Zinc is an essential element to our well-being. Zinc acts as a catalyst in about 100 different enzyme reactions required by our body, and is involved in DNA synthesis, immune function, protein synthesis, and cell division. It is required for proper sense of taste and smell, detoxification, wound healing, and thyroid function. Zinc is not stored in the body, thus a daily intake of zinc is required to maintain sufficient levels.
One in four individuals in the general population may be zinc deficient, and most people with hypothyroidism are in fact zinc deficient. Zinc deficiency prevents the conversion of T4 into the active T3 version. This perpetuates the Hashimoto’s vicious cycle by a slowed metabolism of proteins.
Zinc is also needed to form TSH, and may become depleted in those with hypothyroidism who are constantly producing more TSH.
Zinc deficiency has also been associated with increased intestinal permeability and susceptibility to infections as well as reduced detoxification of bacterial toxins.
Oysters have the highest concentration of zinc, but they are not something most people would enjoy eating every day. Beef, liver, pork, lobster, and chicken are the next best sources of zinc, as it is easiest to extract zinc from meat compared with non-meat sources. Thus, vegetarians also have an increased risk of zinc deficiency.
Zinc deficiency can show up on a liver function blood test as low alkaline phosphatase levels. The importance of alkaline phosphatase will be discussed in further detail…
In order to address deficiency, zinc supplementation may be utilized, with doses of no more than 30 mg per day. This is because Zinc supplementation above 40 mg may cause a depletion in copper levels. If choosing to take zinc, one should also take a copper supplement. Usually 1.5 mg–3 mg of copper should be sufficient. (General recommendations are to take 1 mg of copper for every 15 mg of zinc).
Caution: Zinc can cause depletion in copper and iron. Fifty milligrams of zinc given over ten weeks impaired both iron and copper absorption in one study.
Symptoms of copper deficiency are: anemia not responsive to iron supplementation, trouble with walking and balance, fatigue, and light headedness.