Zinc is an essential mineral found in many types of food. Not getting enough of this mineral can cause a number of health effects, including decreased immune function, diarrhea and more. Zinc deficiency symptoms do not begin until zinc levels have been low for several months. Insufficient zinc can result from not getting enough in your diet. Certain medical conditions, such as sickle cell disease, can also make you more susceptible.
Diagnosing zinc deficiency can be complicated as there is no standard blood test. Your levels, symptoms, and dietary history can help identify low zinc. You can improve symptoms by eating foods rich in zinc. However, for some people, supplements are necessary.
Why do we need zinc?
Besides many chemical reactions in our body, zinc is essential for:
- Our immune systems work well to fight infection.
- Healing of wounds.
- Building the proteins and molecules that are the foundation of all our cells.
- Taste, smell and good vision.
Where do we get zinc?
Zinc is readily found in many foods, including:
- Red meat.
- Chicken and other poultry.
- Seafood, especially oysters (loaded with zinc), crab and lobster.
- Cereals, beans, lentils and peas. Spinach.
- Dairy products – milk, yogurt, cheese.
- Fortified breakfast cereal.
What causes zinc deficiency?
Malnutrition can cause zinc deficiency. Therefore, it is more common in malnourished children and adults and people who cannot eat a normal diet due to conditions or illness. Most of your zinc intake is from meat and seafood, so vegetarians may be more prone to deficiency.
Intestinal problems can lead to problems absorbing zinc. This includes intestinal conditions such as ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, and celiac disease, and persistent diarrhea.
People who drink heavily are also unable to absorb zinc normally. Long-term diseases such as chronic liver or kidney disease can also result in low absorption of zinc. High-dose iron supplements can also affect the way zinc is absorbed, leading to a deficiency.
A rare inherited condition called acrodermatitis enteropathica is an occasional cause of zinc deficiency. In this case, there is an absence of a transport protein that normally allows for zinc absorption, resulting in severe deficiency. In this case, symptoms begin soon after a baby is weaned from breast milk. A typical rash is usually the first symptom.
What are the causes of zinc excess?
The most common cause of zinc excess is taking too many zinc supplements. It is important not to take more than the recommended dose.
Other causes are less common. If your kidneys are not working well (for example, if you have acute kidney injury), they will not get rid of excess zinc for you. In this case, it can accumulate. Acute kidney injury does not mean you have physically traumatized your kidney; It is the sudden loss of kidney function, usually due to a disease such as a serious infection.
If you have a rare condition called hemochromatosis, you’re more likely to be zinc overloaded. This is because you have high iron levels, which can affect the way zinc is absorbed and used.
Some industrial compounds contain high levels of zinc, and it is sometimes possible to get zinc poisoning through exposure to these substances. These include some components used in some paints or rubber.