Zinc is essential for our bodies. Zinc is essential: we cannot produce it ourselves.
The trace element cannot be stored in the body. Since we cannot produce it ourselves, we have to give it to our bodies on a regular basis.
According to studies, zinc deficiency is quite common in the Western world and an incredible 2 billion people suffer from it worldwide (as of 2000). However, however, even significant exceedances of the recommended dosage are unfortunately not uncommon. This can also lead to massive problems.
What happens if you don’t have enough zinc in your body? What zinc deficiency symptoms occur?
Let us take a closer look at the phenomenon of zinc deficiency and its symptoms.
These sub-functions and symptoms occur in case of zinc deficiency
Zinc has a relatively strong influence on the germ glands – the gonades. In women, they are more known as ovaries and in men as testicles. If you have a deficiency, it leads to an underfunction of these germ glands. This can go so far as to cause infertility in men.
In addition, growth disorders and anaemia can occur. Your sense of smell and taste can also be affected accordingly.
More well-known affected areas of the body are the immune system,skin and hair. The immune system needs zinc: without zinc, it has only a reduced defensive function. In addition, hair loss, dry skin and even brittle nails can occur.
Because your immune system may be weakened, you also have an increased susceptibility to infection. There are also more frequent cases of recurrited people. Even nervous system disorders are reported.
However, the list can be expanded considerably. There can also be little noticeable, slight changes in the skin: skin inflammation or dermatitis in technical jargon. Acne or eczema are also on the symptom list. Worse wound healing is another common symptom.
An unhealthy loss of appetite and a hand-in-hand, impaired taste sensation can also be problematic.
Psychological symptoms such as mood swings, fatigue, weakness, lack of drive, lack of concentration, exhaustion or even depression can also occur.
Since zinc is also extremely important for hormone formation, potency disorders, decreased libido or increased blood sugar levels are also common side effects.
You need zinc in almost all biological processes in the body. It is present in many enzymes and is extremely important for the metabolism of proteins, carbohydrates and fats. Zinc is also needed for the construction of cells, hereditary matter and many hormones. That’s why there can be such extensive symptoms.
What is interesting is where this zinc deficiency can come from. If you have copper pipes in drinking water, this may be the reason. Copper and zinc are not tolerated: they are antagonists, i.e. they inhibit each other. If your copper level is high, you can absorb less zinc.
If you are doing competitive sports, the risk of zinc deficiency is also increased. Competitive athletes excrete more trace elements about sweat and urine. You literally sweat them out of your body. At the same time, however, more zinc is needed in competitive sports, because it is irreplaceable for muscle building.
Most often, however, a chronic zinc deficiency is rather due to chronic diseases in the digestive tract. If you suspect here, an appointment with the doctors of your trust will help.
Chronic diseases that can cause zinc deficiency include:
- Crohn’s disease: chronic intestinal inflammation,
- Ulcerative colitis: chronic colon inflammation
- and a genetic congenital zinc uptake disorder.
This last disease is congenital and you can see certain symptoms from very specific symptoms as early as childhood:
- Symmetrical rash around the body openings, on the hands, feet and head.
- Mucosal changes such as gum inflammation.
- Delayed growth.
- Increased susceptibility to infection.
- Disorders in the nervous system.
Inhibitors such as phytic acid, phosphate and histidine: the effects on zinc deficiency
Another reason may be your diet. When you rely on foods with a high phytate content, similar things happen to copper. Phytin also inhibits the absorption of zinc. Common foods with a high phytate content include unfermented cereals as well as legumes, nuts and seeds such as:
- Pumpkin seeds,
- Wheat bran,
- Chia seeds,
- and wholegrain rice.
These inhibitors also include phosphates, which you can find, for example, in cola, meat – which unfortunately is also a major zinc supplier – and fish. Dairy products also contain histidine, which is also a so-called antinutrient.
Oxalates (spinach, rhubarb and beetroot) and tannins (wine and black and green tea) are also enemies of the good zinc supply.
Yes, symptoms are there. But is this surely a zinc deficiency?
Unfortunately, this question can only be answered with a “maybe”. All the symptomsthat occur with a zinc deficiency are not specific to this. In short, you can also have them for other reasons.
Even medicine finds it difficult to clearly identify a zinc deficiency. Zinc is only present in a very low concentration in the blood. Thus, a deficiency is difficult to prove even via a blood test.
The proof that there is a zinc deficiency in you is usually simply the medically accompanied attempt to admit zinc. If the symptoms then disappear, it was probably a zinc deficiency.
It is also important to mention that, according to current studies, a link between certain diseases and zinc deficiency is likely. Children with ADHD often have lower zinc and copper levels. People with depression are also more likely to have less zinc in the body.
The right dosage to avoid zinc deficiency and accompanying symptoms
It is not so easy to specify the correct dosage. Due to the aforementioned inhibitors, it is always dependent on the diet.
If you eat a balanced diet, as the 10 rules of the German Society for Nutrition (DGE) suggest, you have a medium phytate intake. Then the daily dose required for a sufficient supply of zinc shall be broken down as follows:
- For women:8 mg zinc per day.
- For men:14 mg zinc per day
- For pregnant women: 9 mg zinc per day in the first trimester, from the fourth month 11 mg per day.
- For breastfeeding:13 mg zinc per day.
In Germany, zinc deficiency with a balanced diet is very rare, according to some sources. However, the National Consumption Study (NVS II) of the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture, published in 2021, comes to a different conclusion: 32 percent of men and 21 percent of women consume too little zinc through food.
Women and men between the ages of 65 and 80 and young women between the ages of 14 and 18 are the worst affected. However, the DGE has also changed the recommended intake, which makes it difficult to assess the zinc supply of the German population at the moment. The next study on this (NVS III) is not due until 2025.
In any case, the above-mentioned chronic intestinal diseases or vegan or vegetarian diets may cause difficulties. Here it is to ask the doctor if there is a deficiency. Supplements can help you with a deficiency.
Generally speaking, if you pay attention to the symptoms and your diet, you can well cushion the risk of prolonged zinc deficiency.