Zinc Deficiency: Signs, Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention

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Many people don’t think about zinc when it comes to boosting their immune system and metabolic function, but it’s one of the nutrients found in our body that does just that. It is an essential nutrient that plays a significant role in development and replication of your body’s cells.

Some of the benefits of zinc range from helping heal wounds to improving your ability to taste and smell. If you have diarrhea that lasts for several days, zinc can help fight off infections in your intestines and stomach. Research also suggests that you might be able to slow the progression of the eye disease age-related macular degeneration through the use of oral zinc.

Those who have a balanced diet usually get enough zinc. You find zinc in chicken, red meat and breakfast cereals that are high in iron, fiber and potassium. Along with cold medicines, orange juice and hot tea, many people use oral zinc to treat colds and flus.

Signs and Symptoms of a Zinc Deficiency

Zinc is necessary for physical, mental or behavioral and hormonal growth. Although statistics are limited, there’s an estimated 17.3 % of the entire world population at risk of zinc-deficiency, according to the National Institutes of Health. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that the global zinc deficiency could be as high as 31 percent.

Just as there are problems with taking too much zinc, there’s also issues when the body doesn’t have enough zinc. Zinc-deficiency is prevalent in people who don’t get  well-balanced meals, live in extreme poverty places or have a disease or illness like liver cirrhosis and alcoholism that decreases their zinc levels. Surgery may also cause someone to become zinc-deficient. If one doesn’t get enough zinc, serious problems can occur.

Here is a list of signs and symptoms related to zinc-deficiency. It includes the following:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Slow growth
  • Weakened immune system

Severe zinc deficiency can result in:

  • Delayed hormone growth, particularly the sexual hormones
  • Diarrhea
  • Lesions in the eyes and skin, negatively affecting your vision
  • Lethargy
  • Awkward sense of smell and taste, producing a hedonic-like experience
  • Nails & hair loss
  • Slow healing of wounds
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Males can also experience impotence and a lack of testosterone production
  • Lack of growth in hair & nail
  • Bad taste in your mouth

If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, see your physician to get tested for a zinc deficiency.  Further, if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, your doctor will inform you if you’re deficient and will prescribe supplements or vitamins for you to take or recommend eating certain foods.

Treatment and Prevention

Just like most nutrients, we can take to increase the dosage we need, zinc supplements are available at most neighborhood pharmacies and at various health stores. The supplements will contain various amounts and elements of zinc, including gluconate, sulfate and acetate. Each supplement should contain the recommended daily intake and proper warnings. Be sure to contact your physician first if you’re on medication or if you’re pregnant.

The easiest way to increase your zinc intake is with food. The best way to increase your zinc intake and make sure you’re getting the right amount is to eat lean meats, fruits, vegetables and dairy products.

If you want to make sure you’re getting enough zinc or want to start eating more foods, here’s a list of foods high in zinc:

  • Oysters
  • Beef chuck roast
  • Fortified breakfast cereals
  • Baked beans
  • Yogurt
  • Chickpeas
  • Instant, plain oatmeal
  • Milk

If you’re sick or have the flu or a cold, you’ll find out that many lozenges contain zinc as the main ingredient. But be careful because zinc can negatively interact with some antibiotics, medicines for arthritis and diuretics. One disadvantage of zinc is if too much is consumed it can decrease the effectiveness of some drugs and cause side effects.

Be sure you’re not taking too much zinc and contact your physician to see if it counteracts with any medications you’re using. The recommended daily dosage is 8 milligrams for adult women and 11 milligrams for adult men.  Not many people are lacking in zinc in the U.S. so it’s not a huge problem. And it’s a problem you can easily cure. The best solution to reduce zinc-deficiency is with a proper diet and the use of supplements.

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