Zinc is a type of metal and an essential trace element. It’s “essential” because we must obtain it from our diet, since our body can’t produce it on its own. Apart from iron, it is the second-most-abundant trace mineral in the human body. It is actually present within all bodily tissues and needed for healthy cell division.
Our body needs zinc for several processes, including normal growth and development, DNA production (the molecule that makes up our genes), immune system function (including wound healing), thyroid homeostasis, fertility, reproduction, and skin health. Moreover, zinc has the ability to act as an anti-inflammatory agent.
Zinc deficiency can lead to a number of health issues, such as chronic fatigue, digestive issues and hormonal problems. The most common signs and symptoms associated with zinc deficiency include: frequently getting sick, inability to heal wounds, feeling like you’re always tired, poor concentration and memory, food cravings for salty or sweet foods, changes in the ability to taste and smell, hair loss, digestive problems and hormonal problems. This will typically occur when someone doesn’t eat enough foods that contain the mineral or has trouble absorbing and using it from foods due to digestive disorders or very poor gut health.
While consuming zinc is considered safe and healthy, excessive doses may also cause unwanted secondary effects. Taking excessive doses of zinc for a prolonged period of time can interfere with the body’s absorption of other important minerals. Some signs of a zinc overdose include nausea, indigestion, diarrhea, abdominal cramps and vomiting.
High quantities of zinc can be found in many foods such as shellfish and seafood (e.g. oysters, crab, mussels, lobster and clams), red meat, poultry, tofu, legumes/beans, eggs and whole grains. Zinc can also be found in cashews, pumpkin seeds and dairy products (yogurt, milk, cheese).
In sports, zinc plays an important role in the growth, the building, and the repair of muscle tissue. It also contributes to the normal function of the immune system (including wound healing), and to normal mental performance (concentration). Physical performance can also be affected by zinc status since it can disturb thyroid hormone levels and protein use (N R Rodriguez and al., J Am Diet Assoc, 2009). Athletes have usually higher requirements in zinc than sedentary people.
In conclusion, our zinc levels impact many aspects of our mental and physical health. In order to make sure that your zinc levels are balanced and steady, make sure to test your levels and to evaluate how you can make the right changes to rebalance your body and mind.