Can You Take Too Much Zinc?

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  • Zinc is vital to the basic functions of the human body and is present in every single cell.
  • Adding zinc into your diet can optimize your body’s functioning.
  • Not everyone is getting their recommended amount of zinc per day, but can you take too much zinc?

In its most simple form, zinc is a mineral that is essential to the health of the human body. It aids the immune system in fighting off disease and foreign bacteria, and helps the body produce DNA and additional proteins. As your body adapts to different stages at different ages, you may require different levels of zinc for your integral internal systems to stay balanced.

So, what is this mysterious, vital micronutrient? Where does it come from, what does it benefit, and how can you supplement it correctly?

What is zinc?

Zinc is naturally found in the genetic makeup of every cell throughout the human body and is the second most common mineral found in the body. It is a major component in helping your body fight off free radicals with its antioxidant properties. As with all nutrients, some bodies require more zinc than others, but making sure you’re getting a healthy amount in your daily routine is paramount to a smoothly functioning immune system.

Growth can change the amount of zinc you need in your diet to function properly. Zinc depletion is something you want to consider if you have any late-stage infants (6 months and older), children, adolescents, pregnant, or lactating women in your life, or if you fall into one of the latter categories. These groups of people require more zinc in their diets to satisfy base level requirements and should consider supplementing zinc when their food intake may lack sufficient levels.

How much zinc should I get regularly?

The recommended daily allowance of zinc for full grown adults is a mere 8 mg for women and 11 mg for men, so supplementing isn’t a daunting task. Milk products, whole grains, poultry, legumes, seeds, lean meats, oysters, baked beans, soy products, and chickpeas have substantial levels of zinc to naturally add into your everyday diet. However, varying accessibility to – and intolerances of – these foods can make it challenging to absorb the correct amount of zinc per day.

What happens when you don’t get enough zinc?

Because our bodies rely so heavily on zinc for a myriad of biochemical abilities, many physiological signs exist that can indicate a zinc deficiency, such as delayed wound healing, diarrhea, pneumonia, impairment of physical growth and development. Obesity and comorbidities are even being studied in relation to zinc deficiency. But what about taking too much of a good thing? What havoc can taking more than the recommended amount of zinc wreak on the human body?

How can I supplement zinc?

That’s where healthy supplementing comes in. When supplementing zinc, there are a multitude of options to consider. While zinc is prevalent in most over-the-counter multivitamin formulas and capsules, you’ll find concentrated, pure zinc options most often in capsules, tablets, lozenges, gummies, and powders.

If you choose to add zinc to your diet in this way, check the label closely. Zinc gluconate, zinc sulfate, and zinc acetate are all viable options, however the concentration of elemental zinc varies greatly in these formulations. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Dietary Supplements, “23% of zinc sulfate consists of elemental zinc; thus, 220 mg of zinc sulfate contains 50 mg of elemental zinc.”

We are fans of this vegetarian Zinc Citrate formula from Allergy Research Group, with acceptable doses of zinc for those who need to supplement because they are not getting enough from their daily food intake. A simple, flavorless capsule dose used once daily, this dietary supplement is hypoallergenic and super easy to incorporate into your routine. It has been created for maximum absorption, so you are getting the maximum amount of nutrients possible out of each capsule.

However you choose to supplement, the most effective way to do so is to take it 1 hour before or 2 hours after a meal, depending on your reaction to it. If you are prone to an upset stomach, speak with your healthcare provider about taking it with a meal. Avoid taking zinc with tetracyclines, as it can reduce the effects of your medication. Take iron and calcium supplements at varying times.

How much zinc should I take if I’m sick?

The NIH considers 40 mg of zinc per day to be the highest dose that won’t cause complications in adults, and 4 mg is the limit for infants under 6 months. Because of this, we can recommend no higher supplementing than those amounts per day when warding off the common cold.

Consider this: Zinc lozenges have been linked to the reduction of pain and symptoms in COVID-19 patients. This doesn’t come as a surprise, as taking concentrated amounts of zinc is a widely known cure of the common cold. If you’re on the fence about adding more zinc to your diet, take into account the amount you’re naturally absorbing on a daily basis. If you’re sick often, you may want to work with a heightened dosage for 5-10 days and then supplement a smaller amount regularly to help keep infections away.

What are the side effects of zinc?

As with all other supplements, make sure to speak with your physician about how supplementing with zinc could affect your long-term health goals or current medication options. When your body absorbs a correct amount of zinc, there will largely be no noticeable or overarchingly negative symptoms associated with intake. However, two common symptoms that manifest for those supplementing with zinc are a bad taste in the mouth or nausea.

Can you take too much zinc?

Though you can retain zinc in natural forms, it is rare that someone overdoses on zinc in this way. It is when supplementing that you need to look out for signs of too much zinc in your body. Common symptoms of an over-supplementation of zinc are similar to reactions to regular doses of the mineral, and include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Fever and headache
  • Chills
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Changes in taste
  • Frequent infections

In these cases, the severity of the reaction can vary. The only form of zinc known to cause lasting issues across the board at this time is intranasal zinc, which is linked to long-term loss of smell. It is often prescribed for colds – especially for children – so be sure to ask your doctor about your risk and additional options.

Supplementing with too much zinc has also been linked to copper deficiencies, which are essential for the formulation of red blood cells.

At the end of the day, it is about maintaining balance. Maintaining a healthy amount of zinc in your body will help you to invigorate energy and cell production and activity. Supplementing with zinc is paramount to a healthy routine, even when you aren’t experiencing a weakened immune system, and even in high volumes is not likely to have drastic immediate effects on the body. Speak with your primary care physician or pharmacist if you think you may have a medication that will interfere with zinc supplementation, or vice versa and to discuss the best dosage for your personal needs.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.