Minerals like zinc are extremely important to the health of the body, and certainly in thyroid health. They act as a spark plug to the cells. Minerals are responsible for enzymatic reactions, maintaining proper nerve conduction, aiding in contracting and relaxing muscles, regulating tissue growth, maintaining PH balance, aiding in nutrient transport within cells and a whole lot more.
What Zinc Is
Interestingly, zinc is involved in more bodily processes than any other mineral! It’s THAT important.
Zinc, the 25th most abundant mineral in the earth’s crust, is an organic brittle metal that’s an essential trace element for our cells. Every human being requires it to remain alive and it is present in every, cell, tissue, organ and fluid in the body.
The main storage areas for zinc in our body are the skin (the highest), skeletal muscle and bone.
Secondarily, zinc is stored in the heart, spleen, lungs, brain, adrenal glands, and retina of the eye. (1)
The body cannot make it’s own zinc so it has to come from outside sources (that’s why it’s called essential)
Why Your Body Needs Zinc
- This mineral with copper, selenium, and iodine are required for the synthesis of thyroid hormones. In fact, imbalance in these can cause profuse hair loss (2)
- It is required for beautiful skin as it is the third most abundant mineral in the skin (3)
- Zinc is helpful in maintaining weight (4)
- Adequate amounts of zinc in the body aid in stomach acid production
- Helps to decrease inflammatory cytokines (5)
- It’s important for proper immune system function (particularly the T-Cells)
- Required for maintaining healthy blood sugar levels (6)
- It is essential for helping the body grow
- Zinc is necessary for protein and DNA synthesis
- It’s critical to aid in proper cell division
- Helps with the synthesis of cholesterol, fats and proteins
- Regulates release of vitamin A from the liver
- Critical for cell replication of DNA
- Needed for lactate and malate dehydrogenases which are important for energy production
- Essential for skin and bone integrity
- It’s an important co-factor for the enzyme alkaline phosphatase which regulates phosphates in bones. (7)
- Similarly, it’s important for tooth structure and strength
- Required for a healthy, functioning immune system
- Important for the metabolism of essential fatty acids
- Important for carbohydrate metabolism
- Needed for taste
- Reduces oxidative stress (8)
- Involved in the creation and release of eggs from the ovaries
- Supports healthy circulation
- Helps cleanse the liver (9)
- It’s an anti-inflammatory for joints and artery linings
- Needed to create Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH)
- Critical for the conversion of thyroid hormone T4 to the active thyroid hormone T3.
Symptoms of Zinc Deficiency
- Bullous-pustular dermatitis (10)
- Increased infections
- Delayed wound healing
- Rough Skin
- Poor Appetite
- Inability to taste well
- Hair Loss
- Thinning hair
- Thyroid nodules (11)
- Increased thyroid antibodies (12)
- Poor Coordination
- Lack of focus and attention (13)
- Extreme Fatigue
- Nerve dysfunction
- Brittle nails
- Adrenal Fatigue
- Hypochlorhydria (low stomach acid)
- Profuse sweating
- Pernicious anemia
- Peptic Ulcers
How Zinc is Depleted
- Through catabolism (the breaking down) of muscle and zinc is excreted through urine. This happens due to two reasons- lack of protein in the diet and unbalanced blood sugar putting the body into a hypoglycemic/stressed state. (14)
- Zinc is often imbalanced and low in individuals due to nutrients lost in the soil and consumption of processed food.
- Phytates (in cereal grains, nuts and seeds) decrease the availability for Zinc absorption. (15)
- Stress puts the body into a catabolic state of breaking down muscle tissue which depletes zinc levels. Additionally, stress depletes calcium and magnesium which also contributes to higher histamine levels causing allergy-like symptoms.
- The use of antibiotics blocks zinc absorption
- Refined carbs hinder zinc absorption and increases blood glucose too high (hyperglycemic) which puts the body into a catabolic stress response which depletes zinc.
- Caffeine reduces zinc levels in the heart. (16)
- Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPI’s like Prilosec, Prevacid, etc.) interfere with zinc absorption (17)
- Alcohol interferes with zinc absorption.
- Leaky gut where proper nutrients aren’t getting absorbed through the enterocytes in the intestinal wall causes deficiency. Surprisingly, zinc actually helps tighten the intestinal junctions in patients with Crohns disease. (18)
- Similarly, Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis can deplete zinc to dangerously low levels.
- Taking birth control pills increases copper levels which depletes zinc.
- Parasites that create biofilms to protect themselves block zinc and other vitamins and minerals from being absorbed. They particularly hold on to zinc and iron.
- Epstein Barr is a sign of zinc deficiency. Additionally, in the presence of this virus zinc stores are continually used to try and conquer it.
- To much exercise creates zinc loss through sweat.
Foods Containing Zinc
Though there are plant foods that contain zinc, researchers have found that due to phytates in the plant foods (like legumes and grains – high in vegetarian diets), the absorption of zinc (and iron) from these foods is greatly decreased and often causes deficiency. (19)
The best food source of zinc is organic, pastured red meat, wild-caught seafood and pastured eggs.
If you soak and sprout nuts and seeds you will reduce the phytate and lectin levels which will allow nutrients from them to become more easily absorbed. organic chia, hemp and pumpkin seeds are high in zinc.
Other plant food options are ginger root, mustard powder, and black pepper.
Favorite Types of Supplemental Zinc in Thyroid Health
WAIT! Before you go out and start supplementing with zinc, it’s important to note that supplementing with just one mineral can actually put other minerals out of balance. First, you should test to see if you are truly low in zinc. Blood or urine tests and HTMA (Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis) or even a NutrEval are great tests to try. Normal serum levels are: 0.66 and 1.10 mcg/mL
All of these can be ordered in my Fullscript Dispensary for 15% off retail:
- Zn-Zyme Forte
- Aqueous Zinc
- Chelated Zinc
Taking zinc two hours after meals or first thing in the morning increases absorption because it’s not competing with other minerals. However, if you are struggling with hypochlorhydria (low stomach acid) then taking zinc at mealtime can be helpful for bringing back normal stomach acid levels.
Zinc supplementation (along with eating high zinc foods) can be helpful as long as you keep an eye on the balance of your other minerals in your body!
Chelated, Citrate, Picolinate, Glycinate, Sulfate – Which Zinc to Choose?
Chelated Zinc: blended with the amino acid glycine for better absorption. These can be called glycinate, aspartate, picolinate, rotate, succinate or citrate
Zinc Citrate and Sulfate: Similarly absorbed and soluble in water
Zinc Picolinate and Glycinate: see above in chelated zinc
Zinc oxide: not very well absorbed
Too Much Zinc
It’s true that you can get too much zinc. If this happens it will lower your copper levels, potentially cause nausea and diarrhea. This is usually found when the daily intake is increasingly over 100 mg per day.
Reasons to Deal with Zinc Deficiency
- Wound healing
- DNA synthesis
- Fingernail strength and color
- Shiny hair
- Cataracts improvement
- Eating disorders
- Food breakdown/nutrient absorption
- Improving leaky gut
- Mood disorders
- Increased muscle strength
- Recovering from surgery
- Getting over a cold
- Reducing blood pressure
- Boosting the immune system
- Improving thyroid health and thyroid hormone levels
- Getting pregnant
- Reducing food sensitivities
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Reducing/preventing cavities
- Reducing cadmium toxicity
- Smelling and tasting better
Conclusion About the Mineral Zinc in Thyroid Health
It’s probably clear to you by now how important zinc in thyroid health is as well as the role it plays in the entire body. Since zinc is an essential trace mineral it really doesn’t take that much to obtain optimal amounts. Getting it from whole foods first is important, but if you learn you need to supplement, be sure to monitor your zinc and copper levels through testing.