Over the past year or so during the pandemic, you’ve probably heard wellness enthusiasts boost about a couple of key natural remedies that can boost immunity—zinc being one of them. Zinc is an essential micronutrient that helps regulate gene expression, neurological growth, protein synthesis, and healing (1).
But it’s truly the immune benefits that make zinc a key element to include in your daily wellness routine. Today, we’re talking about why supplementing with zinc is a good idea, especially to keep your immune system in tip top shape during cold and flu season.
Why do we need zinc?
Most people are deficient in this essential mineral, and because our bodies can’t actually make zinc, we need to make sure we’re getting in our daily dose through food or supplementation.
A severe zinc deficiency can result in:
- Auto-immune conditions
- Adrenal problems
- Sinus infections
- Weight issues
- Thyroid problems
- Epstein-Barr Virus
- Hot flashes
- High cholesterol
- Heart palpitations
- Brittle hair and nails, hair loss
If you struggle with any of these symptoms above, supplementing with zinc should be at the top of your list.
Zinc is critical for:
- Immune function
- Liver health
- Cognitive function
- Healthy hair, skin, and nails
- Eye health
- Bone health
- DNA synthesis
- Carbohydrate metabolism
- Fertility and reproduction
Wellness and Immune Benefits of Zinc
- Zinc strengthens white blood cells, including lymphocytes, basophils, neutrophils, eosinophils, monocytes, and macrophages.
- Stabilizes blood glucose levels
- Supports pancreas and adrenal glands
- Strengthens endocrine system (thyroid, adrenals, thalamus)
- Supports neurotransmitters
- Critical for fertility
- Promotes healthy liver function
Supports Healthy Immune Response
The immune system works to eliminate unwanted toxins and viruses by activating white blood cells called macrophages. While macrophages are great at destroying invaders, they also require assistance from Helper T cells called Th1.
One study looked at the effects of a zinc-deficient diet on Th1 immune responses. The study analyzed participants who consumed a low-zinc diet for up to 24 weeks and found that a zinc-deficient diet led to a decreased Th1 immune activity and a compromised immune function in all subjects (2). This means that making sure our diet is rich in zinc will help strengthen immune response.
Supports production of T -lymphocytes
T-lymphocytes are critical immune cells that help the body destroy infected cells. One particular study analyzed zinc’s effects on the production of T-lymphocytes, immune response to a tetanus vaccine, and immune-related skin reactions on a group of older adults. For one month, participants were either given a placebo or zinc supplement. At the end of the study, T-lymphocytes increased significantly in the zinc group while remaining the same in the control group.
The zinc users also had a higher ability to produce antibodies, which remove harmful bacteria and viruses. Overall, the study found that zinc users had a better antibody response and increased activity and production of immune cells.
Support During Infection
Zinc is an essential mineral when it comes to fighting viruses—and in a way, viruses are allergic to zinc! It’s very common to become zinc deficient quickly when the body is trying to fight off a virus. This is because zinc is transported from the blood into the body’s tissues to help resist the spread of infection (4).
Rapid depletion of zinc can lead to an overactive immune response and excessive production of cytokines, inhibiting the recovery process (5).
Research has found that adults who have low blood levels of zinc have elevated cytokines and a prolonged recovery from infection.
One study randomly assigned a group of older adults to receive a zinc supplement or placebo pill. After six months of use, those who supplemented with zinc had fewer infections, lower oxidative stress, and lesser amounts of unhealthy cytokines (6).
Zinc is a key supplement to keep on hand not only during cold and flu season but all the time. When a virus comes around, zinc kills viral cells and reduces inflammatory reactions to neurotoxins produced by viruses.
Reduce Recovery Time
Supplementing with zinc during an infection can have many benefits, including reduced recovery time. A meta-analysis found that taking zinc within the first few days of a cold shortened the duration by 33 percent than the placebo group (7). Which brings us to our next point!
Cold and Flu Support
Although we make sure to stay on top of our health daily to avoid any development of viral infections, we always keep liquid zinc sulfate on hand when it is unavoidable. Anthony Williams calls this specific healing practice “zinc shock therapy”. When you feel the first sign of a flu, squirt two dropperfuls into your throat, let it sit there for a minute or so, and then swallow. We do this every three waking hours for about two days. It works like a charm when all else fails.
Zinc is responsible for all of the over 2,000 chemical functions of the liver, even including the creation of your liver at birth and development as you grow/grew older!
Without zinc, your liver can’t perform its daily functions. Even more, the burden of viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens that our liver works to get rid of (thanks to zinc) depletes zinc levels further.
Another job of zinc is to eliminate high levels of copper in the liver that can damage the liver. When our zinc levels and reserves are so low in our liver, it can make the body susceptible to a host of viral-related auto-immune disorders and illnesses. If our body has an optimal amount of zinc, it can help the liver’s immune system fend off toxic microorganisms.
Best Foods with Zinc
Including foods high in zinc in your diet daily is a great way to make sure you’re nourishing your body. Here are some of the best foods with zinc:
- Collard greens
- Nettle leaf
- Raw honey
- Pumpkin seeds
- Wild-caught Salmon
- Grass-fed red meat
Although it’s great to add these foods in your diet, it’s important to remember that the food we are eating now does not contain nearly as many vitamins and minerals as it used to. This is due to toxic heavy metals, soil depletion, and more. This is why we recommend taking a high-quality zinc supplement.
- Gammoh NZ, Rink L. Nutrients. 2017. 9(6): p. 624.
- Beck FW, et al. Am J Physiol. 1997.
- Duchateau J, et al. Am J Med. 1981. 70(5): p. 1001-1004.
- Besecker BY, et al. Am J Clin Nutr. 2011. 93(6): p. 1356-1364.
- Haase H, Rink L. Immun Ageing. 2009. (6): p. 9.
- Cakman I, et al. J Interferon Cytokine Res. 1997. 17(8): p. 469-472.
- Hemilä H. JRSM Open. 2017. 8(5).
- “Think Zinc for Optimal Immune Health – (Respiratory & Immune Benefits).” Nordic Naturals – Healthy Science, 23 Sept. 2020, www.nordicnaturals.com/healthy-science/think-zinc-for-optimal-immune-health/#ref-4.
- medicalmedium.com, Medical Medium at. “Zinc: Essential Mineral For Health.” Medical Medium, www.medicalmedium.com/blog/zinc-essential-mineral-for-health.