SYMPTOMS ZINC DEFICIENCY

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HOW TO RECOGNIZE A SHORTAGE OF ZINC


Zinc is a trace element that functions as an antioxidant in the human body. In fact, after iron, zinc is the most abundant trace element in your entire body (1). Zinc is needed for the functioning of more than 300 enzymes that help with your metabolism, digestion, nerves, and many more processes (2).

In addition to iron, zinc causes a lot of concern when it comes to vegans and vegetarians, according to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (AJCN). This is because meat naturally contains zinc and can even ensure better absorption. So, because vegetarians and vegans don't eat meat, they would need up to 50% more zinc than people who do.

Zinc is a important mineral to the human body. Since our body is unable to create this mineral itself, we need to get zinc from our foods. Zinc is found in various products such as meat, legumes, pumpkin and sesame seeds, pine nuts, peanuts, cashews, almonds, dairy products, eggs, dark chocolate, shellfish, and plankton.

Although other vitamins and minerals receive more attention in the news, scientists say that nearly two billion people worldwide have a zinc deficiency.

There are certain groups of people that have a higher risk of creating a zinc deficiency. Those people may benefit from using zinc supplements next to their daily meals. It is, however, important to note that if you suspect you have a shortage of zinc, you should always consult a doctor before taking any supplements.

People with a higher risk of a zinc deficiency include:

- People with chronic kidney disease,
- People following a vegetarian or vegan diet,
- People with a chronic bowel disease, like Crohn’s disease,
- Pregnant and breastfeeding women,
- Older infants who are breastfed only,
- People who abuse alcohol,
- People with sickle cell anemia (red blood cell disorder),
- Malnourished people, including people with eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia.

A shortage of zinc can be recognized by the following symptoms. If you recognize one or more, please consult your physician.


1. HAIR LOSS



Low zinc levels can cause your hair to fall out, according to the National Institute of Health. Some studies have also found that people who suffer from alopecia, an autoimmune disease that makes people lose hair on the scalp or other parts of the body, often have a shortage of zinc. Although some people have experienced positive effects from a local ointment and oral zinc medication, more research needs to be done to find the complete connection between them. (3).

If you are not suffering from the other symptoms on this list, you do not have to worry immediately that thinned hair or hair loss is associated with a zinc deficiency. Other factors can also cause this. Only severe cases of zinc deficiency are associated with hair loss.

In short: a severe shortage of zinc can cause hair loss. However, there is no substantial evidence that zinc medication has a positive effect on this.


2. ACNE



Some studies have shown that taking oral medication or applying a topical ointment with zinc can reduce acne. Researchers believe that zinc has anti-inflammatory properties that allow it to reduce the amount of acne-causing oils and bacteria in the skin, according to a published review in Dermatology Research and Practice (4).

Of course, many different factors can cause acne, such as makeup, skincare, hormones, birth control, or certain foods. However, if you have the idea that you have already tried everything without a result, and you also recognize other symptoms, it might be wise to go to the physician to look at your zinc levels.

In short: a dose of zinc can help reduce acne on the skin. It is also suspected that zinc deficiency increases the risk of acne.


3. BAD EYESIGHT



When it comes to minerals, you are probably more familiar with the positive effects of magnesium, or the disadvantages of an iron deficiency. Zinc is often at the bottom of the list, even though it has a significant impact on multiple body functions.

A part of the body where zinc plays a significant role is the eyes. There, zinc is found in high concentrations. It is located in a tissue layer with blood vessels just below the retina. It helps to bring vitamin A from the liver to this point, allowing your eyes to produce melanin. This fabric ensures the color of your eyes. Besides, research has shown that poor visibility is associated with low zinc content.

Studies have shown that zinc also plays a vital role in preventing age-related macular degeneration (AMD). This creates a blurry spot in your view. A study executed by the National Eye Institute discovered that taking zinc, along with other antioxidants, reduces the risk of developing AMD by approximately 25% (5).

It is also useful to mention that a low level of zinc was combined with beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin (similar nutrients that are in our eye area) and achieved the same results (6).

In short: zinc affects the color of your eyes, but also the development of AMD. Zinc deficiency can cause poor vision, while supplements help prevent this process.


4. REDUCED WOUND HEALING



Zinc is often used in hospitals as a treatment for burns, certain ulcers, and other skin damage (7). Because this mineral has an essential role in synthesizing collagen, the function of the immune system and inhibiting inflammation, it is necessary for proper healing. Your skin even contains a relatively large amount (about 5%) of all the zinc in your body (8).

While a zinc deficiency causes less rapid healing, zinc supplementation can actually lead to a faster cure for people with wounds. In a 12-week study with 60 people with diabetic foot ulcers, people with a 200 mg zinc intake per day had a more significant reduction in ulcer size in comparison to the placebo group (9).

Because zinc is essential for your immune system, you are more susceptible to viral or bacterial infections when you suffer from a zinc deficiency. A wound or cut requires longer to heal because your body uses zinc to restore tissue. Zinc is an essential micronutrient for human body health due to its vital role in bone growth, bone metabolism, nervous system, immune system, and wound healing (10).

In short: zinc can help to heal wounds and infections quickly. A shortage of zinc, therefore, may result in a reduced healing speed.


5. LOSS OF APPETITE



A zinc deficiency can lead to a decreased appetite (11). The use of zinc in the treatment of anorexia has been recommended by Bakan since 1979. At least 15 different clinical studies have shown that zinc improved weight gain in people with anorexia. A 1994 experiment showed that zinc even doubled the body weight in the treatment of anorexia nervosa. A shortage of other nutrients such as thyroxine, tryptophan, and thiamine can also contribute to the phenomenon called "malnutrition-induced malnutrition" (12).

An analysis of 33 intervention tests concerning zinc supplements and the effects on the growth of children in different countries showed that zinc supplements in themselves already have a significant impact on linear growth and weight gain. This means that although other deficits could be present, they did not contribute to the growth retardation (13).

In short: zinc may contribute to increasing body weight in the treatment of anorexia. A shortage of zinc and other nutrients can therefore lead to a decreased appetite so that a person is less inclined to consume his / her daily number of calories.


6. DISORDERED TASTE AND SMELL



Zinc plays a role in most senses, including odor and taste. That is why people with a zinc deficiency often have more difficulty tasting their food. A study has shown that oral zinc medication improves the symptoms of people with a taste disorder because it can help stimulate a part of the brain that is involved in the intake of food (14).

However, you don't have to worry. A study has shown that this symptom of a zinc deficiency is more common in the elderly, because they often run a higher risk of zinc inadequacy, or because they are taking one or more medicines that affect their odor and taste receptors (15). According to a survey, 240,000 patients with taste abnormalities visited an otolaryngologist in Japan in 2003. This is an increase of 1.8 since 1990. Taste, just like odor, reacts to chemical substances. That is why they are also called chemical senses (16).

In short: a low zinc content can ensure that you have a disordered odor and taste experiences. However, taking oral zinc medication can quickly reduce this problem.


7. TINNITUS



As if your sense of smell and taste were not enough, a zinc deficiency can also cause hearing problems. A study with 100 people with tinnitus (a constant high-pitched ringing in the ears) found that 12% of them had a low zinc level. And those with a deficiency had a more severe case of hearing loss and higher pitches than those without a lack (17).

During another study in 2011, researchers tried to treat 66 people with hearing loss with zinc supplements. They found that those who had taken the zinc supplements received more hearing than those who had received steroid treatment. The researchers believe that zinc acts as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory in the cochlea, the inner part of the ear (18).

In short: a shortage of zinc can cause a worsening hearing loss and tinnitus. However, a zinc supplement can help to reduce these symptoms.


8. FERTILITY



Multiple investigations and tests have found a connection between low zinc content and low sperm quality. A study in the Netherlands found that people had a higher amount of sperm after being given a zinc sulfate and folic acid supplement (19).

Another study found that low zinc intake is a risk factor for low sperm quality and male infertility (20).

In short: a shortage of zinc can lead to a lower quality of the sperm, while the administration of a zinc supplement ensures an improved sperm quality and quantity.


9. MOOD DISORDERS



A mood disorder can take various forms, such as anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD). Several studies have recently shown that zinc can function as an essential neuromodulator within the glutamate and GABA-balance.

In addition to that, there is growing evidence that zinc is a characteristic of a mood disorder. It has been mentioned, for example, that a zinc deficiency causes depression, while the supplementation of this mineral improves mood and cognitive functioning.

Within this presented research, the links between zinc and mood disorders and zinc and Alzheimer's are compared. It can, therefore, be useful to investigate the administration of zinc in a clinical study to see if it is suitable as a therapy (21).

In short: a low amount of zinc in the body can cause a mood disorder. However, administering zinc supplements can help improve your state of mind. However, more research needs to be done into this.


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