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The wonder behind  mineral #3, Zinc, for maintaining healthy thyroid function.  We have already discussed Selenium and Iodine.   Zinc is wonder mineral and support of over 300 functions carried out by our wonderful bodies!  Thyroid health is just part of what this mineral does for us.

Let’s have a closer look at Zinc.

From a food standpoint, zinc may be a less familiar dietary mineral than iron, calcium or sodium.  It is very important to our metabolism.  Like magnesium, zinc is used as a co-factor by a number of critical enzymes.  There are more than 300 zinc-dependent enzymes in the human body.  So, even a mild dietary deficiency of zinc can health implications. Thyroid function is just one of several.

The importance of this mineral to multiple body systems makes it even more important for us to get an adequate amount of zinc in our daily diet.  Although there is some amount of zinc in many whole – unprocessed – foods, no individual food ranks as an excellent source of this mineral except maybe oysters.   What this indicates to me, is throwing a wide net over my diet and ensuring I vary my diet to include as many natural sources of zinc as I can before adding supplements.   I have included a food chart for you below.  Its very detailed and may help you priorities where you source your zinc.

Before we venture down the food track, lets have look at all the functions this mineral supports in our bodies.  I suspect you will have a greater apparition for this wonderful mineral.  Also keep in mind, you need 11 milligrams from your diet or supplements daily to maintain these functions.

How Zinc supports the body

Immune Function – Diets low in zinc can induce measurable reductions in the activity of the immune system. These reductions occur relatively quickly, in a matter of weeks.  And can be restored very quickly once zinc levels are restored.  Elderly individuals are especially prone to developing reduced immunity related to poor zinc nutrition. Even in this at-risk population, restoring zinc status appears to reverse the detrimental changes within weeks.

According to The Worlds Healthiest Foods (WHFoods) website, one research group has gone so far as to recommend using a Mediterranean-style diet to protect against zinc deficiency in elderly individuals.

Skin Health – Researchers have been able to induce acne symptoms in young men by feeding them diets deficient in zinc. This effect occurs surprisingly quickly, with one research group demonstrating a significant change in skin health within 12 days of depleted zinc foods. Other researchers have been able to demonstrate a number of other skin and related symptoms, including facial rash, foot fungus, and canker sores. Again, each of these changes was reversed when zinc was brought back into the diet. The significance of this study suggests that too little zinc from your diet can be a factor in compromising skin health, and that it’s worthwhile building your zinc intake up to recommended levels in order to support the health of your skin.

Sensory Organs (taste and sight) – Acute depletion of zinc can causes loss of the sense of taste and appetite. The level of zinc deficiency necessary to cause these changes appears to be more severe than the immune system changes.  The other factor that can affect taste is often related to cancer treatment or anorexia.   One study suggests that about 15% of elderly people who lost their sense of taste did so due to zinc deficiency, and some others did so due to more serious conditions.    If you lose your sense of taste, make sure to report this to your doctor.

Zinc is also critical to vision. It works together with vitamin A to help sense light and to send nerve impulses to the brain. Although we don’t currently know how much of age-related vision loss is due to zinc deficiency, researchers have shown that zinc levels in the retina (the part of the eye that sees light) decline in tandem with vision loss.

Male Reproductive Health – Advanced deficiency of zinc can impair motility and number of sperm. In one study, young male volunteers ate a diet with only 10% of the Daily Value requirement (15 milligrams) for a little over a month. Researchers measured sperm quality and quantity before and after the zinc-deficient diet.   This study demonstrated that even brief periods of severe zinc deficiency can lead to measurable changes in sperm composition and quantity. Studies correlating diseases known to impair zinc nutrition with reduced fertility seem to second this conclusion.

Thyroid Health – according to Dr. Nikolas Hedberg – “Of all the supplements out there for thyroid health, zinc may actually be my favorite because of its versatility and broad-spectrum use. Many supplements are only effective for one aspect of thyroid function, but Zinc is effective for many types of thyroid dysfunction. The T3 receptor requires zinc to function properly so a deficiency may result in subclinical hypothyroidism even though your lab tests look normal. Additionally, zinc is required for proper conversion of T4 into T3.

Zinc is also the second most abundant element in the body second only to iron. You must have adequate zinc levels to properly metabolize vitamin D and vitamin A, both of which are vital for thyroid health.  Proper thyroid hormone levels are required for zinc absorption and metabolism, and zinc is required for healthy thyroid function. This creates a vicious cycle if either one of these becomes out of balance.

Adrenal connection

Zinc-Adrenal-Thyroid Connection – Excessive cortisol levels will impair thyroid function in many ways including abnormal TSH levels, decreased conversion of T4 into T3, and elevated reverse T3. For those who are under a lot of stress, zinc supplementation has been shown to lower cortisol levels thus reducing the negative effects of stress on your thyroid.”

For more information and for your own research, I recommend further reading from these wonderful writers:

The Adrenal Thyroid Revolution by Aviva Romm, M.D.
Hashimoto’s Protocol by Izabella Wentz PharmD, FASCP
The Thyroid Connection by Amy Myers, MD


What about Signs of low zinc?

So how do you know if you are low on zinc?  Great questions and as usual our unique bodies give us signs – we just need to learn to read these signs.  Here are a few for you to consider:

Exess and Deficiency

The importance of BALANCE with the essential mineral Zinc!

Slow wound healing
White spots on your fingernails
Hair loss (alopecia)
Poor immune system function (you catch everything that is going around and it takes forever to get better)
Impotence and low testosterone in men
Poor brain function
Insulin resistance (difficulty metabolizing carbohydrates)
Poor vision and hearing
Loss of taste
Low Free T4 and Free T3 levels (30% decrease in Zinc deficiency)
Elevated reverse T3
Elevated thyroid antibodies
(including thyroid peroxidase and anti-thyroglobulin
Low growth hormone levels)

Ah and the wonders of Whole Foods!

What wonderful foods can you enjoy in your diet that will help you maintain your daily zinc requirements.   According to The Worlds Healthiest Foods these are the foods can and should add into your diet in addition to Oysters.

Note about oysters – a typical oyster weighing approximately one ounce will contain about 8-9 milligrams of zinc. So, two oysters would put you over the WHFoods recommended daily amount of 11 milligrams.

World’s Healthiest Foods ranked as quality sources of
Foods Rating
Beef4 oz175.04.09373.8very good
Spinach1 cup41.41.37125.4very good
Asparagus1 cup39.61.08104.5very good
Mushrooms, Shiitake0.50 cup40.60.9693.9very good
Mushrooms, Crimini1 cup15.80.7978.2very good
Lamb4 oz310.43.87352.0good
Sesame Seeds0.25 cup206.32.79252.2good
Pumpkin Seeds0.25 cup180.32.52232.3good
Garbanzo Beans1 cup269.02.51231.5good
Lentils1 cup229.72.51231.8good
Cashews0.25 cup221.22.31211.7good
Quinoa0.75 cup222.02.02181.5good
Turkey4 oz166.71.95181.9good
Shrimp4 oz134.91.85172.2good
Tofu4 oz164.41.78161.8good
Scallops4 oz125.91.76162.3good
Green Peas1 cup115.71.64152.3good
Oats0.25 cup151.71.55141.7good
Yogurt1 cup149.41.45131.6good
Beet Greens1 cup38.90.7273.0good
Summer Squash1 cup36.00.7063.2good
Broccoli1 cup54.60.7062.1good
Swiss Chard1 cup35.00.5852.7good
Brussels Sprouts1 cup56.20.5151.5good
Miso1 TBS34.20.4442.1good
Parsley0.50 cup10.90.3334.9good
Sea Vegetables1 TBS10.80.3335.0good
Tomatoes1 cup32.40.3131.6good
Bok Choy1 cup20.40.2932.3good

Table direct from The Worlds Healthiest Foods website.

Plants and Seeds, great sources of zinc!

So many dietary sources of zinc. Spread these great foods throughout your diet.

Let’s put this into practical terms…

To summarize, the mineral zinc is essential for our overall health and wellbeing.  There are more than 300 zinc-dependent enzymes in the human body.  And when we lack zinc, the impacts can be observed visually and physically.    Zinc supports multiple hormone conversions for proper Thyroid function – as well as supporting our sense of taste, sight, male fertility and skin health.  It also is a huge support to our immunity.    Additionally, zinc helps with elevated cortisol levels resulting from extreme stress, which can result in an overabundance of reverse T3.   An overabundance of reverse T3 has the symptoms of Hypothyroidism.   Which affected me for several years!

Your turn.  Now is the time to ensure you are getting your daily dose of zinc.   The daily recommend amount adults need is 11 milligrams.  Refer to the chart above and enjoy a wide range of foods, daily, in your diet.  Try to ensure a zinc rich food makes into your weekly meal plan for daily consumption, and enjoy the riches your diet can offer your bodies ongoing health.

To Your Good Health!