I love doctors. Because I have a natural, preventative focused blog it might seem I don’t, but a good doctor is one to have in your wellness help tool kit, no doubt. I sat in Dr Annabel Stuckey’s office last year discussing my son’s poo – as you do! He had minor behavioral issues that had crept up at the same time as the poo was getting out of control, and so, we were there to fix it all because I just knew they were linked. Dr Stuckey is a doctor on the Mindd Foundation registry.
She asked a bunch of questions about my pregnancy, birth, breast feeding, him, any antibiotic use, him in general and his ‘ways’. She asked a peculiar question at one point “Does he get annoyed by certain fabrics, pillow cases, tags on shirts etc or perhaps a little touchy” – My eyes widened and I was like “Um, YEAH!!!!” It wasn’t as serious as OCD (People joke about OCD but in reality it is no laughing matter and a painful problem for the people who suffer from it and their families.)
It was however very noticeable. The answer? Zinc deficiency. Fixed within 2 weeks of supplementation. Amazing. I truly thought that he was just particular. He had recently, in conjunction with the poop issues, become a fussy eater. He’d NEVER been one before so I really noticed it. That went too. It certainly made me pay attention to zinc a little more. If you wanted more on that story, you can read here.
It’s a fascination mineral, and the key to so much for our overall health, so this post is dedicated to exploring it a little further.
What exactly is zinc?
It is an essential trace mineral, very important to plants and animals for optimal functioning.
What can make us deficient?
- Eating conventional produce for a long period of time (less to no zinc in the soil of crops that are sprayed and use commercial fertiliser, due to soil health degradation. Healthy soil is packed with minerals and organic or pesticide free options will have healthy soil feeding the plants loads of nutrients.)
- Recurring bouts of Diarrhea
- Struggling immune system
- Too much phytic acid in our diets (non soaked grains and nuts) as the phytic acid binds to the zinc in these foods and expels it before your body has a chance to absorb the zinc
- A diet without enough zinc rich foods
- Malabsorbption – a bigger problem often linked to other illness
At the Mindd Foundation conference a couple of months ago, zinc just kep coming up again and again and again!
Zinc Deficiency Clues
These come to you from the inspiring Dr Leila Masson who lectured at the conference.
- Fussy eating / issues with sense of taste or smell – Zinc affects your taste buds. Many children and ‘simple eating’ adults tolerance of different foods improves with zinc supplementation
- Acne – Leila said, which I LOVED “We’re giving teenage girls the pill for acne, when we should be giving them zinc!” I’ll add: And getting them off processed foods!
- Stretch marks
- Grumpiness – being a glass half full person (which can be a symptom of many things of course, but worth noting)
- Low frustration tolerance – Meaning touchy and quick to get upset at small things
- Lack of apetite or interest in food
So what might an actual case of zinc deficiency look like?
My friend nutritionist and naturopath, Helen from Nourish-Ed explains a boy who visited her clinic recently
“A classic sign of zinc deficiency is a compromised immune system, often in the form of recurrent infections, and poor wound healing. Recently I saw a young boy of 9 yrs old who in the last 3 months had experience hand foot and mouth disease once, impetigo once and constant cold sores. He also had a constant snuffly nose, eczema and a few bouts of worms. His poor little immune system was struggling big time! On observation he also had quite pale skin and multiple white spots on his nails – often a sign of zinc deficiency. In hand with all of that came a poor appetite, and slowness to learn, and he’s very emotionally sensitive and regularly takes the smallest things to heart. All of this screams to me ZINC!!! So off for testing he was sent. It was only yesterday this case, but I’d bet my life on zinc deficiency”.
Helen goes on to say about zinc… “Diarrhoea can both be caused by low zinc and cause low zinc. So it is always worthwhile testing PLASMA zinc levels of anyone who has had chronic diarrhoea. Treatment of diarrhoea may then require a combination of suitable probiotic therapy and zinc supplementation. I regularly see kids and adults who have a combination of all of the following: anxiety or depression, poor digestion, reading and learning problems, poor memory, allergies and mood swings (sound like an “ADHD” child anyone?). When zinc levels are tested invariably they are low, often accompanied by high copper (these should normally be 1:1). Dosage for zinc supplementation is then based on degree of deficiency.”
So if you suspect that you or a family member might be battling zinc deficiency? See a practitioner. Other things might be going on that require a practitioner’s training and experience to treat you the best way possible. It might not be a deficiency issue, but more an absorption issue that can be caused by a bunch of other bigger health issues such as diabetes or liver disease. I’m a writer – NOT a doctor, so off you pop and make a booking if you think you need to.
Seek out a good supplement if you’re told to take zinc. I personally love the RAW CODE zinc & enzyme blend. Apparently sharing this iherb link means you get a good deal? Not sure, but worth a mention in case it helps. A good quality supplement of zinc is a wonderful, inexpensive and easy thing to try first before people have to start rolling out all the specialist appointments in the event that it is a simple deficiency in a very important mineral.
What are natural foods that contain good amounts of zinc?
Oysters (yes, I ORDER YOU to indulge!), grass fed beef, organic liver, spinach, mushrooms, pumpkin seeds (best to soak in lightly salted water and bake first, so the phytic acid doesn’t bind to the zinc and wash it away before your body can use it), sea veggies, dark chocolate (oh, ok then!) and peas. There are loads more foods with zinc in them, but these are the major ones to give you some quick inspiration.
Can I ‘use’ zinc on occasion?
Yes. I’t great for helping reduce the common cold length and severity. It is also great to break open a capsule and apply to a wound for faster healing. You can also use zinc to treat diarrhea. Again for all of these, I’d recommend consulting with your practitioner to give you the all clear to do so.
So voila, a little insight into the importance of zinc in our over all health. Have you experienced deficiency? Have you ever suspected some of the symptoms above weren’t ‘normal’ and that there might be something to investigate? If you fancy, share your story in the comments here.
Can I ‘over do it’ with zinc?
Yes you can. This is why it’s important to see your practitioner and consider getting tested. Excess zinc can affect cardiac and kidney function and present with anaemia, dizziness, headache and lethargy. “Self treating / dosing” is not something I recommend.
Conscious living is about being aware of your body and trusting your gut when you know something’s up. You are always worth listening to! Same goes for your kids. If you’re not happy with your practitioner, then see someone else. You have to feel listened to. My mum was offered a psychiatric referral for saying something was up with my sister at 3 months old… who in the end had a throat tumour!!! (And survived and thrived afterwards, very thankfully!) My point is, all those weird little symptoms, or ponderings where you think to yourself ‘something’s not quite right here’ – they are worth exploring and you deserve to have health peeps in your corner who work WITH you rather than making you feel silly.
Look forward to hearing your stories and I hope this post has helped a few of you,
I have a different story regarding Zinc supplementation that I want to share with you. During my first pregnancy I saw an Osteopath who tested me and told me I was deficient in Zinc and would need to supplement, which I did. I felt amazing. He said I should keep supplementing whilst breastfeeding and I felt it really helped me with those sleepless nights.
After having my second child, I went and bought some more zinc supplements to help my body recover from pregnancy and get my through those sleepless nights, as it had worked so well the first time.
When my daughter was three months old, I started getting tingling & electric shock type sensations all over my body.
Terrified, I went to my GP, who thought I could have MS, so sent me for a full spine & brain MRI. All clear. Next stop Neurologist. He was baffled and ruled out MS, but thought it could be an autoimmune disease. All those tests also came back clear, so we just left it and eventually the tingling dissipated.
12 months later I started taking Spirulina to aide getting through Winter, I felt amazing but all my tingling came back. I went back to my GP and she ran further blood tests. My zinc levels came back off the chart. The highest level was supposed to be 18 and I was on 24. You can only imagine how high it would have been the 12 months prior when I was supplementing. So still 3 years later I get tingling every now and then all over my body and my zinc levels are slowly coming down to normal but who knows what damage I have done to my nerve system by poisoning my body.
Very important to get tested for a deficiency before deciding to take supplements.
Thanks so much for sharing your story. You poor thing. Exactly why I say it’s essential to work with a practioner, get your tests and warn again over doing it. Great to hear your body is settling down x
Alexx, how do they test a child’s zinc levels? Also, is that something a naturopath can do or would it have to be a gp?
Hi, I have seen both Helen Padarin and Dr. Leila Masson for my son’s health and have had his zinc tested many times in a blood draw. I have to bribe my son to do it (cold hard cash!) but it is something necessary to make sure things stay at the right levels. Supplementing with zinc has really helped my son’s sensitivities and appetite. I just found out in my last blood test that I have low Zinc. My GP said the numbers were in “normal range” however Helen explained that “normal” is derived from taking a sample of the general population, who are most likely Zinc deficient. Helen is looking for optimal levels of zinc for wellness and so despite supplementing with 30mg of zinc for the last 2 years, I am not absorbing it so we needed to switch to another type of zinc. This is why working with a practitioner is so important!
Just went to see my GP to ask for a zinc level test. She was unconvinced and said ” it’s very very unlikely you have low zinc” however I insisted ( as I have suspected for a while with many recurring infections, anxiety and skin issues , but will not supplement more then a breastfeeding multivitamin and zinc rich foods , without a blood test )
She had to call me this week and eat her words ” wow you must really know your body you DO have low zinc!” The GP was genuinely amazing. *eye roll*
Now off to find a practitioner in ACT who doesn’t have a year long waiting list and who can help me find a good and safe way to supplement while breastfeeding!
I’ve recently had both my daughters’ bloods tested. Both came back with a zinc deficiency. I was amazed when I read your article, because both girls have the symptoms you mentioned, just different ones. My older daughter has white flecks on her nails, poor digestion and slowness to learn. My younger daughter’s symptoms are more severe, she has depression, anxiety, food anxiety (ie extremely fussy), highly sensitive, emotional and has allergies.
I had no idea that these symptoms (which is why I had them tested) could be caused by a zinc deficiency. We’ve just started supplements, so I will monitor closely now I know what to look for.
Thanks for sharing this article. It was very helpful.