Monday, August 8, 2022

Zinc Deficiency

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General Information

DEFINITION – Inadequate amounts of zinc in body cells. This affects function of the testes, liver and muscles, and affects the structure of bones, teeth, hair and skin. Zinc is a vital part of many enzymes that facilitate chemical reactions necessary for normal body function – including immune function and skin healing.

BODY PARTS INVOLVED – All body cells.

SEX OR AGE MOST AFFECTED – All ages, but most common in children during periods of rapid growth (10 to 18 years).

SIGNS & SYMPTOMS – 2 or more of the following:

  • Poor appetite.
  • Poor growth.
  • Sensations of unpleasant tastes and odors, and decreased senses of taste and smell.
  • Decreased sex drive.
  • Darkening of skin all over the body.
  • Sparse hair growth.
  • Deformed nails.

CAUSES

  • Excessive consumption of substances that bind zinc and prevent its absorption from the gastrointestinal tract. These include calcium, vitamin D, high fiber diet and phytate enzyme (found in whole-meal bread).
  • Surgical removal of any part of the gastrointestinal tract, especially the stomach.
  • Parasite infestation in the gastrointestinal tract.
  • Excessive milk consumption in preschool children.

RISK INCREASES WITH

  • Alcoholism. Alcohol increases the excretion of zinc.
  • Use of cortisone drugs, which increase zinc excretion.
  • Pregnancy.
  • Diabetes, kidney disease or cirrhosis.
  • Burns or major trauma.

HOW TO PREVENT

  • Adults should not drink or eat more than the recommended amounts of milk, other dairy products or whole-meal bread. Keep calcium intake at 1500 mg or less daily.
  • Don’t take large doses of vitamin D supplements.
  • Take zinc supplements if you have had gastrointestinal surgery.
  • Obtain medical treatment for parasite infections.
  • Don’t drink more than 1 or 2 alcoholic drinks, if any, a day.

What To Expect

DIAGNOSTIC MEASURES

  • Your own observation of symptoms.
  • Medical history and physical exam by a doctor.
  • Laboratory blood studies of zinc levels; other tests to determine any underlying disorder.

APPROPRIATE HEALTH CARE

  • Home care after diagnosis.
  • Doctor’s treatment.

POSSIBLE COMPLICATIONS

  • Iron-deficiency anemia. Zinc is necessary for iron absorption.
  • Poor wound healing.
  • Liver and spleen enlargement.
  • Excess zinc replacement or overdose may interfere with body’s manufacture of necessary enzymes.

PROBABLE OUTCOME – Usually curable in 2 months with zinc supplements and removal or treatment of the underlying causes.

How To Treat

GENERAL MEASURES – Follow your doctor’s instructions. Compliance with your medical treatment plan is essential for the best outcome.

MEDICATION – Your doctor may prescribe zinc supplements. Take with milk or meals to prevent stomach upset.

ACTIVITY – No restrictions.

DIET – Eat foods high in zinc such as red meat. Avoid excessive intake of whole-meal bread.

Call Your Doctor If

  • You or your child have symptoms of zinc deficiency.

From the Complete Guide to Symptoms, Illness & Surgery by H. Winter Griffith, M.D. © 1995 The Putnam Berkley Group, Inc.; electronic rights by Medical Data Exchange.

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