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Zinc and Why it is Important for Health

Why zinc? Our bodies have a line of defense against bacteria, virus and other pathogens known as the immune system. Having immunity against microorganisms that can harm us depends upon whether our lifestyles support health or work against us. When in a weakened state, we become more susceptible to microorganisms that can make us sick.

But, just like any other bodily system, the immune system can be supported with a healthy lifestyle and superior nutrition, allowing it to function at its best. And when we fall short, zinc may be one way to help support the immune system.

What is Zinc?

Zinc is a nutrient that the body needs to function properly and is classified as an essential mineral or essential trace element. This means it is essential we get this particular mineral from our diet, through nutritious food sources. And while many foods are touted for their nutritional content, it pays to be choosey because highly processed, fried foods and foods cooked at high temperatures may naturally lose their mineral content.

Zinc in Your Diet

The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of zinc is 8 mg for adult females and 11 mg for adult males, with certain groups such as pregnant women, requiring slightly more. Luckily you can get zinc from a variety of food sources including:

  • Oysters
  • Red meat
  • Poultry
  • Shellfish
  • Beans
  • Fortified breakfast cereals
  • Fortified bread

Oysters come in at the highest amount of zinc with 74 mg per serving. The next highest is beef chuck roast at 7 mg per serving, with all the other foods being significantly less. The trick to zinc intake is to get a steady amount into your daily diet; a task that proves to be more difficult than it seems.

Most people do not consume oysters on a daily basis, while others may be vegetarians or vegans, making it a little more challenging to get the RDA of this all-important mineral. At the same time, foods such as fortified cereals or breads contain synthetic zinc, yet not all of these are digestible. For example, zinc oxide comes back with mixed study results, while other forms like zinc gluconate are merely a chemical substitute for the true mineral. But plant-based forms of zinc may be the most absorbable as it is in a more natural state.

Zinc and Your Body

Zinc plays many roles in our health and is found in every cell of the body. It is required for healthy digestion and metabolism, nerve function, skin health and even protein production. It plays a role in cell growth and division and most importantly for many people today, it supports immune function.

The role that zinc plays in immunity is one reason why many throat lozenges and over-the-counter cold remedies contain this important element. While many studies have been done, a 1998 review of these suggested that zinc was indeed helpful for reducing the severity and duration of cold symptoms.

Chronic internal inflammation is a problem for many people with busy lifestyles, and results from risk factors like stress, poor diet, certain medications and sedentary lifestyles. Surprisingly, older adults who used zinc supplements were able to reduce inflammatory markers, one of the only ways to measure the risk of chronic inflammation. (1) This may be why zinc also seems to be an effective mineral to support immune health since inflammation has an effect on immunity.

Zinc Deficiency

Some people are deficient in zinc because either their diet does not include zinc rich foods or digestive issues inhibit absorption of the mineral. Pregnant women, older adults and women who are breastfeeding are at the highest risk of zinc deficiency. And for those who breastfeed, a zinc deficiency may pass to the nursing infant.

Some researchers find that zinc deficiency is prevalent in populations of low animal protein consumption and increased cereal consumption. (2) Vegans and vegetarians have lower levels of zinc because their diets lack meat and fish. But adding to the problem is that while they may eat more mineral-rich beans than non-vegetarians, phytates in beans, legumes, nuts and seeds can impair digestion and make it difficult to absorb the small amounts of zinc that they do consume. Soaking these foods before consuming them may help lessen this problem.

Others who may be at risk for zinc deficiency include those with Chrohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and alcohol addiction because they may not sufficiently absorb zinc from their diet. Also, at risk are those with pancreatic disease, celiac disease, diabetes or chronic liver disease. Signs of zinc deficiency includes the following:

  • Hair loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Poor immunity
  • Eye and skin lesions
  • Slow wound healing

Zinc Supplements

Many people use zinc supplements to enhance their diets, especially if they have one of the above risk factors such as digestive problems. Supplementation is also popular during cold and flu season as a natural way to support the immune system. But be wary of zinc in many over-the-counter throat lozenges or syrups as it may be a form that is difficult for the body to use.

For best absorption, zinc supplements are most effective when taken within two hours after a meal and in liquid form. And if you are using it to ward of a cold or flu, enhanced supplements that include a plant-based form of zinc along with vitamin C and herbs like elderberry may offer additional immune support.

Conclusion

In today’s world of uncertainty, stress becomes the norm, wreaking havoc on digestion and our immune systems, while superbugs seem to be more prominent. Doing all you can to support your body can help you stay strong and better protect you from harmful pathogens. Support your health with a wholesome diet, daily exercise, rest and supplementation when you need to ensure you stay healthy through any season.

References:

1 Bao B, Prasad AS, Beck FW, et al. Zinc decreases C-reactive protein, lipid peroxidation, and inflammatory cytokines in elderly subjects: a potential implication of zinc as an atheroprotective agent. Am J Clin Nutr. 2010;91(6):1634–1641. doi:10.3945/ajcn.2009.28836

2 Roohani N, Hurrell R, Kelishadi R, Schulin R. Zinc and its importance for human health: An integrative review. J Res Med Sci. 2013;18(2):144–157.

Cindy Papp

Author

Body Cleanse and Detoxification Specialist with over 22 years experience; BSc in Holistic Nutrition, C.C.T. Colon Hydrotherapist, Cert. Holistic Health Practitioner, Spiritual Guide, Energy Work, Reiki, Author, Holistic Health Researcher

For more information on Cindy visit https://www.springclean-cleanse.com/ 

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What is Low Immunity and What Can I do About it?

Low immunity means your immune system, your protection against illness, is not working as well as it should. Also known as a weakened immune system, it may be a result of illness or unhealthy lifestyle factors. Some indications of low immunity include:

  • Frequent colds and flus
  • Frequent infections
  • Constant allergies
  • Bruise easily
  • Gastrointestinal distress
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Slow wound healing

The causes of low immunity are often due to a number of factors. Aside from cancer treatments and medications that can lead to suppressed immunity, a weakened immune response may be attributed to unhealthy lifestyle factors, such as:

  • Poor diet that does not include enough fruits and vegetables
  • Frequent alcohol consumption
  • Smoking
  • Too much sugar
  • Lack of stress management skills

How to Support or Enhance a Low Immune System

Luckily, it is possible to enhance a lowered immune system with some lifestyle adjustments, and we all have the power to make these changes to become proactive players in our health. Some easy changes include altering the diet to support immunity, using nutritional supplements, adopting a small amount of daily exercise and curbing bad habits like smoking and alcohol consumption.

Incorporating many smaller changes can add up to an overall improvement in overall health and immune response. The following are just a few health promoting lifestyle changes to incorporate if you feel you are experiencing low immunity.

What to do About Low Immunity

Diet is one area where we enjoy the most control. Diet changes may seem daunting at first, but you don’t have to make all the changes at once. While some people do better with a complete overhaul, many find that incorporating small changes is more manageable. Small changes may help you create good habits without too much effort.

For example, abstain from eating restaurant and fast food for a while. Instead, replace your favorite foods with a healthier, homemade version. This allows you to control the amount of sugar and other ingredients that can inhibit immunity. At the same time, making your own foods allows you to use fresh ingredients, which have a higher nutritional value to support a healthier immune response.

Center your meals and snacks around fresh vegetables and fruits, lean proteins and whole grains. Whole foods that are less processed will provide more nutrients, aid your digestive system and support overall health. And since many pathogens end up in the gut, a healthy digestive system is imperative for a healthy immune response.

Exercise can help boost immunity. It increases circulation, which transports more oxygen and nutrients to all areas of your body, increasing the ability of your immune system to work. Increased body temperature as a result of exercise can help the body fight infections, and exercise also reduces stress hormones that can suppress immunity. (1) And it also appears that regular exercise helps increase the activity of cells that keep bacteria and other pathogens at bay. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate exercise, four to five days each week.

Nutritional Supplements are common home remedies for many who are proactively taking charge of their health. Many herbs have been used in traditional healing practices around the world for centuries and still hold true today, for good reason. They help many people feel healthier and more resilient during cold and flu season and, for some, even help shorten the amount of time they experience symptoms when they do get sick.

Some of the nutritional supplements that are used include elderberry, echinacea, goldenseal, zinc and vitamin C. They may be sold in a combination supplement or used individually. Most professional nutritional experts agree that a combination of these along with a healthy diet and plenty of rest are the best way to help boost a weakened immune system.

Hydrate your body for peak health, as our bodies are comprised of mainly water and fluids. Waste is carried out of the body through lymphatic fluid while nutrients are transported to all areas of the body through the circulatory system.

Lymph is the fluid that travels through your lymphatic system, which plays a major role in your immune system. Lymph transports oxygen through the body, helps remove waste materials, and transports white blood cells that neutralize or eliminate pathogens. It is mainly composed of water, and so relies on water intake to fully function. But improper hydration can result in a sluggish lymphatic system, which also means a sluggish immune response.

To ensure you are properly hydrated, aim to drink 25-50% of your body weight in ounces of fresh, pure water. Also eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables as they contain their own water and help keep you hydrated while providing necessary electrolytes. For an added boost, try daily exercise as it helps hydrate your body while increasing circulation and improving electrolyte levels.

Stress Management is essential for overall health and proper immune function. Stress causes chemical changes in the body, affecting all facets of health including digestion and metabolism. Some stress is completely normal and natural as the body can readily bounce back into proper homeostasis. But prolonged stress can cause prolonged chemical changes that affect your health in a negative way.

Unchecked stress can alter gut bacteria leading to a lack of beneficial bacteria that is necessary for a healthy immune response. It also diverts blood away from your digestive tract and sends more to the brain and limbs for quick thinking and fleeing. But this further weakens digestion, metabolism and immune response. Lastly, stress puts strain on the circulatory system which can result in a greater risk for coronary heart disease.

To counter stress reactions, use active stress reduction techniques like yoga, meditation or biofeedback. Yoga is used by many for stress relief and exercise. It is said the poses used during a session increases blood flow to certain organs while the practice of controlled breathing is a natural stress reliever. Meditation is widely used to reduce stress and even helps reduce anxiety and panic attacks. (2) Biofeedback is a way to become more aware of your physical responses to stress, possibly allowing you more control over them. (3)

Conclusion

Low immunity is a state that can be improved with healthy lifestyle choices. Fortunately, diet, exercise, proper hydration, nutritional supplements and stress management are all lifestyle factors within your control, and using them to your advantage can help you live and enjoy life while supporting a strong immune system.

References:

1 Exercise and immunity: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. (2020, February 4). Retrieved February 15, 2020, from https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/007165.htm

2 Carmody, James & Baer, Ruth. (2008). Relationships between mindfulness practice and levels of mindfulness, medical and psychological symptoms and well-being in a mindfulness-based stress reduction program. Journal of behavioral medicine. 31. 23-33. 10.1007/s10865-007-9130-7.

3 Ratanasiripong P, Kaewboonchoo O, Ratanasiripong N, Hanklang S, Chumchai P. Biofeedback Intervention for Stress, Anxiety, and Depression among Graduate Students in Public Health Nursing. Nurs Res Pract. 2015;2015:160746. doi:10.1155/2015/160746

Cindy Papp

Author

Body Cleanse and Detoxification Specialist with over 22 years experience; BSc in Holistic Nutrition, C.C.T. Colon Hydrotherapist, Cert. Holistic Health Practitioner, Spiritual Guide, Energy Work, Reiki, Author, Holistic Health Researcher

For more information on Cindy visit https://www.springclean-cleanse.com/