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Zinc and Your Immune System

By Paul Rothbart

There are many factors involved in staying in top health. Having a healthy immune system is paramount. After all, that is the system responsible for fighting viruses, bacteria, and disease. So, it would make sense that anything that boosted the immune system is something you would want in your body. That brings us to zinc. A trace mineral that, in the right quantities, helps the body heal. Here are some important things to know about zinc.

What Zinc Can Do

As a supplement, zinc is used to fight the common cold and upper respiratory infections. Studies have discovered that taking zinc lozenges can reduce the duration of colds. Zinc is very helpful to the body in fighting infections and healing wounds. It can also be used topically to treat skin irritations, acne, and diaper rash. Studies are also being conducted to see if zinc may be helpful in treating high cholesterol, herpes, and HIV; no conclusive evidence has yet been found, but scientists suspect zinc may be useful in treating these problems. 

How Much Is Needed

The recommended daily allowance of zinc varies by age and gender. Infants and toddlers up to 3 years of age require only 3 milligrams per day, while older children need 5 milligrams. Pre-teen females require 8 milligrams and from teen to adulthood, women require 9. Pregnant or breastfeeding a woman will require 12-13 milligrams per day. Males from their teen years through adulthood need 11 milligrams per day. 

Where to Get Zinc

Zinc is plentiful in the average diet except in underdeveloped countries and sometimes for vegetarians. Supplements are generally not necessary. Red meat, poultry, and oysters are loaded with zinc. It can also be found in whole grains, nuts, and beans. Fortified cereals have zinc added. Getting the mineral naturally through food is the preferred method of ingestion with supplements only being used for those who can't get it in the diet or during a period of illness.

Side Effects of Zinc Supplements

Taking zinc supplements can cause irritation in the mouth and stomach. Zinc lozenges and nasal sprays can have a negative effect on sense of smell and taste. In some cases, the sprays have permanently changed the sense of smell. Zinc supplements can have interactions with birth control pills and antibiotics or even some other mineral supplements. It is important to check with a doctor before taking zinc along with medication or supplements. 

Staying healthy means being able to fight off infections and heal wounds. This is the job of the immune system, which is boosted by the mineral zinc. Getting the recommended daily allowance will help avoid illness. 

To learn more about your health, wellness and fitness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic in Midwest City, Okla.

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