Do you take zinc to help prevent colds, flu and Covid? If not, you should be getting zinc on a daily basis.
Zinc is an amazing mineral that has many benefits, including powering up your immune system, helping your body heal wounds, maintain healthy testosterone levels, balance metabolism, helping with nerve function, assisting proper brain function, cell growth, protecting vision, and assisting in better taste and smell.
Getting adequate zinc also helps keep hormones in balance, and even a small deficiency can result in an increased risk for infertility or diabetes.
Zinc is the one of the most abundant trace minerals in your body and is contained in every cell. In fact, cell division and healthy growth of cells is dependent on zinc’s ability to protect the cells’ DNA.
The mineral zinc has powerful antioxidant properties and helps to activate roughly 300 different enzymatic functions in the body.
Since the body cannot make zinc on its own, it is essential to obtain zinc from dietary sources and/or supplements. Some of the best sources of zinc include red meat (preferably grass fed), oysters, lamb, chicken, eggs, chickpeas, nuts, and pumpkin seeds. Vegetarians and vegans often have difficulty getting enough of this vital mineral in their diets if they are not eating meat.
Let’s look at some of the most important benefits of zinc:
Powerful Immune Function
You may have heard a lot of discussion on zinc in the past couple of years because zinc is a powerful tool to help fight off viruses such as colds, flu and even Covid. Zinc works as a preventative for illness and also works to help the body fight off pathogens, once infected.
It’s been reported that patients with low zinc levels developed much worse cases of Covid-19 with poorer outcomes. Zinc deficient patients with Covid developed more complications, prolonged hospital stays, and more respiratory difficulties. The same goes for those with influenza and other illnesses as well.
Zinc can be taken as a natural remedy for fighting the common cold, flu and Covid, etc. Studies show when zinc is taken for at least five months, it may reduce your risk of becoming sick with the common cold — plus supplementing once you already feel sick may speed up the healing process.
How does zinc do this? Once zinc gets into the cells where it functions best, it helps to interfere with virus replication, and helps maintain the body’s inflammation to prevent elevated out of control inflammatory responses like cytokine storms. Zinc also helps the function of the long-term memory T-cells, and B-cells, which help the body to retain memory of previous pathogens, and to actively fight any invaders.
Other research shows that this mineral helps interfere with the biological process that causes mucus and bacteria to build up in the sinuses and nasal passages.
An ionophore is a substance that allows zinc to travel across the cell wall into the center of the cell. This is where viruses gain entry and replicate. One of the most obtainable and inexpensive ionophore for zinc is a supplement called quercetin.
Quercetin is a naturally occurring plant pigment found in red onions, apples, dark grapes, berries, and green tea. Quercetin is one of the most abundant antioxidants found in our diet and contains strong anti-viral properties. So, if you are taking zinc to fight colds, flu, and other viral infections, be sure to get some quercetin to take with zinc. Quercetin is also readily available as a supplement.
Testosterone Production and Female Sex Hormones
Testosterone for men is not just for sex drive; it’s an important hormone that helps protect men’s health. While it is responsible for maintaining the sex drive, it is also important to prevent erectile dysfunction, muscle growth and bone strength. Testosterone levels generally peak in young men in their early twenties, and then begin to drop.
In the United States and other industrialized countries, there has been a recent drop in testosterone levels of men—resulting in an epidemic of erectile dysfunction, sexual dysfunction, and infertility. Lowered testosterone levels also contribute to physical changes like gynecomastia, loss of strength, fatigue, and lack of drive.
While there are a few contributing causes, including excess use of plastics and chemicals in our environment which create chemical estrogens (xenoestrogens), low testosterone levels may be as simple as a zinc deficiency—especially if you are vegetarian or vegan.
Zinc is necessary for males to produce adequate amounts of testosterone and to help maintain those levels. In one study, dietary zinc restriction in normal young men was associated with a significant decrease in serum testosterone concentrations after only 20 weeks. Conversely, zinc supplementation of marginally zinc-deficient normal men for six months resulted in a significant increase in serum testosterone levels.
Zinc levels also have an impact on female sex hormones and partially responsible for the creation and release of eggs from the ovaries.
Several studies show zinc deficiency in women can cause problems with hormone levels, including impaired synthesis and secretion of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), luteinizing hormone (LH), abnormal ovarian development, disruption of the menstrual cycle, prolonged gestation periods, miscarriages, still-births, birth defects, difficult deliveries, pre-eclampsia, and low birth weights of infants.
A diet high in foods that contain zinc, as well as supplementation can enhance and balance hormone levels in both men and women.
Helps Fight Diabetes
Zinc helps to manage hormones including hormones involved in diabetes. This includes insulin, primarily. Zinc helps to find to insulin, helping to maintain blood sugar levels better.
Zinc also helps with efficient utilization of digestive enzymes, helping to break down food better, and helping glucose to be used for fuel, rather than being stored as fat.
Zinc helps to improve insulin receptors, prolong the action of insulin, and promote healthy lipid levels. It is thought that abnormal levels of copper and zinc seem to accompany diabetes and may be implicated in many of the complications of diabetes as well. Zinc supplementation may possibly have clinical use as an adjunct therapy for preventing or managing diabetes.
Acne and Wound Healing
Zinc is essential for healthy skin, and is involved with encouraging growth of healthy tissue. Zinc also promotes the growth of collagen, along with vitamin C. Collagen is the structure that supports the skin, forms connective tissue, ligaments, and cartilage.
Zinc is often used for patients with severe burns, slow-healing wounds, or infections, and to prevent scar formation. Because zinc helps support the immune system, it also helps to fight infection in the skin as well.
Zinc also helps those who struggle with acne and helps to prevent breakouts. It’s considered to be one of the best natural treatments for acne.
Zinc is also of benefit for atopic dermatitis (rashes) and diaper dermatitis. Zinc makes a great natural barrier against moisture and irritation of diapers in babies.
Because zinc is also a powerful antioxidant, zinc helps prevent heart disease, fight cancer, aids in nutrient assimilation, helps build muscle, fights ADD/ADHD, helps get rid of depression, improves macular degeneration, and protects the liver.
Zinc benefits also extend to brain function. Neurons are the fundamental units of the brain and the nervous system. These important cells are responsible for receiving all the sensory input from the from the external world, for sending commands to our muscles to move, to help with thought processes, and for transforming and relaying electrical signals.
Zinc is actually used by the body to help create new neurons in the brain’s hippocampus. The hippocampus of the brain is the place where memories are developed. It helps to synthesize memories, emotions, and other sensations all together. Once a memory is put together in the hippocampus, it is sent to another portion of the brain to store as a long-term memory.
When zinc levels are low, the process of forming memories is inhibited, causing long-term and short-term memory problems.
When communication amongst the brain cells is slow due to inflammation or other issues, you may experience brain fog. Brain fog is the inability to focus or concentrate to think clearly. Brain fog can impair a person’s ability to reason, make decisions, and problem solve. Because zinc is effective at reducing inflammation, zinc also helps to clear brain fog and get rid of brain fog.
The brain also needs zinc to create dopamine. Dopamine is a ‘feel-good’ hormone that is also very important for memory and focus. Studies show a zinc supplement improves focus and memory, while reducing impulsivity.
Attention deficit disorder (ADD) and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder are common development disorders that often affect both children and adults. It was found that circulating levels of zinc were significantly lower in those with ADHD.
Zinc deficiency is also connected to a variety of other neurological disorders including autism, seizures, depression, and anxiety disorders.
Zinc deficiencies are common, especially amongst those who don’t eat meat.
Since zinc plays an important role in many biochemical pathways including the digestive system, nervous system, immune system, reproductive system, and skeletal system, deficiencies can cause many health issues.
Signs of zinc deficiency include:
- Getting colds, flu, and other illnesses easily
- Blood sugar issues
- Inability to concentrate or sit still
- Poor growth
- Skin infections and poor wound healing.
People who avoid meat, poultry, and fish and at the highest risk for zinc deficiency. Even though some plant foods contain zinc, it is best absorbed in the presence of animal protein. People who suffer from celiac disease, digestive problems, or alcoholism and liver disease are also at high risk of being deficient.
If you don’t feel you are getting enough zinc in your diet, it’s best to supplement. Keep in mind that too much zinc can become toxic, so it’s best to keep your zinc intake in the therapeutic zone.
Zinc supplements come in several forms including:
- zinc gluconate
- zinc sulfate
- zinc acetate
- zinc picolinate
- zinc citrate
- zinc glycerate
According to Dr. Josh Axe and other nutrition experts, the tolerable upper limit to be around 40-50 milligrams per day. Some studies have found that higher doses can help fight off colds, flu and Covid, but check with your doctor first. And—avoid taking zinc if you haven’t eaten, zinc is best taken with food to avoid stomach upset.
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