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12 signs that your body needs more Zinc

12 signs that your body needs more Zinc

The human body requires different minerals and vitamins to keep going. Zinc is a mineral that is able to activate over 300 enzymes being responsible for immunity, cell division, cell growth, protein- and DNA synthesis. Moreover, we cannot produce, nor store this nutrient. That makes Zinc an essential nutrient that needs to be consumed regularly.

In this article we show the most common signs that you need to increase your Zinc intake and we share how to do it.

Table of Contents

What is Zinc?

Zinc is an incredibly versatile mineral. While it can be used industrially for galvanizing metals, protecting against rusting or acting as a catalyst for chemical reactions, in your body it can help boost immunity, restore fertility and promote healthy skin.

Its role in your body

Zinc is the second-most abundant trace mineral in your body (after iron) and is present in every single cell!

It plays a key role in immune system function, memory, fertility, DNA synthesis, cell growth, metabolism, wound healing, skin health and may protect against acne, inflammation, and other conditions. Zinc also supports healthy growth and development during pregnancy, childhood and adolescence.

Besides these, Zinc plays an important role in both men’s and women’s reproductive health and sexual functioning. A Zinc deficiency in men has been associated with decreased testosterone levels and libido. Zinc helps maintain healthy sperm count and quality, improve infertility in men, boost sex drive and enhance sexual performance. It is effective in treating premature ejaculation, erectile dysfunction and low sperm quality.

But women’s sexual life may also benefit from taking Zinc. This mineral is known to help combat certain reproductive issues, as it improves the development of hormones associated with fertility and sexual arousal. Additionally, Zinc can be responsible for increased lubrication in women during intercourse.

Copper and Zinc imbalance

The levels of Zinc are important in the body but just as important is the Zinc to Copper ratio that should be around 10:1. This is usually not the case, especially for those who follow a vegetarian or vegan diet.

A commonly reported consequence of vegetarian or vegan diets, or even diets that rely mostly on plant foods, is chronic fatigue – often caused by an inadequate ratio of Zinc/Copper or simply by Zinc deficiency.

While copper is abundant in a wide variety of foods and therefore it is fairly easy to take in, the best dietary sources of Zinc are animal based.

Copper and Zinc are antagonists, which means they work against one another and compete for binding sites. Excess copper can lead to a Zinc deficiency and vice versa. When you have an imbalance in the two, it can lead to health problems. Their ratio might even be a good marker for inflammation that predicts all-cause mortality.

Signs of inadequate Zinc levels

Signs of inadequate Zinc levels

1. Decreased immunity

Low Zinc intake can make you more prone to infections and illness. If you fall ill often, with particular regard to upper respiratory diseases, then it can be a sign of Zinc deficiency. Increasing the intake of Zinc can also help to recover from cold faster than normal. Zinc deficiency is also likely to increase histamine production and result in allergies.

2. Feeling tired

Although it is not specific to Zinc deficiency, it should be taken into account all the same.

3. White spots on the fingernails

This is a classic sign of Zinc deficiency. Supplementing with Zinc has shown to inhibit the formation of new white spots from appearing.

4. Brain fog

A low Zinc intake can lead to brain fog, making it difficult to focus and may also be responsible for memory problems. In the lack of Zinc, the brain activity is slowed down due to reduced production of neurotransmitters, sometimes paired with problems of memory loss.

5. Mood and Neurological Disturbances

Zinc plays an integral part in modulating the brain’s response to stress. Zinc is also a cofactor for the manufacture of the neurotransmitters serotonin, GABA and dopamine. Deficiencies in these neurotransmitters can lead to anxiety, depression, and insomnia.

6. Altered/loss of taste and smell

People with Zinc deficiency have a reduced sensation of taste and smell due to reduced gustin secretion. Studies have found that Zinc supplementation improves the body’s taste and smell abilities.

7. Thinning and graying hair, hair loss

Alopecia or baldness is a well-known sign of Zinc deficiency with hair growth occurring with Zinc supplementation. Zinc is an essential cofactor needed for healthy thyroid function. Low Zinc levels can lead to reduced thyroid health and can result in hair thinning.

8. Diarrhea and other gastrointestinal problems

Zinc supplementation helps strengthen the intestinal lining and protect against Leaky Gut Syndrome. Most gastrointestinal conditions benefit from Zinc supplementation and often require higher levels because the intestinal absorption of Zinc may be affected.

9. Hormonal problems

Zinc is essential for the secretion of certain hormones, including insulin.

10. Poorer wound healing

Zinc deficiency may decrease rates of fibroplasia, epithelialization, and collagen synthesis; compromise wound strength; and impair immune response, increasing the susceptibility to skin breakdown.

11. Dermatitis

Zinc deficiency can result in skin changes that look like eczema at first. There may be cracks with a smooth or glassy appearance on the skin. These changes may be noticed first around the mouth and hands.

12. Poor night vision

Zinc deficiency may also result in abnormal dark adaptation or night blindness.

Foods high in Zinc

foods high in zinc

The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for adults is 11 mg a day for men and 8 mg for women. Pregnancy and lactation require slightly more at 11 mg and 12 mg, respectively.

You may wonder whether your dietary Zinc intake is adequate. Well, it partly depends on how much you eat of the following foods on a regular basis.

The top Zinc-containing foods are the following:



Amount of Zinc/100 g



182 mg


Toasted wheat germ

17 mg


Veal liver

12 mg



10 mg


Pumpkin seeds

10 mg



7-10 mg


Cocoa powder

7 mg



6 mg



4-8 mg




*Even though legumes contain Zinc, they also contain phytates. These antinutrients inhibit the absorption of Zinc and other minerals.
Table 1.: Foods high in Zinc

But Zinc deficiency can occur due to many other factors as well, including:

  • Over-processing of food
  • Dysbiosis or other digestive diseases such as Ulcerative Colitis and Chron’s disease
  • Diarrhea or poor digestive absorption
  • Stress caused by excessive exercise, mental stress or a bad sleeping habit
  • Chronic infections
  • High alcohol intake
  • Excess coffee consumption
  • Diet high in phytates (wholegrains) or in fructose
  • Excess copper intake
  • Iron supplementation higher than 25mg
  • Taking oral contraceptives, steroids, anticonvulsants and some antibiotics.

The takeaway

Zinc is needed for DNA synthesis, immune function, growth, to reduce inflammation and much more. A Zinc deficiency is not an emergency in most cases. However, older adults, those following restrictive diets, people with conditions that inhibit Zinc absorption and people who suspect Zinc deficiency based on the above mentioned symptoms may need to increase their Zinc intake either by changing their diet or by taking Zinc as a supplement.