What is Zinc?
Zinc* is a mineral. Minerals are inorganic substances – they’re not produced by plants or animals. Instead, they’re found in water, rocks, and soil. Then, when plants absorb minerals from their environment as they grow, the minerals add to their nutritional value. Zinc is one of the minor, or trace, minerals. Your body needs trace minerals in smaller quantities, but they still play important roles in your body. Other trace minerals* include selenium, chromium, manganese, copper, and more.
Zinc is found in both plant-based and animal-derived* foods. Plant-based sources of zinc include nuts, seeds, legumes, lentils, and fortified grains. Zinc is often found in higher amounts in animal foods than in plant-based foods. For this reason, it may be wise to add a zinc supplement to your diet if you adhere to a vegan diet.
Zinc is essential for gastrointestinal health*. A zinc deficiency can cause diarrhea and other forms of gastrointestinal distress. If you aren’t getting enough zinc in your diet from food or supplements, you may start experiencing mild to severe gastrointestinal problems. Diarrhea and other gastrointestinal problems can also lead to the development of a zinc deficiency. If you are frequently experiencing gastrointestinal distress, it may be wise to talk with your doctor to see if zinc deficiency may be the cause.
Zinc also plays an important role in maintaining a healthy immune system*. Your immune system helps to ward off viruses and bacteria that can make you sick. If your zinc levels are too low, your immune system may be weakened as a result.
Zinc is needed for several bodily processes* including certain gene expression and DNA repair, and it also helps to support cellular metabolism and maintain skin integrity.
Who Should Take A Zinc Supplement?
Adding a zinc supplement to your diet can be especially helpful if:
You are pregnant or nursing*. Pregnant and nursing women are at a higher-than-average risk of developing a zinc deficiency.
If you have just had a baby*, you may want to give liquid zinc to them to prevent a deficiency. A 3 mg dose of liquid zinc is generally safe for infants and children. Speak with your child's pediatrician or healthcare professional to determine if supplemental zinc is appropriate for your child.
If you eat a vegan diet*, you may benefit from taking a zinc supplement. While zinc is found in some plant-based foods, this mineral is not as common in a vegan diet as it is in the meat-heavy standard American diet. However, that doesn’t mean you need to start adding animal products to your diet – take a vegan zinc supplement instead!
If you have a busy, demanding schedule, taking zinc alongside other minerals and vitamins can help you keep your nutrient levels on track. Anyone living a fast-paced life may struggle to find the time to eat lots of unprocessed, nutrient-dense meals. While supplements aren’t a substitute for a healthy diet, taking zinc and other nutrients in supplement form can help cover the gaps left in an imperfect diet.
Since it is an essential nutrient*, almost everyone can benefit from taking zinc as a supplement and getting it from dietary sources. Even if you are not in one of the primary groups with a specific need for zinc, taking a zinc supplement may be an excellent addition to a healthy diet and lifestyle.
What Happens If You Have A Zinc Deficiency?
If your levels of zinc are too low, you may experience the following symptoms:
Hair loss*. Insufficient levels of zinc in your body can cause your hair to thin. Before you conclude that your hair loss is caused by a zinc deficiency, it’s best to first talk to your doctor to rule out any other possible causes.
Gastrointestinal issues. As you’ve already learned, diarrhea is often a symptom of zinc deficiency. If you’re having diarrhea frequently, it might be a sign that your zinc levels are too low, but it can also be indicative of a different issue. If you’re having inexplicable, frequent bouts of diarrhea or other gastrointestinal issues, it’s best to talk to your doctor. Self-treating gastrointestinal problems with a zinc supplement is not the best choice, especially if your diarrhea actually has other causes.
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How is a Zinc Deficiency Diagnosed and Treated?
If you suspect that you have a zinc deficiency*, visit your doctor.
Your doctor* will check your zinc levels through a blood plasma test, a urine test, or by analyzing a strand of your hair. Once your doctor has the results of your test, they’ll help you make a game plan for dealing with your zinc deficiency.
Zinc deficiency* treatment is typically simple and straightforward. If your zinc levels are low, getting them back to normal is usually as simple as making small changes to your diet and supplement regimen. Your doctor will likely recommend that you start taking a zinc supplement to treat your deficiency. They may also advise you to add more zinc-rich foods to your daily meals.
How Much Zinc Do I Need Each Day?
When supplementing with zinc, it’s important to stick with the daily recommended dose* of your supplement. For adults, the daily recommended zinc intake is 8 mg for women and 11 mg for men. For children and infants, 3 mg is an ideal daily intake. You can get your daily recommended intake by combining a dose of a zinc supplement with zinc-rich foods.
Some of the best dietary sources of zinc are animal products. However, these foods are not compatible with a vegan diet, meaning you may need to get creative with how you include zinc in your plant-based eating plan.
Vegans can get zinc* by eating plenty of legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. Some plant-based foods are even fortified with zinc and other important nutrients. Adding fortified foods to your diet can help you reach your daily recommended value of zinc each day. However, some fortified foods, especially many breakfast cereals, include lots of added sugar and artificial ingredients. Make sure to stick with zinc-enriched foods that don’t contain too much of these unhealthy additives.
When Should I Take Zinc?
Mayo Clinic suggests the best time to take your zinc supplement* is several hours after a meal or about an hour before eating.
For some people, taking zinc on an empty stomach can cause nausea. While it may be best to separate your zinc supplement from your meals, you can talk to your doctor about the possibility of taking zinc with food. Your doctor may advise you to eat something with your zinc supplement to make the supplement easier on your stomach.
When taking zinc supplements, it’s always smart to avoid overdoing your dosages. Too much zinc can cause uncomfortable side effects, including nausea, diarrhea, and stomach cramps. If you’re experiencing these symptoms after taking a zinc supplement, you may be taking a dose that is far higher than you need.
MaryRuth’s Liquid Zinc: An Ideal Supplement For Plant-Based Eaters and Omnivores Alike!
Some zinc supplements contain trace amounts of animal-derived ingredients like gelatin.
For vegans, sneaky animal ingredients can be tough to avoid, and it can be frustrating to discover that an otherwise vegan-friendly supplement actually contains tiny amounts of animal products. If you’re eating a plant-based diet, MaryRuth’s liquid zinc may be the perfect supplement for you!
Our liquid zinc is 100% vegan and sugar-free. The natural sweetness of plant-derived glycerin gives the supplement a mild, pleasant taste, making it easy to take. You can give yourself a daily boost of zinc by adding our plant-based drops to your supplement routine!
*References available upon request.