When it comes to immune system health Zinc is a mineral that you want to keep tabs on. Zinc is the second most abundant metal in the body, right after iron. It’s involved in helping over 300 different kinds of enzymes in the body.
Some of it’s more important roles are aiding in protein & carbohydrate metabolism, cell division, cell growth, cell communication, DNA & RNA transcription, gene expression, vitamin & mineral absorption, insulin production (overrated), regulating cell death, vitamin and mineral absorption, collagen formation, maintaining sensory organs (like taste, smell, etc), and immune system function, just to name a few.
The Zinc and Autoimmune Disease Connection
In those with autoimmune diseases, zinc is the most common micro-nutrient deficiency.
In one study, which was a meta-analysis study that looked at over 62 studies from 1975-2017, compared zinc levels in people with autoimmune disease(s) and in those without. The zinc levels in those with autoimmune disease were significantly lower than the control group. In fact, over 70% of those with an autoimmune disease were majorly deficient in zinc.
Zinc is essential to produce white blood cells; which are the cells of your immune system . If you’re deficient in zinc it means shits about to get real for your immune system.
Being low in zinc messes with all those roles I listed above in addition contributing to chronic inflammation, the development or worsening of autoimmune diseases, and makes you more prone to illness and infection.
How to Test Zinc Levels
A blood test will shed some light on where your zinc levels sit. If you have insurance, then have your primary care or endo order the lab. If you don’t have insurance (or if your doctor is being difficult) then you can use an online service (like WalkInLabs.com, HealthLabs.com, or UltaLabTests.com ) to place the order yourself.
Healthy Range is considered anything between 70 – 120 µg/dL
Optimal Range is 80-110 µg/dL
Adding Zinc to Your Diet
Zinc is one of the 24 essential minerals that the body cannot produce or accumulate, which means you need to get it daily through diet.
The good news is that zinc is very easy to add to your diet!
Zinc is mostly found in oysters, but it’s also found in beef liver which is why I supplement with these desiccated liver capsules or zinc supplements (or more often than not, both!)If you go the supplement route, know that there are several different varieties of zinc to choose from. Some much better than others. Here is the quick rundown of the more popular forms:
- Zinc Picolinate: This is the kind I take. It is a chelated form of zinc, making it highly absorbable.
- Zinc Citrate: This tends to be a cheaper form, and you get what you pay for on this. This form is known for its laxative effects. In addition, it’s less absorbable, so you have to take more. Which when we’re talking laxatives, more is unfortunately more.
- Zinc Gluconate: not as well absorbed as picolinate, but commonly used.
- Zinc Sulfate/Oxide: A topical form of zinc mainly used in lotions, creams, or for skin problems like psoriasis.
Additional Benefits of Zinc for Autoimmune Disease
In addition to maintaining the health of your immune system, one of the unique qualities of zinc is its ability to repair intestinal permeability, aka leaky gut. Which, as you know, is huge for people living with an autoimmune disease .
There is a reason why zinc is always one of the top 5 vitamins/minerals recommended for people with autoimmune diseases. If Vitamin C is the King of immune system health, then Zinc is the Queen.