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As cold and flu season approaches, strengthening your immune system becomes critical. The immune system is the body’s first defense against outside threats, like the common cold, COVID-19, and other viruses. Understanding how to fortify this defense mechanism is essential. One fortifying mineral is zinc, a chemical element with many health benefits. In this article, we will explore the potential of zinc to bolster our immune health. We will discuss the various impacts of zinc on the immune system, including its role in preventing viral infections and improving zinc deficiencies. Read on to uncover the secret power of Zinc!

What is Zinc?

Zinc is a necessary mineral that plays a significant and multifaceted role in maintaining your overall health and wellness. As an essential nutrient, the body does not produce this mineral naturally, meaning it has to come from your diet. Zinc can be found in foods like red meat, seafood, dairy products, and legumes. It is important to note that the amount of zinc available can vary by source. Animal sources of zinc tend to have higher levels of absorption when compared to plant-based sources.

Zinc is essential for many biochemical processes, particularly those related to cell growth and repair. It also aids in the body’s ability to metabolize macronutrients and heal wounds. Zinc has also been proven to help in immune system health. 

The Immune System and Zinc

Zinc plays a vital role in protecting the body from infection and disease. Biologically speaking, this mineral modulates cells’ susceptibility to infection, thus improving their ability to fight foreign particles. As an essential nutrient, zinc has several functions within the immune system, including cell development, immune and inflammatory response, and as an antioxidant. This mineral regulates the skin cells, improving the skin barrier and helping reduce the likelihood of infection. Zinc also helps regulate immune cells found in the bloodstream, like monocytes and neutrophils. These white blood cells are responsible for finding and destroying viruses in the bloodstream. Zinc is also vital for the function of certain organs, like the thalamus and bone marrow, responsible for creating and maturing cells.

Beyond cell function, zinc is involved in activating the immune system. This mineral aids in creating and regulating cytokines, a type of small protein responsible for coordinating the immune system. Zinc is particularly important for regulating the production of these proteins, as too many can trigger inflammation in the body.  In addition to regulating these proteins, zinc acts as an antioxidant, protecting cells from oxidative stress, thus preserving the functionality of the immune system as a whole.

Zinc Deficiency

Though zinc is found in many foods, some individuals may experience zinc deficiency. People with gastrointestinal disease and vegetarians are among the most likely groups to develop such a deficiency. Without sufficient zinc, these immune cells may not function optimally, which can lead to increased susceptibility to infections and prolonged recovery times. Lack of this vital nutrient can also disrupt the balance of pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory responses in the body, which can lead to chronic inflammation. Symptoms of zinc deficiency include loss of taste or smell, hair thinning, diarrhea, and decreased immunity.

Benefits of Zinc for the Immune System

Zinc provides many benefits to the immune system. Here are the key ways this mineral aids the body’s immune response:

  • Pathogen Defense. Zinc helps synthesize the proteins involved in fighting off pathogens and foreign particles. This is instrumental in protecting the body from illness. 

  • Wound Healing. As part of the immune response, zinc accelerates the wound healing process by helping cells repair damaged tissue and rebuilding the skin barrier.

  • Reduced Risk for Age-Related Diseases. Some studies show that zinc supplementation in elderly individuals can reduce the likelihood of developing illnesses and age-related macular degeneration.

  • Decreased Inflammation. One study found that zinc supplementation reduces inflammatory cytokines, thus reducing inflammation in the body and reducing the likelihood of developing inflammatory illnesses like chronic heart disease.

Supplementing with Zinc

Supplementing your diet with zinc can be beneficial in a variety of circumstances. The most common reason to take zinc supplements regularly is to treat or prevent deficiency.

Additionally, studies show that taking zinc supplements, in moderation, can improve your overall immune health. This can be especially beneficial in cold and flu season when viral infections are running rampant. 

Choosing a zinc supplement can be challenging, especially with the variety available on the market. Wisdom in Wellness develops evidence-based supplement solutions to help people take control of their health. Shop their line of supplements to find the right one for you! 

Before taking any medication, remember to consult with your healthcare provider to make sure it’s the right choice for you and your body!

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