As flu seasons come and go we’re all looking for ways to pump up our immune systems. We’ve previous posted about the importance of Vitamin D in battling the flu, and you’re probably familiar with other common cold fighting vitamins and supplements like vitamin C, Echinacea and ginseng.
When it comes to clobbering these viruses, you want to get sufficient amounts of zinc. It’s a vital mineral known to bolster your immune system and help relieve cold and flu symptoms.
In 2009, researchers at the University of Florida discovered that zinc boosts the action of your body’s T cells – which help wipe out viruses and bacteria.[i]
Other research shows zinc is useful in relieving cold and flu symptoms such as cough, sore throat, mucus discharge and body aches.
The Journal of the American Pharmacists Association published an overview of zinc studies. It showed the mineral reduced the severity of a cold when it was administered within 24 hour of the first symptoms appearing.[ii]
Another study revealed participants who took zinc lozenges had “a shorter mean overall duration of cold (4.0 vs. 7.1 days).” The study authors remarked the improvement in cold symptoms was likely related to the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of zinc.[iii]
Zinc Helps in Different Ways
As well as boosting your immune system, zinc also:
- Lifts enzyme activity
- Supports thyroid function
- Assists in insulin production and storage
For women, zinc is necessary during pregnancy as it’s important for the growth and development of a baby. Pregnant women need to increase their zinc intake by at least 3 mg daily.
For men, zinc holds promise in fighting prostate cancer – the second leading cause of cancer related death adult males.[iv] Zinc may play a significant role against cadmium, a chemical that is a risk factor for prostate cancer. Scientists believe zinc produces higher levels of a protein that attaches itself to cadmium and thereby blocking the chemical from causing damage in the body.[v]
Getting the Right Amount
Zinc is not stored in your system for very long, so you need to get sufficient amounts from your diet.
Good sources of zinc include oyster, meat, crab and lobster. You can also find it in whole grain bread, legumes and cereals. However, plant-based sources contain phytates (phytic acid), which bind to zinc. This process can interfere with your body’s ability to fully absorb the mineral.
Your required daily amount of zinc varies according to your age, diet, sex and state of health.
|Recommended Dietary Allowances for Zinc|
|Birth to 6 months||2 mg*||2 mg*|
|7 months to 3 years||3 mg||3 mg|
|4 to 8 Years||5 mg||5 mg|
|9 to 13 Years||8 mg||8 mg|
|14 to 18 Years||11 mg||9 mg||13 mg||14 mg|
|19+years||11 mg||8 mg||11 mg||12 g|
* Adequate Intake (AI). Source: Institute of Medicine, Food and Nutrition Board.
Research reveals 25 percent of adults over 60 years are deficient in zinc. This is usually because their aging digestive systems are not as efficient at absorbing nutrients. If you fall into the 60 + age group, you may need to take a zinc supplement.
Another group at risk for deficiency is vegetarians. They may require 50 percent more zinc than non-vegetarians.
To get as much zinc as possible from plant sources, the American Dietic Association suggests you soak beans, grains, and seeds in water for several hours before cooking. After soaking, let the contents sit until sprouts form.
As well as vegetarians, anyone with colitis, Crohn’s disease, diabetes, and liver problems may need additional zinc.
Never try “do-it-yourself” dosing with zinc supplements. Excessive zinc can actually depress your immune system and decrease levels of HDL (good) cholesterol. Your chiropractor will be happy to advise you on the right amount.
Along with regular chiropractic care, zinc is one of the best ways to fortify your body from colds and flu. The results could be a sniffle-free winter!
[i] Zinc transporter ZIP8 (SLC39A8) and zinc influence IFN – expression in activated human T cells – Journal of Leukocyte Biology, 2009; 86 (2): 337 DOI: 10.1189/jlb.1208759
[ii] Efficacy of zinc against common cold viruses: an overview – J Am Pharm Assoc (2003). 2004 Sept-Oct; 44(5): 594-603.
[iii] Duration and severity of symptoms and levels of plasma interleukin-1 receptor antagonist, soluble tumor necrosis factor receptor, and adhesion molecules in patients with common cold treated with zinc acetate – J Infect Dis. 2008 Mar 15; 197 (6): 795-802
[v] Prostate-specific antigen levels in relation to cadmium exposure and zinc intake: results from the 2001-2002 national health and nutrition examination survey – The Prostate, 2008, Volume 68 Issue 2, Pages 122-128