(NaturalNews) Most of us are familiar with the use of zinc as an aid to combating common colds and sore throats; however, many of us are unaware of just how vital zinc is in maintaining overall good health. Zinc is an essential trace element found in every cell in our bodies. While studies have indicated that about 12% of Americans are deficient in zinc, our ability to absorb zinc declines with age and it is estimated that this percentage increases to 45% in older Americans.
Zinc performs a variety of important functions, including strengthening the immune system, protecting cell membranes against free radicals, preventing cell structural damage and repairing damaged DNA. Zinc also is instrumental in healing wounds, supports the stabilization of blood glucose, supports neurological function, maintains the senses of taste and smell, and stimulates activity in approximately 100 different enzymes.
In addition, Zinc supports normal growth during pregnancy, childhood, and adolescence and helps to protect against macular degeneration, a cause of blindness in adults over the age of 60. Zinc can even help boost libido. Zinc may also be effective in treating such conditions as acne, eczema and anorexia nervosa and for those suffering from trauma after surgery.
Zinc deficiency can lead to numerous health conditions, including prostate disorders which may in turn lead to prostate cancer. Because zinc affects the immune system, a deficiency can present itself in frequent colds, flus, and other infections. In children, a zinc deficiency can manifest itself in growth retardation.
In addition to aging and poor dietary habits, digestive disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn's Disease can be contributing factors in the depletion of zinc from our bodies. Deficiency in zinc can also be caused by certain medications. Among the offenders are diuretics and medications used in controlling blood pressure. Acid-suppressing medications also play an important role. Alcoholics have a higher risk of being zinc deficient. Others at risk include women taking birth control pills and those on hormone replacement therapy.
Zinc deficiency symptoms can present themselves as:
* Rashes * Chronic diarrhea * Night blindness * Depression * Loss of appetite * Decline in libido * Hair loss * Eye and skin lesions
There are several good dietary sources of zinc. Some of the best sources are:
The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for zinc is 11 mg for men and 8 mg for women. However, those that are zinc deficient, not eating a diet rich in zinc, or have a prostate disorder should take 15 mg of zinc daily. Because of the lower absorption of zinc from plants, vegetarians may need about 50% more zinc. Since zinc can interfere with copper absorption, any zinc supplement should contain 1 to 2 mg of copper.
Luella May is a natural health advocate helping people to heal naturally. Luella is in the midst of editing her ebook, "The 8 Invisible Stains of Our Souls" which will be available in the next few months. She partners with Tony Isaacs, who authors of books and articles about natural health including "Cancer's Natural Enemy" and "Collected Remedies" Luella contributes to The Best Years in Life website for baby boomers and others wishing to avoid prescription drugs and mainstream managed illness and live longer, healthier and happier lives naturally. Luella co-moderates the CureZone "Ask Tony Isaacs" forum as well as the Yahoo Health Group "Oleander Soup" and hosts her own yahoo group focusing on the natural wellbeing of pets "