Zinc As An Essential Immunity Mineral
By Dr. Chad Walding, DPT, NativePath Co-Founder
Zinc is a mineral that's considered essential because your body can't make it on its own.
This vital mineral plays a role in the function of approximately 100 enzyme systems in your body and is crucial to immunity.
In addition to its role in immune function, however, zinc is also required for protein synthesis, wound healing, DNA synthesis, cell division, normal growth and development, and your sense of taste and smell.
Your body has no way to store this vital nutrient; therefore, it's crucial that you find ways to get a steady flow of zinc into your daily regimen either through diet or supplementation.
Some food sources that are rich in zinc include oysters, red meat, crab, lobster, pork, beans, and pumpkin seeds.
Zinc And Your Immune System
It was only 50 years ago that zinc was recognized as a nutrient that’s essential for human health.
In the Middle East, researchers found that zinc-deficient individuals had severe immune dysfunction and would often die of recurrent infections by the time they were 25 years old.
Research in the last 50 years has uncovered how vital this mineral is to immune function and its significant impact on the health of your immune cells.
In fact, zinc is one of the nutrients that is essential for the normal development and function of the cells that mediate both your innate and adaptive immunity.
Your innate immune system is the first line of defense that kicks into gear when a pathogen or other foreign compound enters your body.
These are the first cells to fight off infection and prevent the spread and movement of foreign compounds throughout your body.
Some zinc-dependent innate immune cells include:
- Neutrophils - the first line of defense against acute infections. These white blood cells release antimicrobial molecules and help to contain infections and inflammation to prevent the spread.
- Macrophages - these cells play a vital role in eliminating diseased or damaged cells through programmed cell death. They perform something called phagocytosis, which is the process of engulfing damaged cells (kind of like they are eating them) to remove them from circulation.
- Natural killer cells - NK cells are a type of white blood cell that serves to contain virally infected cells and release chemicals that target infected cells for death
The effect of the adaptive immune response takes a little longer to kick in. However, the effect of the adaptive immune response is long-lasting and much more specific.
The two primary immune cells responsible for your adaptive immune response are B and T cells -- both of which require zinc in order to function properly.
B cells and T cells work together in your adaptive response to clear pathogens from your body.
B cells are responsible for secreting antibodies that neutralize the invading cell, and then T cells come in to kill the invading cell before it has a chance to replicate.
How does this relate to immune insults that may affect your health?
Research shows that zinc, through its role in innate and adaptive immunity, can assist in alleviating viral infections as well as the common cold.
In one study, researchers studied the effect of zinc on respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), a common respiratory virus that causes infection in the lungs and respiratory tract.
They found that zinc was able to perform antiviral activity by inhibiting the replication and spread of the virus.
Furthermore, populations that are deficient in zinc tend to have a higher susceptibility to viral attacks such as HIV and hepatitis C.
It appears that zinc acts as both a direct antiviral and as a stimulant of antiviral immunity (in other words, it enhances your antiviral immune defenses).
How To Get More Zinc
Zinc isn’t stored in your body, which means that you need a steady stream of this essential mineral if you want to maintain your zinc status.
While there are a handful of foods like oysters, pumpkin seeds, and crab that offer significant levels of zinc, it may be challenging to ensure that you're getting enough of these foods on a regular basis.
Therefore, if you want to stay on top of your zinc needs, I recommend finding a high-quality supplement.
For zinc, high quality means that it's in a form that can be easily absorbed. Some zinc supplements that don't take absorption into account can end up being a waste of money.
When looking on a supplement label, make sure that the form of zinc you take is a chelate.
Chelates offer enhanced bioavailability as they assist in the absorption of nutrients in your digestive tract.
At Native Path, we've developed an immunity blend called Native Defense, which includes zinc in a bis-glycinate chelate form.
Bisglycinate allows the zinc to pass through your stomach acid unharmed and assists its uptake in your intestines.
Native Defense includes a blend of zinc, vitamin C, vitamin D, Siberian ginseng, quercetin, and elderberry for complete immunity support.
If immunity is something you want to work on, this high-quality formula is a must-have.