Zinc has long been known for its positive effects on the immune system. It is an essential naturally occurring mineral present in every cell of the body and is a part of more than 300 enzymatic reactions needed for optimal health. It is needed across our lifespan to maintain a healthy immune system – especially as we age.
And in our time, it has a direct anti-viral effect against influenza and the coronavirus. It supports mucosal immunity (that of the skin and mucus membranes), is involved in production of IgG antibodies and has strong antioxidant properties.
What foods are high in zinc? Oysters, seafood, grass-fed beef, lamb, pumpkin seeds, cashews, beans, eggs and nuts. One raw oyster contains almost 19 mg. of zinc or about double the RDA which is 11 mg. for men and 8 mg. for women.
Due to the limited laboratory testing for zinc (unlike vitamin D) it’s not easy to know if you need more. Upper limits of tolerance are 40 mg. per day and most experts are recommending 20-30 mg. during COVID.
Medications that deplete the body of zinc are diuretics and ACE-inhibitors – two common categories of drugs used for high blood pressure. If you are on these medications and have a lowered sense of taste or smell you could have a zinc deficiency.
Different forms of zinc exist such as zinc carnosine, acetate, sulfate, oroate, citrate, picolinate and gluconate and each offers differing benefits. Zinc carnosine is recommended for healing of the stomach epithelial lining since it inhibits pro-inflammatory cells. Zinc picolinate and gluconate have the best absorption and tolerability.
Zinc deficiency is common in older adults and may worsen age-related decline in immunity. Multiple research studies over the last 20 years show zinc lozenges reduce duration of colds by 35%.
Why take extra zinc during COVID?
It has strong anti-inflammatory properties that inhibit or limit the cytokine storm in COVID19, thus creating a protective and preventative effect. Keeping your immune system strong and healthy is more important than ever before and taking extra zinc is one small way you can help yourself during the pandemic…maybe as necessary as the toilet paper you are all trying to keep stocked up on.
Disclaimer: This blog does not replace medical advice. Check with your physician before starting supplements.