Your immune system is your first line of defense against all diseases, especially infectious diseases such as viruses. The one mineral that plays a key role in your immune system’s ability to fight off disease is Zinc. Zinc is vital for immune function and a key player in warding off viral infections and plays a vastly underrated role in fighting off the COVID-19 virus.
Recent research found COVID-19 patients were more likely to be deficient in zinc than healthy controls. Zinc deficient patients also had worse outcomes and higher death rates. While 70.4% of the zinc- deficient patients developed complications, only 30% of those with sufficient levels developed complications.
Essential for so Many Reasons
Let’s look at all the roles zinc plays in the body to better understand this important nutrient.
- Important for prostate gland function and growth of reproductive organs
- Prevents over-active oil glands that lead to acne
- It is required for protein synthesis (all cells are made of protein)
- It is required for collagen, the glue that holds you together!
- Helps to heal wounds
- Required for taste and smell (first thing to go with COVID is taste)
- Protects the liver from chemicals
- Required for bone formation
- Required for gum health
- A constituent of insulin
- A constituent of enzymes
- It’s an antioxidant
- Zinc is needed for the proper concentration of vitamin E in the blood
- Zinc increases the absorption of vitamin A
Visual Signs of Deficiency
The body has a “sign language” that lets us know when we are low in a nutrient. For Zinc deficiency, we may notice a loss of taste and smell. It can cause fingernails to become thin, peel, and develop white “spots.” Other possible signs of zinc deficiency include acne, delayed sexual maturation, fatigue, growth impairment, hair loss, high cholesterol levels, impaired night vision, impotence, increased susceptibility to infections, infertility, a propensity to diabetes, prostate enlargement, skin lesions, and slow wound healing.
Wow! Isn’t it amazing all the roles zinc plays in the body?
You may develop zinc deficiency due to being on a diuretic, having kidney disease, cirrhosis of the liver, having diabetes, excessive perspiration, excessive copper, leaky gut, irritable bowel, colitis, diverticulitis, alcoholism, and the consumption of “hard” water. I believe stress is the number one cause of zinc deficiency, who do you know that’s not stressed? Another causation factor is a diet high in sugar and simple carbohydrates. Zinc is required to metabolize these carbohydrates. Additionally, if we drink more than one cup of coffee or tea per day, we are going to be depleting our body of not only zinc but other minerals.
Interestingly enough, foods that contain “phytates” will decrease your ability to absorb zinc. Phytates are found in grains and legumes. If you have a weakened immune system, it’s best to avoid these foods as you try and build up your zinc reserves.
Food Sources of Zinc
Zinc is found in many foods, and we should consume these regularly. The challenge with zinc and other minerals is “absorption.” As we age, we have reduced amounts of hydrochloric acid in our stomachs. This often leads to “heartburn” or GERD, and we then are prescribed an antacid. The real “root cause” of heartburn is too little, not too much, hydrochloric acid. The food sits in the stomach, not able to properly digest, and creates the acid reflux associated with heartburn.
Why do I tell you all of this? Because you need hydrochloric acid to break-down and utilize your minerals! With the millions of people on antacids, we have millions of people mineral deficient.
If you do take an antacid, just assume you are not getting your minerals absorbed. It’s important to restore your digestion for long-term health. Work with a naturopathic doctor or a nutritionist to help you get off the antacids and restore your digestive balance.
Foods rich in zinc include brewers yeast, egg yolks, fish, lamb, kelp, seaweed, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, many of the leafy greens, grass-fed beef, garbanzo beans, cocoa powder, kefir and yogurt, mushrooms, and oysters!
When considering supplementation, look at all your supplements for dosages. Many formulations will include zinc as well as a multi-vitamin/mineral complex usually do as well. You should not exceed 100mg daily for longer than two weeks unless under a doctor’s supervision.
Zinc deficiency is quite common in the developing world. Even in the United States, about 12 percent of the population is probably at risk for zinc deficiency, and perhaps as many as 40 percent of the elderly, due to inadequate dietary intake and less absorption of this essential nutrient.
You can safely take 30mg of zinc per day. If you feel like you are “coming down” with something, you can take 20mg every four hours, or until symptoms are relieved. I also suggest having zinc lozenges on hand, especially during this COVID pandemic. If you have been around people (like grocery shopping), when you get home suck on a zinc lozenge. If you are going to be traveling, carry them with you. Virus’s land in the mouth and nose first, so sucking on a lozenge can kill it!
The best type of zinc is chelated. Since zinc is difficult to absorb, a chelated version of zinc is preferred. This is a form that’s “wrapped in a protein” for delivery, nullifying the “negative” charge that is associated with zinc and therefore increasing absorption in the body. There are different types of zinc, but I would recommend a glycinate, gluconate or citrate form.
With the research that is being done for COVID, we have been able to discover some very interesting things! One of those is the ability to absorb zinc is better in the presence of Quercetin. Quercetin is in the antioxidant family called “flavonoids.” Quercetin is a potent antiviral by itself, so in combination with zinc, you get a one-two punch!
You are probably familiar with the benefits of Green Tea, also in that family, and also helpful for absorption of zinc. The active ingredient in green tea is, ECGC and can also be found in supplement form.
If you would like to see my “top picks” for zinc, go to my online dispensary, Wellevate, and a quick registration will give you access to all my favorite brands at 15% off retail!
Stay well my friend!
- Prescription for Nutritional Healing, Balch CNC, Phyllis, Balch, James, M.D., Avery Publishing 2000, Pgs. 33,34, 304,305
- Digestive Wellness, Lipski, M.S., C.C.N. Elizabeth, Keats Publishing, 2000, pgs. 76, 198
- How To Improve Zinc Uptake with Querceitin, www.drmercola.com, April 2020
- Zinc Deficiencies a Global Concern, www.oregonstateuniversity.com, September 17, 2009