by Dr. Thomas K. Lo, Advanced Chiropractic & Nutritional Healing Center

Zinc is a nutrient found in cells throughout the body. It helps the immune system fight off invading bacteria and viruses. The body also needs zinc to make proteins and DNA, the genetic material in all cells. Zinc also helps wounds heal and is important for proper senses of taste and smell.

Vegetable-based zinc sources are not as bioavailable as animal-based sources, which means that the body does not absorb zinc from vegetarian sources as effectively. According to 2017 research, a person eating a vegetarian or vegan diet may need to consume 50 percent more zinc than people who regularly eat animal products.

How Much Zinc Do I Need?

The amount of zinc you need each day depends on your age. The recommended dose for adult men is 11 mg., and for adult women, 8 mg.

What Foods Provide Zinc?

Zinc is in a wide variety of foods. You can get the recommended amounts of zinc by eating a variety of foods, including the following: oysters (which are one of the best sources of zinc), red meat, poultry, seafood, and fortified breakfast cereals. Beans, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and dairy products also provide some zinc. If those foods are hard for you to add to your diet, you can also obtain zinc in supplement form.

Am I Getting Enough Zinc?

Most people in the United States get enough zinc from the foods they eat. However, certain groups of people may have trouble getting enough zinc. These groups include people who have had gastrointestinal surgery, such as weight loss surgery, or who have digestive disorders, such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease. These conditions can decrease the amount of zinc that the body absorbs and increase the amount lost in the urine.

Vegetarians also fall into this group because they do not eat meat, which is a good source of zinc. In addition, the beans and grains they typically eat have compounds that keep zinc from being fully absorbed by the body. For this reason, vegetarians might need to eat as much as 50 percent more zinc than the recommended amounts. Also look into consuming soaked and sprouted grains, nuts, and seeds, as this makes zinc more bioavailable.

Infants over six months of age could have trouble getting enough zinc because breast milk does not have enough zinc for infants over six months. Infants over six months who do not take formula can be given foods that have zinc such as pureed meats.

Alcoholics can have trouble getting enough zinc because alcoholic beverages decrease the amount of zinc that the body absorbs and increase the amount lost in the urine. In addition, many alcoholics eat a limited amount and variety of food, so they may not get enough zinc.

People with sickle cell disease may also need more zinc.

What Happens If I Do Not Get Enough Zinc?

Zinc deficiency is rare in North America. It causes slow growth in infants and children, delayed sexual development in adolescents, and impotence in men. Zinc deficiency also causes hair loss, diarrhea, eye and skin sores, and loss of appetite. Weight loss, problems with wound healing, decreased ability to taste food, and lower alertness levels can also occur.

Many of these symptoms can also be signs of problems other than zinc deficiency.

Some Effects Of Zinc On Health

Zinc helps activate T-cells, which control and regulate your immune response and attack and destroy infected cells. Zinc plays a role in several bodily functions; let us review:

Growth: People require zinc for physical growth and development. Zinc deficiency can result in impaired growth in children and adolescents.

Immune system function: Our bodies use zinc to build immune system cells called T lymphocytes. Older people and children in developing countries who have low levels of zinc may have a higher risk of getting pneumonia and other infections. Some studies also suggest that zinc lozenges or syrup help speed recovery from the common cold and reduce its symptoms if taken within 24 hours of coming down with a cold.

Enzyme function: Zinc plays a pivotal role in triggering chemical reactions in the body. These include helping the body use folic acid and creating new proteins and DNA.

Eye health: Zinc deficiency can contribute to the development of eye conditions, including macular degeneration. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is an eye disease that gradually causes vision loss. Research suggests that zinc might help slow AMD progression. In the study, people at high risk of the disease who took dietary supplements containing zinc and dietary supplements containing only zinc had a lower risk of getting advanced AMD than those who did not take zinc dietary supplements. 

Wound healing: Zinc helps promote healthy skin and mucous membranes, which boosts wound healing.

Can Zinc Be Harmful?

Yes, zinc can be harmful if you get too much. Signs of too much zinc include nausea (nausea can also happen if you are taking zinc on an empty stomach), vomiting, loss of appetite, stomach cramps, diarrhea, and headaches. When people take too much zinc for a long time, they sometimes have problems such as low copper levels, lower immunity, and low levels of HDL cholesterol (the “good” cholesterol).

Are There Any Interactions With Zinc That I Should Know About?

Yes. Zinc dietary supplements can interact or interfere with medicines that you take, and in some cases, medicines can lower zinc levels in the body.

Zinc and Healthful Eating

People should get most of their nutrients from food. Foods contain vitamins, minerals, dietary fiber, and other substances that benefit health. In some cases, fortified foods and dietary supplements may provide nutrients that otherwise may be consumed in less-than-recommended amounts.

If you are struggling with health issues, call the Advanced Chiropractic & Nutritional Healing Center at 240-651-1650 for a free consultation. Dr. Lo uses Nutritional Response Testing® to analyze the body to determine the underlying causes of ill or non-optimum health. The office is located at 7310 Grove Road #107, Frederick, MD. Check out the website at

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