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5 Reasons to Avoid Zinc Deficiency, Especially If You're Lactose Intolerant

As Aussies, when we hear the word 'zinc', we might think of a scorching day at the beach, our faces smeared with sunscreen. But zinc is much more than just sun protection—it's an essential mineral that our bodies rely on every day.

After iron, zinc is the most abundant trace mineral in our bodies, participating in more than 100 specific enzyme functions. Since our bodies can't store excess zinc, a continuous intake through our diet or supplementation is crucial. What's even more interesting? It's the surprising connection between zinc, lactose intolerance, and digestion.

Here's a glimpse into this fascinating mineral and why you might want to consider supplementing it.


A Quick Dip into Zinc and Digestion

Zinc ions in our food are released during digestion and absorbed in the small intestine. Approximately 70% of circulating zinc is bound to the blood protein albumin. Any conditions that lower albumin concentration—like improper protein absorption and digestion due to lactose intolerance, celiac disease or Crohn's, or liver disease—influence our body's zinc levels (1).

Half of the zinc eliminated from our bodies goes through the gastrointestinal tract (1). Increased motility, a symptom of gastrointestinal diseases like ulcerative colitis and Crohn's, can lead to malabsorption of all nutrients, including zinc.

In fact, research shows that zinc-deficient animals need 50% more food to achieve the same weight gain as their zinc-adequate counterparts (2). This hints at a similar reaction in zinc-deficient humans.


What Contributes to Low Zinc Intake or Absorption?

Maintaining adequate zinc levels might seem straightforward with a balanced diet rich in zinc. However, several factors can interfere with zinc absorption:

  1. Poor digestive function: Underlying conditions causing diarrhoea affect nutrient absorption (3). If food passes through the body too quickly, nutrients, especially from proteins, can't be efficiently extracted.
  2. Medications: Proton pump inhibitors and antacids can lower stomach acid, affecting how well food is broken down.
  3. Eating on the run: Inhaling meals and swallowing without proper chewing can overwhelm the stomach and impact digestion.
  4. Processed foods and take-outs: These often lack nutritional value and may not contain sufficient zinc.
  5. Exclusion diets: If not properly managed, these diets can lead to nutrient deficiencies.
  6. Heavy alcohol consumption: This can damage the gut barrier, increasing the chance of digestive problems and affecting zinc absorption.
  7. Illness: Stress or a period of illness can affect appetite, leading to poor food choices and reduced nutrient intake.

Why Consider Zinc Supplementation?

Here are five reasons you might want to think about supplementing zinc:

  1. Digestive Function Assistance: Zinc is critical for the production of digestive enzymes and maintaining a healthy digestive tract lining. Even a short-term zinc deficiency can impair digestion and nutrient absorption (4).
  1. Age-related Macular Degeneration Assistance: Zinc helps vitamin A produce melanin, a pigment that protects your eyes. Studies suggest that zinc supplementation may slow cellular damage caused by age-related macular degeneration (5).
  1. Skin & Hair Repair: Zinc supports healthy repair and rejuvenation of your skin and is crucial for the formation of collagen and keratin. A slight deficiency can result in hair loss and dry, brittle hair (6).
  1. Reproductive Health: Zinc is crucial for women's reproductive health and hormone function, ovulation, and fertilization. It's also necessary for normal growth and development during pregnancy. For men, zinc is essential for testosterone production, healthy sperm formation, and prostate health (7).
  1. Brain + Mood Benefits: Zinc is key for the production of "happy hormones" serotonin and dopamine. It's also essential for proper brain and cognitive function and is surprisingly common in people with neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s8.


Digestive issues like lactose intolerance can increase susceptibility to zinc deficiency, making supplementation a potential necessity.


Here's a quick snapshot of the zinc content in common foods:


Liver, kidney (beef, poultry): 4.2-6.1 mg/100 g

Meat (beef, pork): 2.9-4.7 mg/100 g

Poultry (chicken, duck, etc.): 1.8-3.0 mg/100 g

Seafood (fish, etc.): 0.5-5.2 mg/100 g

Eggs (chicken, duck): 1.1-1.4 mg/100 g

Dairy (milk, cheese): 0.4-3.1 mg/100 g

Beans, lentils (soy, kidney bean, chickpea, etc.): 1.0-2.0 mg/100 g

Whole-grain cereal (wheat, maize, brown rice, etc.): 0.5-3.2 mg/100 g

Vegetables: 0.1-0.8 mg/100 g

Fruits: 0-0.2 mg/100 g


With this in mind, we've added a daily dose of zinc to Gest™ Dairy Primer to support a comfortable, happy, youthful life.

Tony Martin, Gest Health Founder


(1) "Zinc." GI Society - Canadian Society of Intestinal Research. https://badgut.org/information-centre/health-nutrition/zinc/

(2) Schlenker, E. D. (2016). "Effects of Zinc Deficiency on Food Intake and Feeding Patterns of Rats." The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 110, Issue 8, August 1980, Pages 1613–1621. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10980978

(3) "5 Zinc Benefits and Why You Need it in Your Diet." Banner Health. https://www.bannerhealth.com/healthcareblog/teach-me/5-zinc-benefits-and-why-you-need-it-in-your-diet

(4) "Zinc." GI Society - Canadian Society of Intestinal Research. https://badgut.org/information-centre/health-nutrition/zinc/

(5) Kelleher, S. L., McCormick, N. H., Velasquez, V., & Lopez, V. (2014). "Zinc in specialized secretory tissues: roles in the pancreas, prostate, and mammary gland." Advances in Nutrition, 2(2), 101-111. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4231515/

(6) "Zinc deficiency affects cell viability of wheat endosperm cells, and possibly through oxidative stress and programmed cell death." Science Daily. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/06/160609115127.htm

(7) "Is zinc good for the digestion?" A.Vogel. https://www.avogel.co.uk/health/digestive-system/is-zinc-good-for-the-digestion/

(8) "The Role of Zinc: It's More Important than You Think" University of Massachusetts Lowell. https://www.uml.edu/news/stories/2020/kelleher-zinc-research.aspx

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