Zinc is an essential trace element that’s found and used by every cell throughout your body.
Anytime a nutrient is considered ‘essential’ it means your body needs it to stay healthy but that you can’t produce it and therefore you must get it from your food.
This critical metal is only needed in tiny amounts but if you don’t get enough zinc, the consequences can be grave. This is because your body relies on zinc for growth, maintenance, and numerous biological functions – including hormone creation and balance.
13 Incredible Benefits of Zinc
Your body uses zinc in hundreds of ways but some of the highlights include:
- Significantly supports the immune system by fighting off viruses and bacteria.
- Helps to create DNA in every cell.
- Critical to hormone synthesis and balance (e.g. thyroid, progesterone, cortisol).
- Essential during growth and development in babies and children.
- Provides building blocks for enzymes needed in a healthy metabolism.
- Improves how quickly and how well wounds heal.
- Supports protein synthesis.
- Allows you to smell and taste.
- Prevents age-related vision loss.
- Naturally stabilizes blood sugar.
- Can combat high blood pressure.
- May boost fertility in some.
- Boosts athletic performance through improved muscle repair.
Though deficiency isn’t very common in the United States, simply not getting enough zinc can throw important functions out of whack and make you feel not quite yourself.
Signs You’re Not Getting Enough Zinc
Signs that you might not be getting enough zinc include:
- Loss of appetite
- Hair loss
- Hormonal imbalance (especially low thyroid and low progesterone)
- A weak immune system
- Brain fog
- Unexplained weight loss
- Changes in taste
- Changes in smell
- Low libido
- Poor wound healing
- Digestive issues
- Developmental delays in children
Factors that can put you at risk for having lower levels or poor absorption of zinc include:
- Those who have had gastrointestinal surgery
- Women on hormonal birth control
- Having leaky gut syndrome
- Vegetarians and vegans
- People with sickle cell anemia
Using Zinc to Balance Your Hormones
Zinc’s impact on your hormones is a big deal.
First of all, you need sufficient levels of zinc for your body to create hormones. Then you also need sufficient zinc to maintain proper hormone balance.
Research has found that zinc levels are directly associated with the following hormones:
- Growth hormone
- Thyroid hormones – T3 & T4
1. Helps thyroid hormone
When it comes to your thyroid hormones, zinc plays a major role in thyroid hormone metabolism. Specifically, zinc is needed in the conversion of T4 to T3. Research has found that zinc supplementation can support better conversion of T4 to the active T3 thyroid hormone.
Zinc also helps your thyroid hormone receptors in your hypothalamus function properly, so it can accurately gauge whether or not you have sufficient thyroid hormone levels. Because of this, zinc deficiency can cause your body to decrease its thyroid hormone production when it thinks it has sufficient levels. Low zinc levels are thought to be one potential factor that can contribute to hypothyroidism.
2. Supports autoimmune conditions
Studies have found that people with autoimmune disease typically have significantly lower than normal zinc levels. This zinc-autoimmune connection is likely due to the fact that zinc is so critical to healthy immune system function and hormone synthesis and balance.
Most women with autoimmune conditions also suffer from inflammation – zinc has shown to have anti-inflammatory properties. Bringing down inflammation can help lower the TPO antibodies (often high in Hashimoto’s patients).
3. Helps progesterone production
Zinc also helps the pituitary gland to release follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). FSH encourages ovulation and tells your ovaries to produce more progesterone. The ovaries love zinc; sufficient amount of this mineral helps them produce estrogen and progesterone.
4. Increases sex hormones
Zinc is especially important for sex hormones and reproduction. In fact, zinc supplementation has been shown to improve male sterility and also reduce pregnancy complications. Studies have also found that zinc supplementation can increase the serum level of sex hormones in the body, which could improve anything from strength, confidence, energy to sexual desire.
Did You Know You Can Test Your Zinc Levels at Home?
There’s an easy way you can test your zinc levels in the comfort of your own home. Simply purchase a bottle of zinc sulfate liquid from Amazon or your local pharmacy, then hold a capful in your mouth, while noticing the following sensations:
- Zero metallic taste – a likely zinc deficiency
- A delayed metallic taste – minimal zinc deficiency
- Immediate but slight metallic taste – adequate zinc levels but could use a little more
- Strong metallic taste – you have sufficient zinc levels
15 Best Food Sources of Zinc
Here are the top 15 best food sources of zinc:
- Grass-fed beef
- Turkey breast
- Sesame Seeds
- Pasture-raised chicken
- Pumpkin seeds
- Sunflower seeds
Learn how to rebalance your hormones with food in my book, Cooking for Hormone Balance.
Nutrients That Affect Zinc Absorption
Nutrients that improve your zinc absorption include amino acids, specifically histidine and methionine.
On the other hand, a few nutrients are known interfere with zinc absorption include:
Phytate is often found in corn, rice, and cereals and has been shown to very strong in inhibiting zinc absorption. If you have insufficient zinc levels, it’s important to consider the factors that could be interrupting absorption, especially if you believe you’re getting enough zinc in your diet or through supplementation.
The Best Zinc Supplements
When it comes to taking zinc in supplement form, it’s best to choose an option that’s chelated. Chelation is when minerals are bonded to amino acids, which makes it more readily absorbed by your body.
There are many high-quality zinc supplements available online these days, just make sure you’re getting them from a reputable source and beware of fake supplements.
How Much Zinc Should You Take?
An adult should be getting at least 40 mg of zinc per day. If you’re taking a zinc supplement I recommend around 30 mg for anyone interested in balancing their hormones.
It is possible to take too much zinc, especially in the form of supplements. If you accidentally take too much as you think you could experience:
- Abdominal cramping
- Poor appetite
If you take the recommended dosage and aren’t unknowingly getting an abundance of zinc from your diet, you should, for the most part, be OK.
For anyone trying to restore balance to their hormones, zinc is a nutrient that should be taken into careful consideration. You may even want to have your zinc levels tested with your doctor. Remember, if you find you are deficient for zinc, it could be due to the many factors that interfere with absorption. Consider this before you pile on zinc supplements unnecessarily.