Our body needs minerals and vitamins to function properly. One of the most important minerals that the body needs is zinc, but we can only find it in a small amount of foods. The good news is that the body does not need a large amount of it, but it is still possible to have a deficiency. Our body uses zinc for many important processes. Zinc deficiency is very rare in the United States, but a poor diet increases the possibility of being deficient. Don’t worry though! Treatments for zinc deficiency are available.
What is Zinc Deficiency?
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Zinc deficiency is a serious problem, primarily through the seriousness of its symptoms. It has caused 176,000 diarrhea deaths, 207,000 malaria deaths and 406,000 pneumonia deaths. We all need a regular intake of zinc, as it is present in every cell, bone, organ, fluid, and tissue in our bodies.
Why is Zinc Important for the Body?
Zinc supports the functions of cells and helps enzymes make chemical reactions. It boosts our immune systems, helps our cells divide, maintains our senses or taste and smell and helps heal our wounds faster. Because zinc supports development and growth, it is especially important for pregnant women and children. Our body does not store zinc, which is why we need to ensure we get enough from our diets.
Symptoms of Zinc Deficiency
The symptoms of zinc deficiency show how our body’s performance is affected by the mineral. Here are the common symptoms:
- Loss of appetite
- Slower growth
- Weakened immune system
If the deficiency is severe, its symptoms are more severe too:
- Delay In sexual maturity
- Altered taste
- Feeling lethargic
- Hair loss
- Skin And eye lesions
- Sudden weight loss
- Slowly healing wounds
When males do not produce enough testosterone, there is a risk of hypogonadism and impotence.
What Causes Zinc Deficiency?
According to studies, there are 1.1 billion people worldwide suffering from sinc deficiency due to poor diet. In fact of the three main causes of zinc deficiency, diet is the most common. The second cause is losing too much zinc from our body, or an inability of our body to absorb it well. Lastly, it may be due to a chronic condition, such as:
- Ulcerative colitis
- Sickle cell disease
- Pancreatic disease
- Crohn’s disease
- Chronic liver disease
- Celiac disease
- Chronic kidney disease
- Chronic diarrhea
- Alcohol addiction
Vegetarians tend to consume lower amounts of zinc, because most people tend to get their intake from meat. Additionally, vegetarians eat a lot of legumes, whole grains, beans and nuts, all of which lessen the body’s ability to absorb zinc.
Older people are also more at risk of zinc deficiency. Medications can inhibit absorbtion.
Treatments for Zinc Deficiency
There are supplements available to treat zinc deficiency, with different types offering information on their content. There are also foods that contain zinc, and increasing their presence in our diet can help treat the condition. These food include:
- Baked Beans
- Beef chuck roast
- Fortified breakfast cereals
- Instant or plain oatmeal
When we eat foods that contain enough zinc, we can prevent Zinc deficiency. These healthy foods may include lean meats, vegetables, dairy products or fruits.
If you think you have a zinc deficiency, it is important to talk to your doctor and ask about the proper supplements and treatments.
Effects of Too Much Zinc
We can also end up having too much zinc if we take supplements to boost our immune system. Too much zinc can cause you to vomit or be nauseous. You can also suffer from impaired immune system functions. We recommend that adults take no more than 40mg of zinc every day.
Risk Factors for Zinc Deficiency
People with these health conditions are more susceptible to zinc deficiency:
- HIV (human immunodeficiency virus)/AIDS:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
How to Prevent Zinc Deficiency
We can prepare foods different ways to make our body absorb the zinc more efficiently. For example, before cooking beans, soak them in water to reduce the phytates and help the body process the zinc easier. We can also choose leavened grain products to reduce phytates. In that way, there will a higher zinc content for the body to use.