat, so it may be extra important for athletes. Because zinc is not stored, we must make sure that we maintain enough zinc intake to keep ourselves healthy. The form of the zinc that we take determines how much zinc is actually in the supplement.
We can also make sure we have enough zinc by eating the foods that contain large amounts of zinc to make sure that we are getting the daily recommended amount.
Foods that contain zinc are:
- Pumpkin Seeds - One cup of pumpkin seeds contains 6.6 mg of zinc
- Hemp Seeds - One ounce of hemp seeds contains five mg of zinc
- Grass-fed Beef - Three ounces of grass-fed beef contains 4.5 mg of zinc
- Lentils - One cup of lentils contains 2.5 mg of zinc
- Yogurt - One cup of regular yogurt contains 1.4 mg of zinc
- Spinach - One cup of spinach contains 1.4 mg of zinc
- Avocados - One avocado contains 1.3 mg of zinc
- Mushrooms - One cup of cooked mushrooms contains 1.4 mg of zinc
- Cashews - One ounce of cashews contains 1.6 mg of zinc
- Chickpeas - One cup of chickpeas contains 2.5 mg of zinc
- Chicken - Three ounces of chicken contains one mg of zinc
- Almonds - One ounce of almonds contains 0.9 mg of zinc
- Cocoa Powder - One ounce of cocoa powder contains 1.9 mg of zinc
- Ricotta Cheese - One half cup of ricotta cheese contains 1.4 mg zinc
- Oysters - One medium oyster contains 8.31 mg of zinc
While these foods contain zinc and are great for our overall health, there are some foods and vitamins that actually do not go well with zinc and may even prohibit the zinc from being absorbed in our bodies.
Our bodies do need fiber, between 25 and 30 grams of fiber a day, to keep us going. Excess fiber may block zinc from being absorbed. Fiber can bind to zinc, which can lead to the excretion of zinc from the body.
Soy proteins and other legume proteins contain an acid, phytic acid, that stops trace minerals from being absorbed. Phytic acid does have antioxidants, specifically in plant seeds, but can stop zinc and other trace minerals from being absorbed. The soy and legume proteins mess up the absorption process of the zinc.
How Much Zinc Should You Take?
How much zinc should you be taking a day? It differs for different ages and genders. For men it is recommended to have 11 milligrams a day, women are recommended to have eight milligrams a day, and children between the ages of four and eight are recommended to have five milligrams a day. For women who are pregnant, they need 11 milligrams a day and for those breastfeeding, 12 milligrams a day.
Doctor Julian Whitaker suggests that everyone take 30 mg of zinc daily, along with two mg of copper to provide a balance.
Is There Such Thing as Too Much Zinc?
Taking a lot of zinc can be good for our health, too much however, just like any good thing, could have a couple of uncomfortable side effects. The most seen side effects of too much zinc include nausea and vomiting. Zinc can even inhibit the absorption of copper and iron. Our bodies will take in the zinc first and can lead to copper or iron deficiencies by pushing out those minerals and taking in the zinc instead.
To solve this problem, we need to make sure that we are all taking enough of all the vitamins and minerals that we need, including copper, iron, and zinc.
The Benefits of Zinc
Zinc is very important when it comes to our health. It has many benefits. Zinc is important for our immune health, sense of smell, skin, and eyes. How does it help these things?
Zinc has a special ability to support our immune systems, improving our overall health. How though? Zinc aids in the construction of immune cells (T-cells and white blood cells) and therefore is very important. Zinc is also able to block bacteria from taking up an important metal called manganese, basically starving the bacteria and letting the immune cells do their job easier. Usually though, zinc does not prevent the bacteria from entering our bodies, but instead it helps to kill the bacteria after it has entered our bodies.
Zinc is an essential nutrient that helps maintain the health of the cells and structures in and around the eyes. Zinc may help protect against age-related eye health concerns and strengthen our eyesight.
Zinc can do wonders when it comes to healing our skin. It aids in cell and protein growth and can even speed up the healing process around wounds. Zinc can often gather around the spot of a wound and help with the clotting as it helps to build new cells.
Symptoms of a Zinc Deficiency
Because zinc is so important in our bodies, we need to understand how to know if we are lacking zinc. Immune function and zinc deficiency symptoms are closely related because of how essential zinc is to our immune systems.
Zinc deficiency symptoms include:
- Fragile Nails
- Dermatological Issues (Acne, Warts, Herpes, Rosacea)
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Hearing Loss
- Blood Disorders
- Night Blindness
- Prostate Problems
- Blood Sugar Changes
All of these things could, of course, be related to other issues in the body. First we must consider a zinc deficiency though. Zinc has such a vital part in keeping our bodies happy and healthy, and when our bodies are unhappy, take baldness or arthritis for example, we must think about what we are putting into our bodies and how that helps us to function.
Those most affected by zinc deficiencies are athletes, vegans, vegetarians, and hard physical laborers. There are others, however, that usually have zinc deficiencies.
By taking too much zinc, we can actually experience unwanted side effects. These side effects can include:
- Vomiting - this is to release the excess zinc from our bodies
- Indigestion - when we take too much zinc, our bodies are not sure how to process it and get rid of it, causing indigestion
- Headache - too much zinc puts unnecessary pressure on our blood vessels, especially in our heads, causing headaches
- Nausea - much like the vomiting when we overdose on zinc, our bodies do not know quite how to process too much of it, causing our insides to feel unsettled and therefore, nauseous
- Diarrhea - just like vomiting gets rid of excess things in our bodies that we do not know what to do with, so too when our bodies have diarrhea, it is our bodies way of getting rid of the extra zinc
Medications That May Interfere With Zinc
Although zinc is so good for us, it can possibly interfere with other medications that we may be taking. Medications are made to change or improve parts of our bodies, and when paired with zinc usage, can be too much for your body to handle. The medications that could interfere with zinc supplements are as follows:
Taking chlorthalidone and hydrochlorothiazide for a long period of time can cause a zinc deficiency because of all the zinc that is lost in our urine when taking these.
Zinc can be prohibited from absorbing as well in our bodies when we take antibiotics such as quinolone or tetracycline. For the best results, separate taking antibiotics and zinc by at least four to six hours.
Penicillamine is used to treat rheumatoid arthritis but can decrease the ability for both zinc and the penicillamine to work when taken together. For the best results, take at least two hours apart.
There are many studies that warn against taking intranasal zinc. When putting the zinc directly into our nasal passages, the results can be toxic, and we can injure the cells present there, resulting in loss of smell oftentimes.
Zinc, obviously, is extremely helpful to our overall health. There are different kinds of zinc that we can take though. The options we have that are the best absorbed in our bodies are zinc picolinate, zinc citrate, zinc acetate, zinc glycerate, and zinc monomethionine. The two that have the biggest debate around them are zinc citrate and zinc picolinate. Which is easier absorbed and better for our health?
Zinc citrate, another form of zinc, is just zinc in a salt form made from a citric acid. Citrate can actually help in the preservation of red and white blood cells, making zinc citrate an excellent option of supplement to take. This is because zinc already is incredibly beneficial to our health and our blood cells.
Zinc helps to strengthen and grow our cells, fighting off diseases. When paired with citric acid, which aids in the safe keeping of our red and white blood cells, they become a perfect match for optimal cells and overall complete health.
When compared to other forms of zinc, zinc citrate has a 61.3 percent absorption rate. Zinc gluconate has a 60.9 percent absorption rate and zinc oxide has a 49.9 percent absorption rate. Obviously zinc citrate has the highest absorption rate among these other options. This form of zinc is water soluble which makes it an easily absorbed mineral when used without food.
Zinc picolinate is yet another form of zinc, this time in an acid form. This is when the zinc is bound with picolinic acid. Picolinate is a fairly natural form of acid for the body to digest, making it work well when bonded with minerals such as zinc. The bonding of the two helps the mineral to be more easily absorbed by the body. Picolinate is an acid regularly found in our bodies already. Picolinate acid is found in our mother’s milk, even more than in cow’s milk or in infant milk formulas. This form of zinc is also very easily absorbed in the body, making it another ideal choice for zinc consumption.
Zinc picolinate supplements may also have vitamin C, making it ideal for fighting colds and other immune system health issues. It is known to be better for our bodies when we take picolinate acid that is already in a zinc supplement, however, rather than a zinc supplement and picolinate acid separately.
Zinc Picolinate vs. Zinc Citrate
While both zinc picolinate and zinc citrate are very beneficial to our health, one may be better than the other. They are both bioavailable and because they are both zinc supplements, contain the zinc that is needed in our bodies.
Dr. Chris Masterjohn says that while zinc picolinate is easily absorbed, the picolinate in this zinc supplement causes the zinc to go to our tissues and into our systems, but it is not easily retained and stored there. Typically, it goes straight to our bladders, where our body gets rid of the zinc in our systems.
Because of this problem, it can be believed that zinc citrate is the better option of the two. Zinc citrate is more easily retained in the body, keeping it in our systems and allowing it to do what it needs to do to help our bodies thrive.
Understanding Bioavailability and What it Has to do With Zinc Absorption
To better understand how zinc citrate and zinc picolinate are absorbed in our bodies, we need to understand bioavailability.
Bioavailability, in definition, is “the proportion of a drug or other substance which enters the circulation when introduced into the body and so is able to have an active effect.” Bioavailability is also quoted as being one of the least acknowledged or appreciated aspects of our health.
Bioavailability is very important when it comes to longevity, morbidity, and just our overall health. Essentially, for our purposes, it is how zinc enters our bodies and does what it is supposed to do.
The absorption of zinc is a complicated process in our bodies. Zinc first passes through our intestine membranes, then going into our bloodstreams and finally arrives into our individual blood cells and the different tissues of our systems.
Different nutrients have different levels of bioavailability. Depending on how bioavailable a nutrient is, it will either make it harder or easier for our bodies to retain the nutrient. A nutrient can be labeled as bioavailable depending on digestion, absorption, the nutrient entering specific body tissues and fluids, and the distribution of the nutrient into our blood flow.
Here are some nutrients that are easily bioavailable:
- Vitamin B-12
- Folic Acid
- Vitamin B-6
How can we test the bioavailability of certain nutrients in our own bodies? There is no set at home way to test this, but there are ways to do it with a doctor.
Basically, the bioavailability of a nutrient is measured by how much of that nutrient is in our fluids and body tissues and by the growth or function of whatever body part or system needs to be doing.
The bioavailability of a nutrient can be hard to measure. Rarely is a nutrient stored in only one place in our bodies, rather, it gets spread out throughout our systems and blood fluid. Because of this, we can not always correctly measure the bioavailability of certain nutrients, but instead gather a rough estimate of how bioavailable that they are.
Ways That We Can Help Zinc Do Its Job
Because zinc is so valuable in our bodies, we need to be able to help it do its job and help our bodies be the healthiest that they can be. Zinc needs to be easily absorbed, and sometimes other vitamins and minerals can take over and zinc will not be able to do what it needs to do.
By taking zinc in a safe and “correct” way, we are giving our bodies the ingredients that it needs to support our bodies. All of our organs, tissues, cells, and blood rely on minerals and vitamins, just like zinc, to function properly.
How To Take Zinc
The best way to help zinc do its job is to simply take enough zinc. This could be by taking a zinc supplement, a multivitamin, or just eating enough high zinc foods. The most common zinc filled foods are seafoods, meats, vegetables (such as legumes or spinach) and nuts. Dark chocolate also has a good amount of zinc (yay!) making this treat a fun and easy way to get in the zinc that we need.
When taking a multivitamin or zinc supplement, it is best to take it one to two hours before or after a meal with juice or water. It is also best taken with a copper supplement, as the two typically go hand in hand. These items can bond together, absorbing into our cells and tissues in an easier way than just by taking zinc.
Another way to use zinc is when we have a wound, to use a zinc infused ointment. Examples of zinc ointments would be things like diaper cream for infant and toddler’s rashes or zinc mineral infused sunscreens to protect our skin from the damage of the sun.
Zinc In Our Bodies
Another way that we can help zinc to do its job is just to take and eat a lot of zinc. That may sound strange to us, how can we help zinc by taking zinc?
The more that we take zinc, the more that our bodies will become used to the zinc.
When our bodies get used to the zinc consumption, it can do its job as best as it can and it will learn how to absorb the zinc better than before.
If our bodies are not used to taking large amounts of zinc, then just like any other foreign things in our bodies like bacterias or rogue strange cells, our bodies will get rid of the unknown or unfamiliar object (such as excess zinc), usually by throwing up the object or by the other way around, diarrhea.
Other Vitamins and Minerals
One way that we can help zinc to do its job is by limiting our calcium intake. Calcium is found to actually decrease the absorption of zinc in our bodies. This is because our bodies cannot absorb everything at once and so it typically chooses the calcium nutrient over zinc.
This also happens because calcium has a place of storage in our bodies. The calcium that we consume goes into our bones. The zinc that we consume does not have a ready place of storage, making it a second choice in our bodies if there we take too much of either mineral.
Exercise is good for so many things, our health most importantly. Whether exercise keeps our cardiovascular health on point and everything moving smoothly. When it comes to nutrients though, exercise can get rid of the nutrients that our bodies need.
When we exercise, we sweat and when we sweat we lose nutrients. When we lose zinc, our insulin can not do its job so to make sure that we are getting and keeping the zinc and other nutrients that we need, after exercising, we need to be eating enough zinc and nutrient filled foods.
Overall, exercise is very important in our lives, but so are the nutrients. We need to exercise and make sure to eat well and to take supplements when we need to better our health.
Zinc Fun Facts
Now that we have all of the important facts out of the way, we can focus on some fun zinc facts!
- Zinc has the element symbol Zn and is the 30th atomic number on the periodic table.
- Zinc is a transitional metal, meaning that it has a tendency to form compounds with other elements and minerals.
- Zinc comes from the Greek word “zinke” that means “pointed”. This is believed to be because of the pointed shape that zinc gets after it is smelted.
- Smelting of zinc has been found to be used in India since the ninth century BCE.
- German Renaissance physician and astrologer, Paracelsus, is thought to have been the one to give zinc its name. William Champion, an English metallurgist, is the one who was able to separate zinc by smelting the element. He was the one that created the process for this.
- Zinc was thought to be discovered by Indian metallurgists before 1000 B.C.
- Iron and copper were used more frequently by ancient Greeks and Romans, however zinc was definitely used! It was used more in company with copper than by itself though.
- Zinc is one of the most important minerals that our bodies need. It helps with immune health and the prevention of numerous diseases, helping our health to be the best that it can be. (Make sure to eat lots of zinc rich foods!)
- Too much zinc can actually cause problems, like interfering with the absorption of other minerals, which in turn causes our bodies to be deficient in those other minerals. One tell-tale sign of excessive zinc use is the loss of smell and taste (not to be confused with COVID-19 symptoms.)
- Zinc is the fourth most common metal in industrial use, behind copper, iron, and aluminum.
- Zinc forms lots of compounds, one of which is with brass, an alloy of copper and zinc.
- Zinc, when used as an industrial metal, tarnishes in the air.
- Most mined zinc comes from zinc sulfide ore (95 percent).
- Zinc is easily recycled!
- The 24th most common element in the Earth’s crust is zinc.
- Roughly 30 percent of zinc produced yearly is from recycled metals.
- 17 percent of the zinc used every day is used for brass and bronze production.
- Zinc and zinc compounds are found in products like sunscreen, paint, batteries, and other things.
- When zinc salts burn, it gives off a blue-green colored flame.
- Most zinc binds to other molecules in our bodies, but some zinc molecules are “free” to go around our bodies.
- Zinc sometimes is called “spelter”.
- Zinc can be melted on a cooking stove.
- Zinc can become very flexible after a little bit of heating.
- When heated up a lot, zinc becomes brittle and coarse.
- Zinc is a highly reactive metal and mineral.
In conclusion, zinc, in all forms, does wonders for our health. No matter which form of zinc that we are taking, it is always a benefit to our bodies. Research, however, is very important when it comes to which zinc supplement to take.
Because all forms are beneficial to our health, it is not the biggest deal which one we choose. Simply settling for a random zinc supplement is not good either though, so finding one that we like, that our bodies like, and doing our research is important.
We also need to consider what other medications and illnesses that we may have as this may determine how much zinc or in what form we can take it to be safe.
We also must think about how to allow the zinc to work in our bodies. We can not simply take zinc and have a poor diet and exercising routine. Zinc is no good on its own.
For those of us who need to take zinc and whom it is safe for, zinc citrate is one of the best options of zinc supplement to take. Zinc citrate absorbs quickly in our bodies, making it easy for our bodies to spread and use the zinc as it should. Our cells and immune systems rely heavily on zinc, and using a bioavailable zinc supplement, such as zinc citrate, helps our bodies to get the zinc that it needs to function to the best of its ability.