Zinc Deficiency and Immunity: What You Need to Know

You work hard to keep yourself healthy. Proper exercise and a healthy diet are important parts of a healthy lifestyle. However, everyone is different with varying immune systems and metabolisms.

It can be hard to know exactly what you need to do and eat to remain healthy. There are so many vitamins and minerals that you’re encouraged to take, and the advertising never seems to end. One nutrient you might be missing out on that’s essential to your overall health is zinc.

This guide provides you with everything that you need to know about zinc, zinc deficiency, and immunity.

What Is Zinc?

Zinc is a mineral and essential nutrient for the body. It can help regulate and increase your body’s metabolism. This important nutrient also helps your body with its immunity to diseases and other issues.

Most people get zinc through a healthy diet. It’s often found in everyday foods, such as fortified breakfast cereals, meat, poultry, fish, milk, and others. However, sometimes, you don’t get enough zinc and need to take a supplement.

What Causes Zinc Deficiency?

If you’re exercising and eating right, you might wonder what causes a zinc deficiency. There are three main causes:

  1. Your body isn’t absorbing the zinc that you get in your diet.
  2. Your current diet isn’t providing you with enough zinc.
  3. You suffer from a chronic condition.

The chronic conditions that are most likely to cause a deficiency include:

  • Alcohol addiction
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Cancer
  • Sickle cell disease
  • Celiac disease
  • Pancreatic disease
  • Issues with diarrhea
  • Diabetes
  • Liver disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Crohn’s disease

If you suffer from any of these conditions, it’s entirely possible that you need to supplement your diet with zinc to enjoy the health benefits of this nutrient. You need to know the signs of a deficiency as well as the causes.

What Are the Signs of a Zinc Deficiency?

You need to know that you have a deficiency before you can start taking steps to improve your overall health. Your body might be low on zinc and without you realizing it. Some of the most common signs of zinc deficiency include:

  • Delayed or slow growth
  • Wounds or cuts that don’t heal as quickly as they should
  • Behavioral issues
  • Delayed sexual maturity
  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Acute acne
  • Skin rashes

While most of these symptoms can be caused by a variety of issues, they can also be linked to a zinc deficiency. It’s also extremely important that nursing mothers not be deficient in zinc. Their infants rely on the zinc in breast milk for development and bone growth along with a healthy immune system.

woman with possible zinc deficiency scratching her arm

Skin rashes are a symptom of zinc deficiency.

Immune Function

If you have a zinc deficiency, it’s going to affect your immune function. Your immune system is what keeps you healthy by fighting off bacteria and viruses when they enter your body.

Your immune function also helps your body heal after an injury, especially one where the skin is broken such as a cut. Without a healthy immune function, you might find yourself getting sick more often than you have in the past.

A zinc deficiency is one of the biggest threats to your immune system. Your doctor can easily test if you’re deficient in zinc with a blood test, urine sample, or hair analysis.

What Decreases Zinc Absorption?

If you’re getting plenty of zinc through your diet or supplements, and you still have a zinc deficiency, then there’s a problem with absorption. In many cases, you’ll find that it’s the food you’re eating that’s causing a decrease in zinc absorption.

For instance, calcium in milk and other sources combines with zinc and stops its absorption in the stomach and intestines. Any food product that contains phytate can also block the absorption of zinc in the body. Phytate is often found in staple food such as corn and rice.

Of course, one of the health conditions mentioned earlier can also cause the body to have a lower absorption rate of zinc. If you have one of these health conditions, you might want to discuss zinc deficiency with your doctor.

How Can I Increase My Zinc Levels?

If you have a zinc deficiency, and you know absorption due to a chronic condition isn’t the culprit, then you need to work on your diet. You might need to adjust your diet to include more foods that are rich in zinc.

You also need to look at the food items in your diet that might be blocking your body from absorbing zinc. If you’re drinking a lot of milk or eating dairy products, then you might need to cut back until your zinc reaches normal levels.

When you have an absorption issue, you need to talk to your doctor about treating the condition that’s causing the issue. You want your body to be able to absorb the zinc you need to keep your immune system healthy.

Supplements

If diet adjustments aren’t enough or aren’t a practical solution, you might consider zinc supplements to get this essential nutrient. A zinc supplement is typically taken once a day. You might need to take them indefinitely or for a short period of time, depending on your specific circumstances,

As with any vitamin or supplement, you need to ensure that the product you buy is high quality and well regarded. Do your research and only buy supplements from a company that you can trust to offer you the nutrition you need.

How Long Does It Take to Correct a Zinc Deficiency?

The length of time that you’ll need to take zinc depends on your specific circumstances. However, as a general rule, it takes around 12 weeks before you see any improvement in your zinc levels. The length of time that you’ve suffered from a zinc deficiency also plays a role in how quickly you’ll see results and how long you’ll need zinc therapy.

You might need to continue zinc therapy for an extended period of time, especially if you’re unable to get enough zinc through your diet or you have an underlying medical condition that slows the absorption of zinc into your body. A medical professional can help monitor your zinc levels and help determine the length of time that you need to continue treatment.

It’s important to note that if you’re taking a zinc supplement long-term, you may need to take a copper supplement with it. The additional zinc might lead to a copper deficiency.

Treating Zinc Deficiency

If you reached the point where you have a substantial zinc deficiency, it will almost always require a zinc supplement to recover. Typically, you need to take between two and five times the amount of zinc that’s recommended as part of a healthy diet.

You might be able to adjust your diet to help improve a low zinc level, but it’s always best to talk to your doctor. While a change in diet might help, it’s not going to drastically increase your zinc and right a deficiency straight away.

Conclusion

Zinc is an essential nutrient. When you can’t absorb zinc or you aren’t getting enough through your diet, it can create a zinc deficiency that places your immune system in jeopardy.

BINTO can help you increase your zinc intake. Our supplements are always made with high-quality ingredients to ensure your health and well-being. Whether you have a chronic condition or postpartum, we can provide you with a zinc supplement to help improve your body’s immune system.

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