The benefits of Zinc for Immunity
Zinc is the most important trace mineral for strengthening the immune system and protecting the body from viral infections. Over 2 billion people worldwide are deficient in zinc because foods are grown on soils which are depleted of trace minerals.
In this article, we will explain how Zinc boosts your immune system and protects your body from viral infections.
1. T-Cells: When we get infected by viruses or other invaders, our body releases immune cells which target and kill the infection. Zinc is extremely important as it helps the thymus gland to make cytotoxic T-cells. These hunt down cells in your body that have been infected and kill them by injecting poison. This stops the virus from spreading throughout your body and making you very poorly.
2. Natural Killer cells: These are another part of your immune system which are the key soldiers against viral and cancer growths in the body. Natural Killer Cells bind to viruses in the body and injects a chemical called perforin which causes the infected cells to die. Getting lots of zinc in the diet helps the body to produce perforin so that you can fight off the infection faster.
3. Faster Healing: Viruses cause damage to your tissues by triggering inflammation in the body and weakening your immune system. Zinc, however, helps to speed up healing and is involved with every phase of this process. It reduces inflammation so that cells can be restored quickly, and also helps to repair the cell membranes and form new blood vessels.
4. Immune Response: When we are deficient in zinc we are more likely to get infected by viruses and bacteria. Zinc is involved with making DNA and proteins in the body that keep the immune system strong and healthy. If you are deficient in zinc then your immune response is much slower, which could cause the infection to spread faster through the body.
5. Oxidative Stress: Infections and diseases cause oxidative stress in the body. This is collateral damage which can make you age faster. Oxidative stress can cause all kinds of health problems down the line such as macular degeneration in the eyes, cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer’s It is important to consume foods rich in anti-oxidants to prevent this from happening. Zinc is a powerful antioxidant which can help to prevent oxidative stress from viral infections.
6. Lymphocytes: Zinc is also important for signalling and controlling lymphocytes. Lymphocytes are a type of white blood cell which recognises viruses or antigens in the body. These cause viruses and pathogens to stick together so that other parts of the immune system can destroy them.
7. Upper Respiratory: Infections The most common types of viruses attack the lungs, sinuses and airways leaving you with symptoms of coughing, breathing difficulty, sore throat and runny nose. Studies show that taking a daily supplement of zinc can rapidly speed up the healing process in this area. Zinc deficiency is also linked to pneumonia in the lungs, so it is important to get plenty of this into your diet from healthy foods.
8. Sources: Zinc is an essential micronutrient and we need to consume this every single day to maintain a strong immune system. Zinc is found in many grains and legumes however is not absorbed easily because of phytates. The most easily absorbable and best sources of zinc are grass-fed beef, crab meat, oysters, liver, mussels and pumpkin seeds. We also recommend consuming Avocado’s daily as these also contain small amounts of zinc and have many other immune-boosting nutrients.
9. Requirements: Men need at least 11mg of Zinc per day from the diet, and women need at least 8mg per day. Pregnant women and nursing mothers may need at least 12mg.
10. Supplement: If you can’t get enough Zinc from your food then it is recommended to take a daily supplement. When looking for a product, be sure to use one which contains “Zinc Biglycinate Chelate”. This is the best natural form of zinc which is 100 per cent absorbed by the body, unlike other varieties. We recommend getting zinc in a blend of other trace minerals to support the billions of cells throughout the human body.
As you can see, zinc is a very important nutrient when it comes to the immune system and fighting viruses. Eating too many grains can block your absorption of zinc such as bread, cereal, pasta, pancakes, cookies and biscuits. Anything which contains flour can lower your zinc levels because of phytates and oxalates. Cut out these refined foods and start eating leafy greens, seafood and red meat to quickly boost your zinc intake. Consuming alcohol on a regular basis also depletes your zinc levels. It is important to cut alcohol out of the diet if you are looking to fully raise your immune defences. If you are breastfeeding, pregnant, vegan or on diuretic medication then you are more likely to be deficient in zinc, so be sure to add more into the diet to counter this.