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The importance of Zinc for Immunity

By Michelle Bellamy
from Passionate Health

Ever craved Oysters or noticed that Zinc is in throat lozenges? Or have you been picking up every cold that is going around this Autumn?

You could also be low in Zinc, and the questions above give you clues of available sources and how it supports every-body.

Zinc is an essential mineral that we all need to absorb through dietary measures – as we do not make Zinc within the body but do assimilate and re-use it once it has been utilised.

Zinc is involved intimately in the correct formation and functioning of the immune system and is in fact a part of three hundred enzyme systems in the body and has one the widest range of essential functions.

Zinc has antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties, and serves a leading role in many immune system reactions.

Adequate levels of Zinc dampen and control immune symptoms such as respiratory problems, skin infections, immunity to allergenic foods and or environmental allergens.

In vitro zinc inhibits the growth of several viruses including the rhinovirus and herpes simplex. And Zinc supplements may also reduce the incidence of lower respiratory infections such as pneumonia.

Zinc needs are increased from the consumption of an array of different processed foods – with the most common being white flour and sugar. And lifestyle factors such as smoking, alcohol and caffeine, and contraceptive use. Or times of stress, illness or periods of inflammation or infection.

Other essential minerals can block the absorption of zinc such as copper, calcium, and non-organic forms of iron. So, it is always best to take your zinc supplement just before bed to ensure it has the best chance to be absorbed with no competition.

An interesting historical fact – Is that the richest source of Zinc is from a newborn infant’s placenta which is why it is traditionally eaten in some cultures.

As we age our immune system declines which can have a similar effect to those associated with a Zinc deficiency. This age group is already more vulnerable to Zinc deficiency as their digestion naturally slows down.

An important note – the requirement for dietary Zinc may be up to 50% higher in strict vegetarians or vegans whose major food staples are grains and legumes due to the elevated levels of phytic acid in these foods reducing absorption of Zinc. And the most bioavailable forms of Zinc appear to be the glycinates and the gluconates.

Zincs bioavailability – the fraction retained and used by the body, is relatively high in red or the dark portion of white meat (found next to the bone). And Zinc is commonly found in Oysters and other shellfish, red meat, eggs, and seafood. Along with wholegrains and leavened wholegrain breads, pork, baked beans, yoghurt, cashews, chickpea’s, milk, almonds, cheddar cheese and peanuts.

So now is the time of the year to increase your Zinc intake to protect you and your family from the winter ills and chills, as adequate Zinc intake is essential in maintaining the integrity of the immune system and Zinc deficient individuals are known to experience increased susceptibility to a variety of infectious agents.

More about the author

Michelle Bellamy
Michelle Bellamy
– Passionate Health

Michelle is a qualified Clinical Nutritionist and specialises in food intolerance in allergy after finding out she experiences a few of her own.

Michelle studied at Nature Care College and holds a Diploma of Nutrition and an Advanced Diploma of Nutritional Medicine. She compliments her consulting with mental health and disability support and loves to go hiking or camping to immerse herself in the outdoors to relax.

In clinic she enjoys the one-on-one client relationship, and the education element of empowering others with the knowledge to take charge of their health and to share with their loved ones.