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Zinc deficiency

Zinc deficiency is extremely common, and as a conservative estimate, research has suggested that over 25% of the world’s population is at risk. The worst part is that most adults are deficient in zinc and have no idea! The recommended daily intake of zinc for women is 8 mg/day and for men 11 mg/day. For those on a plant-based diet, it’s important to monitor zinc levels because many zinc sources are from animal products; it’s harder now to get adequate zinc from plant sources due to the low quality of soil.

Zinc supports the bodies’ immune system, joint and tissue repair, and cell growth. This beauty mineral has antioxidant properties that helps our bodies to heal scars and wounds, and repair DNA damage. In fact, zinc deficiency can actually cause damage to DNA, acne, loss of taste and smell, slow growth in children, hair loss, rashes, skin disorders, low sperm count, poor eyesight, and delayed wound healing. On the beauty front, zinc can also prevent wrinkling, stretch marks, and outward signs of aging.

Zinc’s healing powers

Because of zinc’s healing and beautifying properties it is found in many beauty products. Zinc oxide is a common additive that is included in sunscreens (as zinc helps to deflect the amount of ultraviolet light absorbed by the skin), calamine lotion (for its ability to heal wounds), and mineral makeup. Many brands of mineral makeup claim that the products also provide sun protection because of zinc’s use in sunscreens. Because of the anti-inflammatory properties zinc oxide in mineral makeup make these products more ideal for anyone suffering from acne or  any skin conditions. Most conventional foundations contain harmful mineral oils and parabens that can actually make an existing skin condition worse. If you have sensitive skin, it’s important to research the makeup and toiletry brands you are using and ensure they have a minimal number of toxic ingredients.
Besides increasing the strength and quality of your hair, zinc is key for:

  • Clear skin: Zinc deficiency can manifest as acne, eczema, or dry scaly skin.
  • Strong Nails: if your nails break often and easily or you have white spots on your nails you may be deficient in zinc
  • Proper Immune Functioning: deficiency increases vulnerability to a range of infections
  • Proper Elimination: deficiency can lead to diarrhea or increase its severity
  • Brain & Emotional Health: insufficient zinc can affect memory retention and mood including irritability, lethargy, and depression
  • Vision, Taste, & Smell: deficiency can affect ability to taste, and clarity of vision, and the ability to smell
  • Sexual Health: without enough zinc testosterone production can decrease in men

What to do if you are deficient?

Increasing intake of foods that are high in zinc such as pumpkin seeds, dark chocolate, garlic, sesame seeds, chickpeas, wheat germ, quinoa, almonds, cashews, oatmeal, coconuts, poppy seeds, pecans, cashews, macadamia nuts, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, and spinach is one option. If you are a meat-eater, you will get zinc from animal products, but still may not be getting enough. In addition to food options, it’s always a great idea to supplement. You can actually supplement with a Zinc Tally Test, and the brand Metagenics makes a great one I use to test my clients.


Maret W, Sandstead HH (2006). “Zinc requirements and the risks and benefits of zinc supplementation”. Journal of Trace Elements in Medicine and Biology. 20 (1): 3–18. doi:10.1016/j.jtemb.2006.01.006. PMID 16632171.

Michaëlsson G (February 1981). “Diet and acne”. Nutrition Reviews. 39 (2): 104–6. doi:10.1111/j.1753-4887.1981.tb06740.x. PMID 6451820.

Yamada T, Alpers DH, et al. (2009). Textbook of gastroenterology (5th ed.). Chichester, West Sussex: Blackwell Pub. pp. 495, 498, 499, 1274, 2526. ISBN 978-1-4051-6911-0.

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