Would you like to decrease your chances of catching a cold this season or developing an autoimmune condition? Perhaps appropriate zinc supplementation can help. As naturopathic physicians and acupuncturists, we get fantastic questions from our patients about supplements on a regular basis. We’d like to explain some of the ins and outs of zinc which can be exceptionally beneficial during the winter month and is commonly under-dosed in multivitamins.
First off, the basics. Zinc is a mineral nutrient that every person needs to stay healthy. It helps the immune system fight off viruses and bacteria, regulates wound healing, stimulates the activity of several enzymes in the body, helps make new DNA in new cells, and is partially responsible for regulating the senses of taste and smell. As you can see, it has several very important jobs in our bodies! The recommended daily allowance for zinc is 11 mg per day for adult men and 8 mg per day for adult women. An average recommended dose for zinc supplementation for immune support is usually closer to 25 mg per day, but be sure to check with your physician for the dosage most appropriate for you. Zinc is also naturally present in the following foods: oysters, red meat, poultry, shellfish, beans, nuts, whole grains, and dairy products.
Zinc specifically prevents the virus that causes the common cold, known as the rhinovirus, from reproducing appropriately, which decreases the amount of cold virus that your body has to contend with. As zinc deficiency increases your risk of infection, appropriate zinc supplementation can significantly decrease your risk of catching this season’s colds and flus. It is shown to best reduce viral infection frequency when taken daily over several months, although research also shows that taking slightly increased amounts of zinc for the first three days of a cold or flu may help to reduce the length of the infection by at least a day.
Zinc has also been identified as a key piece of actually slowing down the immune response to prevent overreaction to a virus, fungal, or bacterial infection in the body. Research has recently shown that because of this action, zinc and zinc transporters can be involved in reducing or preventing the process of autoimmunity (where the immune system mistakenly attacks its own cells and causes damage), which results in diseases such as type 1 diabetes and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. In these diseases, providing enough zinc nutritionally to overcome the transporter errors can help protect the body from oxidative stress and repair DNA damage. It may not reverse the disease, but it may help to slow the disease process to supplement zinc in the proper amount.
So, after reading the facts, we suggest that you check your multivitamin as soon as you can to see how much zinc it contains, and, as always, consider speaking with your physician about additional supplementation for immune support before modifying your supplement routine.
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