‘Z’ is for zinc which is an essential trace mineral. Zinc is the twenty fifth most abundant element in the earth’s crust. It is water soluble and tends to be leached easily from our soils and from our food. Zinc deficiencies are fairly common since much zinc is refined and processed out of grains and other foods.
Zinc is needed to make more than 100 different enzymes that control essential processes throughout the body. Zinc is also involved in more bodily functions than any other mineral. Zinc is important for normal growth and development, body tissue maintenance, sexual function, immune response, and detoxification of chemicals and metabolic irritants.
Zinc speeds up wound healing. It is commonly used before and after surgery to speed recovery time and reduce postoperative complications such as wound infections. Zinc is also useful in treating skin problems such as boils, bedsores, dermatitis and acne.
Zinc has also been shown to support immune function. Zinc increases T lymphocyte production and enhances other white blood cell functions. Studies have verified that zinc is helpful in reducing the incidence and severity of colds and flues. Zinc lozenges can provide dramatic relief in some cases of sore throat.
Zinc deficiency is sometimes related to BPH, or benign prostate hypertrophy via its relationship with cadmium. Cadmium competes with zinc for absorption and it is actually cadmium toxicity that is linked to BPH. Zinc supplementation helps balance the cadmium-zinc ratio and helps prevent BPH.
Many health disorders are associated with zinc deficiency. These include acne, cataracts, epilepsy, ulcerative colitis, psoriasis, depression, diabetes, chronic infections, infertility, learning disabilities and environmental sensitivity. Loss of taste, brittleness of nails and white spots on nails are all symptoms of zinc deficiency.
Zinc is found in most animal foods such as meat, eggs and milk. Oysters are particularly high in zinc. It is also abundant in whole grains and nuts. Pumpkin seeds are high in zinc as is ginger.
The zinc that is contained in whole grains is in the germ and bran which are refined out in making white flour. Zinc is also lost in canning and cooking as it is water soluble. Water was once a good source of zinc when galvanized water pipes were used. Now copper pipes are used which not only removes a source of zinc, but adds copper which competes with zinc and sometimes displaces it.
The RDA for zinc in adults is 15 mg., yet the average diet contains only about 10 mg. of zinc. For general maintenance, the average need is around 15-30 mg. per day, with 30-60 mg. needed to correct deficiencies. For long term use, it is better to take zinc in combination with other minerals so that other imbalances do not occur.
Margaret Durst is a naturopathic doctor who owns The Green House, a vitamin, herb and health food store in Mason, Texas.