The mineral Zinc plays a important role in supporting our immune function as well as assisting in many cellular functions and numerous enzymatic functions. Zinc is an essential part of healthy hormone and immune molecule development and therefore human growth. Unfortunately, deficiencies are very common globally with an estimated 1/4 of the worlds population deficient. Over 400 thousand deaths annually are contributed to by a Zinc deficiency. Zinc is most important for pregnant women and growing children because it helps with cognitive development as well as regulating Leptin, IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor-1), Cortisol and other hormones.
There are a few contributing factors that have lead to our global Zinc deficiency. One of the problems we have is diets hight in sugar and carbohydrates which has lead to unhealthy blood sugar balances which prevent proper absorption of Zinc. Leaky Gut Syndrome is another common issues which effects the ability to absorb Zinc and other minerals. Diets high in Legumes, Grains and Phytic Acid can also block Zinc absorption. Finally Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) like Ibuprofen also impact the absorption of Zinc.
So how do you know your have a Zinc deficiency? Well you may have some of the following symptoms:
• Poor Memory
• Lowered Immunity
• Frequent Colds or Flus
• Loss of Appetite
• Abnormal hair loss
• Breast and Prostate Cancer
• Loss of Libido
• Loss of Taste or Smell
• Spots on Fingernails
• Low Energy
• Slow Thinking Process
• Sinus Problems and Allergies
• Skin Rashes / Eczema
Zinc helps the immune system by stimulating the human Cytokine Interferon Alpha which prevents viral replication. By doing this immunological stress on the body is lowered and immune coordination is improved. Zinc also aids the development of Superoxide Dismutase Enzymes (SODs) which are powerful intracellular antioxidants. SODs help stop viral infection and the accumulation of toxic debris within the cellular matrices.
Zinc lowers inflammation which can lead to degenerative disease. An over stimulated Nuclear Factor – kappa Beta (NF-kB) pathway in response to pathogens within the body but can lead to chronic inflammation. The NF-kB process requires zinc to bind to a protein within its series to halt activity thus controlling inflammation within cells.
Zinc helps prevent cancer cell growth patterns because of its regulatory role at the NF-kB pathway. Zinc is also an aid in inhibiting Angiogenesis of Tumour cells as well as the release of Inflammatory Cytokines. Zinc also helps stimulate the cell death known as Apoptosis of abnormal cells reducing the risk of Cancer growth.
Zinc has been shown to be important in the prevention of Prostate and Breast Cancers. The p53 gene protects the body against Prostate and Breast Cancer. Zinc stops the p53 gene of the body mutating and becoming less effective. In 2012 researchers found a lower risk of Prostate and Breast Cancer development in the people with the highest concentrations of Zinc. Zinc has also been shown to lower the risk of Skin Cancer and Bladder Cancer. Researchers found Zinc supplements given to Bladder Cancer patients promotes Apoptosis and because of this aids in an Anti-Cancer effect.
Zinc also plays a role in Estrogen balance as it supports the production and use of Progesterone. Whilst a deficiency in Zinc increases Estrogen sensitivity. To effectively balance these hormones in women, it is important to raise Zinc levels whilst decreasing Boron, Calcium and Copper concentrations.
Zinc can be found in natural sources such as Eggs, Nuts, Seeds, Meat, Organ Meat, Oysters and Shellfish. Although because of the toxic bioaccumulation in Oysters and Shellfish they are not the best source. The best sources are Grass Fed Beef, Organ Meat and Local Organic Eggs. The best plant based sources of Zinc are Sprouted Pumpkin Seeds, Hemp Seeds, Sunflower Seeds and Chia Seeds.
For adults the daily recommended intake of Zinc is 8-11 milligrams (mg). However daily recommendations can be looked as to low and it is not uncommon for functional health experts and progressive nutritionists to advise 30-40 mg per day. Consuming more than 100mg daily can actually create health risks so it is important to monitor your intake.