Why It Is Vital You - And Your Children - Are Getting Enough Zinc.


This year my son started school, which resulted in his immune system having to work overtime while being exposed to the general all-sorts of germs that go around in classrooms. Unfortunately, even though I consider us to be a healthy family, he suffered from cold after cough after cold; even with me feeding him all my normally effective herbal and nutrition concoctions! Treating our own children is almost like treating ourselves; sometimes we don't see what is right in front of us! So all it took was the wonderfully clever Dr Leila Masson to point out his symptoms stack up to not enough zinc, and that even though I am giving him a small dose, in the case he is deficient, the dose needs to be much higher. He is a pull-your-hair-out, fussy eater and zinc deficiency can lead to a loss of sense of taste and smell, that often results in children developing "fussiness" over their foods and then because they won't eat enough, the cycle continues. When they do get adequate doses of zinc, their taste preferences can widen, but only once they have enough in their system!

Other symptoms that you are not getting enough zinc can include white spots on your nails, or they can be thin and peel, acne and other skin problems, infertility, memory impairment, tiredness, depression, inability to sleep, slow growth and recurrent infections.

When it comes to health and nutrition I prefer to generally look at the overall scheme of diet and absorption rather than isolating individual nutrients — but there are times when increasing a certain mineral or vitamin is called for and can work just as powerfully as taking a medicine. In the case of Zinc, in Australia our soil is deficient and chemical fertilisers impair its absorption in plants, which results in our food being deficient. Therefor there is wide spread zinc deficiency in this and other countries, which makes it one of those nutrients that can be very effective as a supplement.

The other important note to remember is zinc competes with some other minerals for absorption, mainly iron. So if you are a mother on a mission to boost your child's immune system and giving them everything under the sun- and at the same time,  you are just cancelling out what you are trying to achieve. Iron and Zinc must be taken at different times. Alcohol, caffeine, processed grains and some medicines such as the Pill, Hormonal Replacement and some antibiotics also inhibit absorption. You need extra in times such as pregnancy, breast-feeding and illness.

Vegetarian foods that are high in zinc include;

sunflower and pumpkin seeds, walnuts, cashews, egg yolks, alfalfa, fennel seeds, oats, buckwheat, cacao, brewers yeast, pulse, mushrooms, soy beans, black beans, lentils, seaweeds

All beans and legumes offer great amounts of zinc, however, do be aware that they contain a large amount of phytates on their skin, which are meant to protect them in nature. Phytates reduce absorption of important minerals and occur heavily in beans, nuts, legumes, and grains. Be sure you soak your beans, legumes and nuts first to help remove the phytates and make them more digestible.

But if you are looking for a medicinal dosage, or are showing any symptoms of deficiency, including these foods in your diet won't be sufficient,  you have to supplement it for a period of time. I recommend seeing a health professional such as a Naturopath to figure out which product is right for you and how much you should be taking.

Zinc is a vital nutrient, for all of us, and especially our growing children. Not having enough can interfere with them being at their potential. Just some of the actions Zinc is required for include;

  • Catalytic activity of approximately 100 enzymes 

  • Hormonal production for reproductive hormones and stress hormones. This means you need zinc for good quality sleep and coping with stress

  • Cell division 

  • DNA synthesis 

  • Develop and activate T-lymphocytes, needed for our immunity 

Often Vitamin B 6 (Pyrodoxine) is given along with zinc, as together they have been shown to help reduce the symptoms of PMS and depression, especially in cases of confirmed Pyroluria.