Zinc is one of the most important trace minerals in humans. It is crucial for all elements of health, but particularly for the nervous, reproductive, skin and immune systems. In the immune system, it has direct effects on the production, maturation and function of leukocytes (parts of the immune system involved in infection) and influences the function of immunostimulants. Additionally, it regulates the innate and adaptive immune responses and interestingly a deficiency of zinc has been seen to increase inflammation in the body.
In addition to its antioxidant status, it also influences the immune system by being a crucial part of the repair process (such as wound healing) and it stabilises the cell structure and membranes.
In regard to its role in cellular repair, zinc helps to reduce ‘leaky gut’, a term used to describe intestinal permeability, by supporting the mucosal integrity. Leaky gut is when the tight junctions in our digestive tract loosen, and let larger particles into the bloodstream, which can lead to a range of health issues and symptoms such as allergy responses. Zinc is also involved in the digestion process of breaking down carbohydrates, proteins and fats from food, and in turn converting them to the energy we need to function well.
In male reproductive health, zinc promotes sperm quality, balances hormones such as testosterone and also reduces free radical damage which may affect sperm health.
Zinc is commonly used in both skin supplement formulas as well as topical products due to its tissue healing properties. Interestingly, skin is the third most zinc abundant tissue in the body
and it has been shown to increase the rates of the natural processes of skin healing.
Food sources of zinc are oysters and other shellfish, red meat, chicken, pumpkin, sesame and hemp seeds, legumes (however, the phytates in legumes can inhibit absorption of zinc), eggs and cheese.
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