Zinc, the multitasking mineral

Do you suffer from eczema, acne, or dandruff? Most probably you do not have a dandruff shampoo deficiency, but you may be low in zinc. Zinc deficiency is very common mainly because it is lacking in the soil, which makes it deficient in the foods we eat. When it comes to trace elements, zinc is one of the most multifunctional minerals there is.  According to Pharmacist Ben Fuchs, zinc is used in over 200 different chemical processes in the body, and while we will not go into detail about all of them, we will explain the most important ones.

Dr. Bernard Jensen in his book “Come alive!” called zinc the ‘growth element’ because of how essential it is for adequate growth. According to him, deficiency may cause birth defects, retarded growth, delayed sexual maturity and a slowdown of tissue repair and healing. In older people, he said, lack of zinc may cause loss of taste and smell, leading to a lowered interest in eating, which in turn can lead to multiple vitamin, mineral and other deficiencies. He emphasized how studies have shown, “beyond the shadow of a doubt, that zinc deficiency retards growth at any period of life from birth to adulthood”. In the first six months of life, he said, “babies who lack zinc average a pound less in weight and an inch less in height than babies with adequate zinc intake”.

According to Dr. Joel Dr. Wallach in his book “Epigenetics” congenital birth defects associated to zinc deficiency are Down’s syndrome, cleft palate, brain defects like cerebral palsy, spina bifida, clubbed limbs, heart defects, lung defects, etc. Zinc deficiency diseases and symptoms are pica, loss of sense of smell or taste, infertility, miscarriage, failure of wounds to heal, immune system status failure, poor growth, high rate of infant mortality, anemia, alopecia, gluten intolerance, depression, paranoia, dermatitis, benign prostate hypertrophy, etc. He explains heavy losses of zinc occur in sweat so athletes and individuals performing heavy labor are particularly prone to zinc deficiency. The liver, pancreas, kidneys, bone and skeletal muscle have the greatest needs and reserves of zinc, lesser amounts are found in the eyes, prostate gland, semen, skin, hair, finger and toe nails. About 20% of the body’s zinc is found in the skin, prostrate and bones. The retina of the eye and all the white blood cells contain zinc, and, over 70 enzymes in the body require zinc to do their work.

Dr. Bernard Jensen listed the benefits of zinc as follows:

  1. Possibly the most important role of zinc in the body he said is its requirement in the synthesis of nucleic acids, the basic substance of life.
  2. Next in importance is its role in processing protein, carbohydrates and fats. The combination of these two roles together with mobilizing food for use in the body makes zinc a key element in the growth of children and in the healing of tissue.
  3. The pancreas uses a good deal of zinc to secrete insulin. “Diabetics, he said, have about half of the amount of zinc in their pancreas as non-diabetics. Zinc may be a necessary part of the storage form of insulin, which is important in getting blood sugar into the cells”. Since zinc is part of the insulin molecule, the more sugar we eat the more insulin our body has to make, which also means the body will use up more zinc. Diabetics and anybody with sugar problems like prediabetes, disglycemia, hypoglycemia, should supplement with zinc.
  4. Zinc helps maintain vitamin A in the bloodstream.
  5. Zinc is protective against all cancers. Zinc is a major player in genetics, genes have what is called ‘zinc fingers’ which are little extensions that contain zinc and they are involved in how cells divide and reproduce. Zinc is very important for the prostate and is protective against prostate cancer (BPH, benign prostatic hypertrophy). Since zinc is involved in growth it can be very important for degenerative diseases like prostate cancer which has to do with a growth deficiency according to Ben Fuchs. Also, the prostate, being a fatty organ, depends heavily on healthy fats for health: EFAs, Vitamin E, vitamin D, Zinc and selenium. This implies the unhealthy fats like trans fats, hydrogenated oils, fried foods damage this organ greatly.
  6. Zinc is found in the white blood cells of the immune system. According to an article published in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition zinc is a potent stimulator of all immune functions and has cold fighting abilities.
  7. Zinc may play a part in the destruction of bacteria. Zinc is a powerful antimicrobial mineral, so it is very important in boosting the body’s immune system.
  8. Zinc is needed for bone mineralization. Zinc is as important as calcium to build strong bones. This makes it beneficial for osteoporosis.
  9. Both skin ulcers and stomach ulcers have healed faster in patients taking zinc. It can also be beneficial for leaky gut syndrome.
  10. Zinc is very important for skin health. All skin conditions can improve when supplementing with zinc: acne, eczema, etc. Zinc is partly stored in the skin, so when we have a wound or a burn, zinc is mobilized to the area to build collagen and heal the skin. It is also used to heal acne, it is a fact, explains Ben Fuchs that people with acne are deficient in zinc. It is also anti-itching, calamine lotions are made with a form of zinc called zinc silicate. Zinc oxide is known for being very efficient in treating skin rashes. It is also used for sunburns, it will not only heal sunburn but will protect the skin from it if applied before exposing ourselves to the sun.
  11. Zinc is an essential part of important enzymes which detoxify alcohol, split phosphate molecules, break proteins down into amino acids and destroy free radicals. In this sense, zinc protects the liver against liver poisoning like fatty liver disease.

Dr. Bernard Jensen explained that zinc works together with copper, which is also essential for growth and to build red blood cells. He considered these two to be the most important trace elements needed by man. Zinc and copper, he said, work together in several body substances to protect and enhance health. Shortages of both trace elements can cause hypothyroidism.

In the blood, copper is equally found inside red blood cells and outside of them in the plasma. Copper is necessary for the formation of red blood cells, for the absorption of iron from the bowel and for bringing iron out of storage in the liver or muscle tissue. Copper is found in about a dozen enzymes in the body, zinc is found in 70 enzymes.

An important aspect when it comes to the zinc-copper ratio is that, unless these two are balanced, too much zinc will cause the body to excrete copper and vice versa. Blood cholesterol levels increase when blood copper levels are lowered due to too much zinc intake, so a proper balance between zinc and copper is important in normalizing cholesterol levels. What is more, signs of zinc deficiency can be duplicated by taking too much zinc (100mg a day or more). The ideal dose of zinc is 50 mg a day according to pharmacist Ben Fuchs, in the picolinate form. Other versions of zinc like zinc sulfate or gluconate can cause digestive distress and are not absorbed by the body as efficiently. Zinc monomethianine is a deluxe form of zinc that is highly absorbed by the body as well.

You can tell if you’re deficient in zinc by doing the “Zinc Taste Test”. A solution of zinc sulfate and water (available online) can be placed on the tongue, if you are not instantly repelled by a strong metallic taste chances are pretty good that you’re suffering from a zinc deficiency.

Zinc and the soil

Zinc, as well as selenium and sulfur, are water soluble which makes them very easily leached out of the soil. The soil is a living organism that can convert minerals and matter from the soil into nutrients our body can assimilate. However, the soil has been depleted of minerals for decades. The heavy use of pesticides and other farming techniques has corrupted the soil and turned it into dead soil. This makes supplementation necessary.

Zinc absorption

It is important to note that it is a little hard to obtain zinc from foods specially plants so it is best taken with digestive enzymes, the stomach has to be making enough acid so if you are deficient in stomach acid you can take apple cider vinegar after all your meals to be able to absorb zinc.

Zinc and PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome)

PCOS is a condition in which the ovaries make a lot of estrogen and this results in cysts in the ovaries growing out of control. Estrogen can cause an excretion of zinc in the body. If you have digestive problems then the problem is compounded because your body is not being able to break down excess estrogen (please read the blog titled “Heart Disease in Women”). Women on the birth control pill or hormone replacement therapy are taking huge amounts of estrogen that needs to be broken down and disposed of.  For all these cases, zinc can help greatly. Someone with PCOS also makes a lot of testosterone. According to Ben Fuchs, PCOS is primarily a blood sugar problem combined with problems processing hormones (estrogen and testosterone). Signs of excess estrogen are: bloating and problematic periods, cysts and fibroids, sluggishness, headaches, problems sleeping, zinc deficiency and excess testosterone. Signs of excess testosterone are excess body hair, thinning hair on the head, acne, oily skin and weight gain. The best way to address this condition is to address blood sugar by reducing sugar in the diet and taking zinc (please read the blog titled “Understanding blood sugar control”). PCOS is induced by zinc deficiency but it also causes zinc to be lost in the body. Zinc can help stabilize testosterone in women, it can also help stabilize testosterone in men by helping the body metabolize DHT, its breakdown product.

Growth and repair, blood sugar metabolism, anticancer, immune boosting, skin health, bone health and when in doubt, think zinc!

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