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Signs You Might Have A Zinc Deficiency

By Dr. Nikita Toshi +2 more

Introduction

Zinc gained popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic as zinc supplements were being prescribed very frequently to COVID positive patients. Studies have shown the beneficial effects of zinc in reducing the harmful effects of the virus, maintaining the integrity of the mucosa (which has been the site of entry and multiplication of the virus) and reducing inflammation-induced damage to the host during infection. The role of zinc in improving immune function is already well known.


It is important to note that Zinc deficiency is found to be widespread in India. Studies also reveal that overall zinc deficiency was found to be highest in Orissa followed by Uttar Pradesh. Every year, diseases like diarrhoea, typhoid, malaria, measles and pneumonia, health risks associated with low zinc intake, result in 2.1 million deaths among Indian children below the age of five. 

However, through dietary changes and supplements, it’s possible to reverse zinc deficiency and make one’s body stronger against infections. In this blog, we will learn all about zinc deficiency, including symptoms, how it is found and how it can be treated? 

Why is zinc necessary? 

Because your body doesn’t naturally produce zinc, you must obtain it through food or supplements. Zinc is a vital nutrient naturally present in some foods, added to others and available as a dietary supplement. Zinc is responsible for several bodily functions. Some of the benefits provided by zinc include:

1. Cellular metabolism

2. Cell division- Helps in growth and development

3. DNA synthesis

4. Protein synthesis

5. Wound healing

6. Proper sense of taste and smell

7. Blood clotting 

8. Helps in the process of insulin production

9. Helpful for the nervous system

10. Aids the activity of various essential enzymes  

Who needs the most zinc in their bodies?

Zinc is responsible for the smooth functioning of various cellular processes, immune systems, supporting physical growth and development, from birth, through adolescence, up to adulthood. Certain people are more vulnerable to zinc deficiency and should be mindful of their zinc intake. The list includes:

1. Pregnant women.  

2. People who have had gastrointestinal surgery, including weight loss surgery. 

3. People with digestive disorders, such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease.

4. Excessive consumption of alcohol-, as alcohol reduces zinc absorption in the body and increases zinc loss in urine. 

5. Infants over 6 months of age who only breastfeed. 

6. People with sickle cell disease.

People who have limited access to zinc-enriched foods, such as oysters, shellfish or animal products, are also likely to have low zinc levels in their bodies

Zinc deficiency is common in children especially in underweight and malnourished children manifesting as skin rashes and diarrhea called as acrodermatitis enteropathica. Zinc supplementation is advised .

Dr. M.G. Kartheeka, MBBS, MD

Symptoms of Zinc Deficiency

During pregnancy, infancy and childhood, daily zinc requirements are said to increase. Many times zinc deficiency may not present with any detectable symptoms. However, there are chances that a person with zinc deficiency may experience symptoms such as:

  1. Unexplained weight loss
  2. Hair loss
  3. Dizziness or nausea
  4. Sudden headaches that will not go away
  5. Wounds that won’t heal well
  6. Lack of alertness
  7. Decreased sense of smell and taste
  8. Diarrhoea
  9. Loss of appetite
  10. Impotence &/or erectile dysfunction
  11. Growth retardation
  12. Weak immunity
  13. Blurry Vision

Zinc deficiency is commonly found to be a cause of reduced absorption of water and electrolyte in diarrhoea and cholera. Supplementation with zinc is very helpful in such situations.

Dr. Ashish Bajaj, M.B.B.S., M.D.

How to treat zinc deficiency?

Zinc is important for several vital functions in your body. If you’re a vegetarian, it might be more difficult to meet daily zinc intake, but you can explore supplements. To start boosting zinc intake, consider eating more:

  • Whole grains
  • Poultry
  • Seeds
  • Dairy products
  • Wheat germ
  • Wild rice
  • Oysters
  • Baked beans
  • Peas
  • Cashews
  • Almonds

Zinc Supplements

Your doctor can treat your zinc deficiency right away with zinc supplements. These are available in multivitamins or as zinc gluconate, zinc sulfate or zinc acetate. Very few people know that zinc can interact with some antibiotics, arthritis medications and high blood pressure medicines (diuretics). This can hamper the absorption of both- the medicine as well as zinc. Talk to your doctor about the right spacing between the dose of zinc-containing supplements and other medicines that you may be taking. This will reduce any chances of interaction between ongoing medicines.

Excess intake of zinc can also be harmful. Therefore, the best practice would be to take these supplements based on your doctor’s advice.

Overview

In most cases, a zinc deficiency is not an emergency, but it can create fertility and pregnancy-related challenges. Zinc deficiency in men can be a cause of impotence in men, while zinc deficiency in pregnant women may affect the development of the baby. Zinc is an important supplement for people fighting chronic illnesses and acute infections. Zinc plays a critical role in managing diarrhoea, especially in children. Talk to your doctor about zinc supplements along with Oral rehydration solutions and other medications to reduce the severity of the illness.

Watch for any symptoms of zinc deficiency and get it treated with the right dose of supplements at the earliest.

Also Read: Benefits of Zinc for Men: A Detailed Research-Based Overview

Disclaimer: The information provided here is for educational/awareness purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional and should not be relied upon to diagnose or treat any medical condition. The reader should consult a registered medical practitioner to determine the appropriateness of the information and before consuming any medication. PharmEasy does not provide any guarantee or warranty (express or implied) regarding the accuracy, adequacy, completeness, legality, reliability or usefulness of the information; and disclaims any liability arising thereof.

Links and product recommendations in the information provided here are advertisements of third-party products available on the website. PharmEasy does not make any representation on the accuracy or suitability of such products/services. Advertisements do not influence the editorial decisions or content. The information in this blog is subject to change without notice. The authors and administrators reserve the right to modify, add, or remove content without notification. It is your responsibility to review this disclaimer regularly for any changes.

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