The human body contains about 2-3 g (2,000-3,000 milligrams) of zinc. Much of it is found in your adrenals, brain and eyes. Because the majority of zinc is stored inside cells and is not free in the blood, blood tests for zinc deficiency are extremely inaccurate.
Zinc is a key mineral that our bodies need for maintaining optimal health, DNA repair, enzyme activity, immune response and many other biological processes.
While a lack of this nutrient isn’t particularly common in developed parts of the world, there are some risk factors that can contribute to you developing zinc deficiency – including alcoholism, malnutrition due to restrictive eating disorders, certain chronic illnesses including renal diseases, and the use of certain drugs. Untreated, zinc deficiency can be fatal(1).
Here’s how to tell if you’re experiencing a zinc deficiency:
1. Hair Loss
Premature balding can be an early warning sign of zinc deficiency. If you notice that your hair is thinning significantly, you may be deficient in zinc.
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Zinc deficiency can cause poor food absorption, resulting in chronic diarrhea. While diarrhea can also be caused by any number of other conditions, including food sensitivity, if you notice it in conjunction with any of the other symptoms mentioned, you might have reason to be concerned about your zinc levels.
3. Sexual Difficulties
Because zinc is responsible for ensuring proper blood flow, sexual difficulties can be an early warning sign of zinc deprivation.
4. Infections And Delayed Wound Healing
Zinc plays an important role in your immune system’s function. If you find yourself fighting off constant infections and minor injuries like cuts and scrapes are taking an unusually long time to heal, you may need to get your zinc levels checked.
5. Loss Of Appetite And Weight Loss
Zinc deficiency may cause you to lose interest in food. It can also affect how you metabolize your food, causing you to lose a significant amount of weight.
6. Cognitive Impairment
Zinc helps to keep us alert – so much so that in some cases, it may be used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. If you are having a hard time concentrating on simple tasks, check your zinc levels.
Replenishing Your Zinc Levels
The good news is that there are tons of foods that can help replenish your zinc levels if you’re deficient. These foods include oysters, beef, chicken, and pork, as well as pumpkin seeds, cashews, cocoa powder, and seaweed.
How To Improve Absorption of Zinc in Foods
Getting more sun exposure or eating foods rich in vitamin D and A can help improve zinc absorption(2,3). Another thing to remember is that Vitamin B6 is needed for proper utilization of zinc(4).
If you’re eating a balanced diet, you shouldn’t have to worry too much about zinc deficiency, but it’s always good to understand the effects that this deficiency can have on your body.