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As I sit here on my couch blowing my nose for the millionth time, I am thinking of all the natural cold and flu remedies I have with zinc in it. I find it in lozenges, teas, throat sprays, supplements, and multi-vitamins and I did some more research to see all the benefits it offers.
Zinc is so important because it is vital for the metabolism of RNA and DNA, helps gene expression and tells cells when it’s their turn to die. It is important in brain function, learning, and mood. It helps in the production of hormones, like testosterone. Basically, it’s found in over 100 enzymes.
It’s an essential nutrient, a powerful antioxidant, and important to the healing process. It’s critical in growth and development of a growing fetus (and anecdotally I am told it helps prevent stretch marks!) Plus, like all my throat sprays and cough drops imply, it helps speed the immune process when you’re sick.
Zinc is highest in oysters by a landslide; however if you’re averse to seafood you can also find it in beef, pork and chicken in smaller amounts. Vegetarians will be happy to know there is a bit in beans, cashews, and almonds.
As it is absorbed from the digestive tract, those with absorption issues such as irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s, celiac, and chronic diarrhea can cause low levels. Additionally, vegetarians and vegans don’t get adequate levels in without a multi-vitamin because the amount in beans and nuts is considerably lower than in oysters and beef.
When supplementing with zinc, toxicity can occur at large doses and it’s important to balance it with iron and copper. Those of you taking iron supplements can block the binding of zinc, while taking zinc supplements can block the binding of copper. Therefore, take your zinc with a bit of copper but away from your iron. If you need more zinc, I typically recommend 15-25mg with 1-2mg of copper.
So if you become ill this holiday season and notice zinc in many of your cold and flu remedies, take note that it’s a very important nutrient and will probably do your body good to take a little extra when you’re feeling down.