Everyone has heard of zinc, and it can be found in a lot of different products, including skin products and supplements for warding off colds over winter. If you would like a little more information about what is in fact a pretty amazing nutrient please read on…
What does zinc do?
Zinc participates in a lot of vital biological functions in the body. As mentioned it has a role in immunity, and is often found in immune boosting supplements. Zinc is also integral for growth, including DNA replication and cell reproduction. What this means is that it is extremely important for stages where growth and development are occurring, during pregnancy, infancy and all through childhood and adolescence. Zinc is a significant element of healing and cell health, male sexual development, carbohydrate digestion and even our senses of smell and taste, just to scratch the surface.
Zinc is used to treat a great deal of conditions and they are as diverse as they are separated on the body. Such things as certain eye conditions, diabetes (it enhances the action of insulin), bladder infections, parasitical infections, conditions involving the digestive system such as IBS and Crohns disease. Prostate problems and erectile dysfunction, asthma and ulcers, high blood pressure, even alcohol related liver problems, and many more. Please do not self treat for these conditions though, it is really important that a doctor or specialist is involved in any process that involves prescribing any kind of treatment.
Another area that zinc is well known for, and may well be worth exploring if you fit this criteria, is in the case of athletes. Endurance athletes particularly may be susceptible to deficiency and it is not always easy to spot. It can lead to a decrease in endurance, weight loss and increases risks of osteoporosis for example. Athletes require specialised diets to ensure their nutrient and energy needs are being met.
What does deficiency look like?
While deficiency is not a major problem in Australia it can still occur, and more often in older adults. Deficiency of zinc is most obvious by delayed growth, and male sexual maturity. Children with zinc deficiency may appear younger than they are, and some overseas cases are quite apparent with men still appearing as if children. Other signs of possible zinc deficiency are slow wound healing, poor immunity, loss of appetite, male sexual problems, diarrhoea, loss of sense of taste, eye lesions, and poor skin condition. Someone suffering from zinc deficiency may also feel mentally drained. Of course these will vary from person to person and must be diagnosed by a professional.
Where do I get my zinc?
Zinc comes from a variety of sources, which is great as it means there are plenty of opportunities to get it. Here are a few of the best sources of zinc:
- Beef and other red meats
- Crab and other shellfish
- Chicken and poultry
- Seeds and Nuts
- Whole Grains
- Legumes/Lentils and Beans
People with certain health conditions in particular may benefit from supplementation (see health care professional for advice). Those conditions include: People with gastrointestinal diseases/conditions, pregnant/lactating women, vegetarians/vegans, alcoholics, and people with sickle cell disease.
For the general population zinc is a pretty easy nutrient to obtain through the diet, keeping in mind that it is an essential trace element. That means we need it in our diets, but only in small amounts.
Thank you for reading, I hope you found this ‘daily nutrient’ informative 🙂