Zinc is a mineral that our body needs to fight off infections and to produce cells. Moreover, it participates in speeding up the healing of injuries and in the creation of DNA, the genetic blueprint in our cells.
When a person doesn’t get enough zinc, side effects like low alertness, hair loss, and a decreased sense of taste and smell may happen.
Although it’s rare in the US, zinc deficiency still happens in some individuals.
How to Recognize a Zinc Deficiency?
Zinc is necessary for cell production and immune functions. It also participates in the process of growth, sexual development, and reproduction.
When a person is low on zinc, their body is unable to make healthy, new cells and this causes symptoms like:
- Wounds that don’t heal
- Low alertness
- Weight loss without a reason
- Lowered sense of taste and smell
- Loss of appetite
- Open sores
Who Is at Risk?
Some people are at a higher risk of this deficiency like women who’re pregnant. If they’re low on zinc, the baby won’t get what it needs for proper development.
And, if partners are trying to get pregnant, a zinc deficiency could make this harder due to the risk of impotency in men resulting from low zinc levels.
In the US, the people with the highest risk of this deficiency are breastfeeding infants and older people. Pregnant women also need more zinc in their diet because their body is developing a baby.
Another risk group is that of alcoholics. According to some research, alcohol impedes the body’s digestion of zinc. If a doctor suspects a zinc deficiency, they test the blood plasma to know for sure.
There are other tests too like a urine one and a hair strand analysis.
A simple blood test doesn’t suffice because zinc is distributed in trace amounts in the cells.
In many cases, zinc deficiency indicates another condition that could lower the absorption of this nutrient in the body. A zinc deficiency could also cause a copper deficiency and doctors usually do additional tests to find the root cause.
How Is a Zinc Deficiency Treated?
The treatment of a zinc deficiency begins with a long-term change in diet. The person is advised to consume more poultry, red meat, wheat germ, seeds, oysters, and wild rice.
Vegetarians may have a harder time getting the needed zinc. This is why they’re advised to consume more cashews, peas, baked beans, and almonds. Supplements are also an option and this nutrient is present in numerous multivitamin supplements.
In the case of supplements, make sure it doesn’t interact with some diuretics, meds for arthritis, and antibiotics.