Supplement focus: Zinc
Keeping your immune system healthy year-round is key to preventing infection and disease. Making healthy lifestyle choices by consuming nutritious foods and getting enough sleep and exercise are the most important ways to bolster your immune system. In addition, research has shown that supplementing with certain vitamins, minerals, herbs, and other substances can improve immune response and potentially protect against illness.
Zinc – the immune booster
Zinc is a mineral that’s commonly added to supplements and other healthcare products that are meant to boost your immune system. This is because zinc is essential for immune system function.
Zinc is the second-most common trace mineral found in the human body. A deficiency in this nutrient significantly affects your immune system’s ability to function properly, resulting in an increased risk of infection and disease, including pneumonia. Deficiency in zinc further has associations with delayed growth in children.
Doctors do not have an easy blood test to determine if a person is zinc deficient. Instead, they will often consider the person’s symptoms and average dietary intakes when determining if they are zinc deficient. Conversely, a person can also experience zinc toxicity from excess zinc supplementation. However, eating foods high in zinc — even in large amounts — does not usually cause symptoms.
Zinc and COVID-19
Numerous studies reveal that zinc supplements may protect against respiratory tract infections like the common cold. What’s more, supplementing with zinc may be beneficial for those who are already sick.
Supplemental zinc may also help reduce the duration of the common cold.
As zinc is a nutrient known for its anti-viral properties, it might offer help to people diagnosed with the coronavirus. If you have relatively mild COVID-19 symptoms and don’t have any other medical conditions that would put you at high risk for developing complications of COVID-19, vitamins and supplements might help strengthen your immune system to fight the coronavirus. Because COVID-19 comes with cold and flu-like symptoms, Vitamins B, C and D, as well as zinc may be helpful in boosting your immune system and fighting the illness in the same way they can help you get over a cold or flu.
Remember, however, that there’s no scientific evidence to suggest that any of them can protect against COVID-19 – even though some of them may have antiviral properties. The World Health Organization has said more research is needed to determine whether zinc products can improve health outcomes among Covid-19 patients.
Foods high in zinc
Although supplements may offer a small benefit for immune health, they should not and cannot be used as a replacement for a healthy lifestyle. Maintaining a balanced diet, getting enough sleep, engaging in regular physical activity and not smoking are some of the most important ways to help keep your immune system healthy and reduce your chances of infection and disease.
Foods high in zinc include animal products, such as meat, shellfish, chicken and fortified breakfast cereal. However, beans, nuts, and seeds also contain zinc. Other zinc sources in a person’s diet include low fat yogurt, pumpkin seeds, milk, chickpeas, instant oatmeal, almonds, and Cheddar cheese.
Taking zinc long term is typically safe for healthy adults, as long as the daily dose is under the set upper limit of 40 mg of elemental. Excessive doses may interfere with copper absorption, which could increase your infection risk.
If you decide that you want to try a supplement, speak with your pharmacist at The Local Choice Pharmacy first, as some supplements may interact with certain medications or are inappropriate for some people.
Disclaimer: All content on the The Local Choice Pharmacy is created and published online for informational purposes only. It is not intended to serve as a substitute for professional medical advice and should not be relied on as health advice.