Food & Nutrition

7 Signs You’re Not Getting Enough Zinc

The mineral zinc is responsible for promoting proper growth and development, healing wounds, and preventing blood clotting and thyroid problems. Here are clues you might not be getting enough zinc in your diet.

Delayed or stunted growth

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Boyan Hadjiev, MD, certified in internal medicine and allergy and immunology, says not meeting certain growth standards, including dysfunctions in the immune system, can be a sign of zinc deficiency. He says studies following adolescent athletes, particularly gymnasts, have played a factor in understanding zinc deficiencies. “A combination of increased sweat loss with a decreased intake of certain foods” is something to look out for among athletes, says Dr. Hadjiev, as these actions can contribute to zinc deficiency. High-zinc foods include seafood like oysters, lobster, and crab; beef, chicken, and pork; nuts like cashews and almonds; and legumes such as chickpeas and kidney beans. These are other clues you aren’t getting enough vitamins (and might not know it).

Irritability

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Low energy and depression, as well as deficit diseases such as ADD and ADHD, have also been linked to zinc deficiencies, according to Dr. Hadjiev. He says on average men and women should not consume more than 40 milligrams on zinc per day, but dosages vary based on age and body conditions, such as pregnancy, or if one is breastfeeding. Lisa Moskovitz, RD, CDN, CPT, stresses a balanced diet to avoid a zinc deficiency. “A balanced diet, including plenty of vegetables, fresh fruits, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats, is the ticket for nourishing your body and maintaining proper health,” she says. These are healthy-eating secrets nutritionists won’t tell you for free.

Slow wound healing

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Zinc, considered an “essential trace element,” plays many diverse roles in how the body functions. Slow wound healing is one of the more telling signs of a zinc deficiency. “A patient doesn’t walk into the door and say ‘I have a zinc deficiency,’” Dr. Hadjiev says. “You sort of have to figure it out. It’s subtle findings. There are so many different body systems that can be involved, so you have to be suspicious.”

Rough and dry skin

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Experiencing skin conditions may also be a sign of zinc deficiency, particularly rashes. Moskovitz says if there are any suspicions you may be zinc deficient, you should consult with a primary care physician. Even listing the symptoms feels a bit like consulting WebMD. “The list of findings is very generalized. You can have abdominal pain, loss of hair, loss of appetite, delayed wound healing,” Dr. Hadjiev says. “You can be depressed, you can have eczema or dermatitis, especially if it’s around the mouth or the anus.” Try these home remedies for eczema relief.

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