A slight zinc deficiency is more common than you might think. However, a serious zinc deficiency is diagnosed less frequently than one might fear. Both are also easily treatable. Zinc deficiency can be compensated for by improved nutrition and, if necessary, by oral zinc supplements.
What is zinc deficiency?
Acute or chronic zinc deficiency is an easily treatable disorder in the organism, which is triggered by an insufficient intake, a situational or age-related excess consumption of zinc or poor zinc utilization. For meanings of plague, please visit polyhobbies.com.
The basis of a zinc deficiency is the fact that zinc cannot be produced in the body. It must be ingested in sufficient quantities daily through food. Otherwise, there will be a latent, acute or chronic zinc deficiency and its consequences.
Various factors can be named as causes of zinc deficiency . Inadequate zinc intake or limited zinc utilization are often the cause of zinc deficiency.
But fasting cures and diets, an unbalanced diet low in vital substances, occasionally strict vegetarianism, protein malnutrition or the constant consumption of phosphate-containing cola drinks can also lead to a zinc deficiency.
A prolonged calcium overdose as a result of osteoporosis, regular alcohol consumption, acute and chronic heavy metal exposure or inflammatory bowel diseases such as celiac disease and ulcerative colitis can also cause a zinc deficiency.
Furthermore, hunger or anorexia, increased blood sugar levels, neurodermatitis, surgically-related blood loss, heavy sweating or certain medications can lead to an acute or chronic zinc deficiency. Zinc-depleting drugs include, for example, laxatives, diuretics, cortisone and birth control pills.
In old age and in certain phases of life such as pregnancy, stress or growth phases, zinc consumption can also increase. The usability of zinc from plant foods is more difficult. We therefore prevent zinc deficiency by eating meat, cereals, dairy products or fish.
Symptoms, Ailments & Signs
Zinc is involved in numerous biochemical and physiological processes in the body and therefore the symptoms of a zinc deficiency can be very different. The first signs of a zinc deficiency are usually non-specific. These include frequent mild colds, in particular colds or tiredness and listlessness despite adequate sleep.
Due to a prolonged undersupply, the dysfunction of the immune system increases and the symptoms become clearer and more specific. Hair loss, brittle and split nails or flu-like effects can occur. The signs can be physical and mental/emotional. In addition to taste disorders and delayed wound healing, there can also be problems concentrating and a general drop in performance.
In addition, some skin problems such as dry, scaly skin and various inflammatory reactions with pustules and redness can occur. There is an increased incidence of herpes, especially on the lips. The oral cavity or paranasal sinuses can also become inflamed repeatedly. Individual susceptibilities that already existed before a zinc deficiency caused increased symptoms in the event of an undersupply.
This can be the gastrointestinal area or the bladder. In children, zinc deficiency can lead to stunted growth. If there is a prolonged undersupply, irritability and depressive moods can indicate a zinc deficiency. Zinc deficiency can also affect the senses. This can be a visual impairment, especially in the dark.
Diagnosis & History
The diagnosis and course of zinc deficiency depend on the degree of the deficiency, its duration and the consequences that have already occurred. A latent zinc deficiency is often not even noticed. It only lasts for a certain amount of time and then levels out.
However, if you notice a tendency to skin inflammation, cracked and inflamed corners of the mouth, an increased susceptibility to infections or hair loss over a longer period of time, zinc deficiency can be the cause. Since the essential trace element has to be ingested through food, a diet low in zinc can already trigger an imbalance.
In the long term, a zinc deficiency can be diagnosed. However, it is rarely found in the blood count. Rather, certain symptoms point to it. In the course of a chronic zinc deficiency, however, important functional circuits in the organism can be disturbed. Long-lasting zinc deficiency affects, for example, hormones, immune system, skin, vision, taste perception or blood quality.
Environmentally ill people who are burdened by heavy metal pollution must consider a lifelong increased zinc intake in order not to suffer from zinc deficiency. At the same time, the zinc helps to eliminate heavy metals. The same applies to diabetics. They become zinc deficient because they excrete zinc.
A number of complications can occur with zinc deficiency. A lack of the trace element is initially noticeable through general symptoms such as tiredness, weakness and listlessness. In the long run, these complaints can lead to a decrease in well-being and promote the development of mental illnesses. In the area of the sensory organs, visual disturbances such as night blindness, dry eyes and olfactory disorders occur.
In the area of the oral mucosa, taste disorders and the development of ulcers and infections can also occur. Impurities can occur on the skin, but also serious skin changes such as acne or even dermatitis. Skin fungi, eczema and pustules, especially on the fingers, face and in the anal and genital areas, sometimes occur. A zinc deficiency also increases susceptibility to infections and can lead to a weakening of the immune system in the long term.
Possible hormonal complications range from impotence to infertility and growth disorders in children and adolescents. Apart from possible side effects of the dietary supplements used, the treatment of a zinc deficiency does not cause any major symptoms. In individual cases, however, zinc poisoning can occur, which in the worst case leads to a coma.
When should you go to the doctor?
Consultation with a doctor is necessary if the person concerned suffers from health problems over a long period of time. A loss of drive, increased tiredness or a decrease in well-being are signs of an existing illness or deficiency. Medical tests are required to determine the cause. If there are problems with concentration in everyday life, delayed wound healing, hair loss or abnormalities and irregularities in the nails, a doctor’s visit is advisable.
Disorders of taste, peculiarities of the skin’s appearance, as well as recurring colds are causes for concern. If the physical as well as the mental performance decreases, this indicates a disorder. A loss of zest for life, mood swings and a depressive attitude towards life can also be described as unusual. If the changes increase continuously, this indicates an irregularity in the organism.
If there is no triggering stimulus for this development when looking at the life situation objectively, the observations should be discussed with a doctor. If your eyesight is impaired, you should see a doctor as soon as possible. A check-up visit should also take place if the person concerned suffers from abnormalities in the area of the oral cavity or paranasal sinuses. Redness in the mouth, taste disorders and herpes are warning signals from the organism and must be treated medically.
Treatment & Therapy
Zinc deficiency can be treated with dietary changes and oral substitution with dietary supplements.
In most cases, the zinc deficit can then be quickly compensated. In some cases of zinc deficiency – for example in severe diabetes or a chronic environmental disease caused by heavy metal pollution – a permanent administration of zinc preparations can be considered. A zinc deficiency should also be compensated for in old age or during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Adequate nutritional intake is a sensible way to prevent zinc deficiency. At the same time, excessive zinc degradation must be ruled out.
The complete renunciation of meat is just as responsible for a zinc deficiency as the massive consumption of phosphate-containing cola drinks or ready meals. In addition, certain reduction diets and slimming diets can cause zinc deficiency. Alcohol should be avoided as much as possible to prevent zinc deficiency. They interfere with zinc absorption, but also ensure higher zinc excretion.
Inflammatory diseases of the gastric and intestinal mucosa – for example in ulcerative colitis or celiac disease – must be treated in order to prevent later zinc deficiency.
Follow-up care for zinc deficiency depends on the causes of the deficiency. If the zinc deficiency can be attributed solely to a low-zinc diet, care should be taken to ensure adequate intake of the mineral through food even after successful treatment. Regular consumption of zinc-rich foods such as red meat, fish, seafood, milk and dairy products, and sourdough-based whole grain products effectively prevents future deficiency symptoms.
Affected vegetarians or vegans can alternatively integrate plant sources of zinc such as nuts, lentils, oilseeds and white beans into their diet. Since the human body can absorb zinc from plant food much more poorly than zinc from animal food, larger amounts are required in this case. With an overall varied diet, those affected can keep their zinc balance stable in the long term.
Dietary supplements that have been taken for a short time to treat the acute deficiency should only be used over a longer period of time after consulting a doctor. Otherwise there is a risk of an equally harmful oversupply of the mineral. This can lead to zinc poisoning with permanent damage. If the causes of the zinc deficiency can be found in connection with another underlying disease, the follow-up care depends on the respective clinical picture and its prognosis. If the disease is successfully treated, no additional follow-up care is usually required.
You can do that yourself
The most important measure for self-help with zinc deficiency is a consistent change in diet. The affected person should consume more animal products, since zinc is mainly contained in these. Vegetable zinc, on the other hand, cannot be easily absorbed by the body. However, vegetarians and people with increased requirements can also take zinc in the form of dietary supplements. The daily dose of 10 mg should not be exceeded with such preparations. In addition, they should not be taken together with other dietary supplements, but should be taken after two to three hours.
Otherwise, it is advisable to primarily eat offal and red meat such as beef, as these have a particularly high zinc content. Foods such as dairy products, various oilseeds, pumpkin seeds, peas, white beans, lentils, nuts, oatmeal, fish and seafood are also particularly rich in zinc.
The diet should be varied and diverse. However, industrially produced foods such as ready-made products or fast food should be avoided. Sugary drinks such as cola are also not recommended for zinc deficiency. Affected smokers should reduce or quit smoking altogether. They have an increased need for zinc. In addition, the consumption of alcohol should be avoided at first.