Can't Sleep? Try Some Zinc
Zinc is a trace: an essential nutrient that is required for healthy function,
but often overlooked when symptoms of deficiency occur.
Insomnia, fatigue, frequent infections and anxiety can all be symptoms of zinc deficiency. Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) symptoms have also been linked to zinc deficiency.
Patients will often come into our clinic looking for alternatives to medications. Bloom Natural Health's philosophy is that it is inherently safer and more productive to seek the cause
of a symptom, rather than mask symptoms with powerful drugs.
One case that illustrates how powerful a nutrient can be is that of a ten-year-old who was brought in by his parents. They were told that their son had ADD and were considering medication but wanted to see if altering his diet might help. The parents reported that in addition to having trouble focusing, their son never slept well, experienced anxiety (especially in the evenings) and was prone to “emotional outbursts.” He would experience abdominal discomfort and often alternated between constipation and diarrhea.
We ran some nutritional tests and recommended the young man on a diet free of gluten and dairy. We also recommended that he begin taking a probiotic. When the family returned to our clinic to discuss lab work they noted that his behavior and stomach issues had improved and he seemed much happier. His sleep had not improved and they were not sure about his ability to focus. His labs showed a very low zinc level and slightly elevated copper. We started him on zinc and scheduled a follow-up appointment. He was to also continue the diet and the probiotic.
Three months after starting zinc supplementation the patient was sleeping through the night and improving in school. In fact, the teachers asked the parents what they were doing! He did not need Adderall; his body needed zinc and balanced nutrition. He was able to avoid medication and in the process, his overall health improved.
People who are at risk for zinc deficiency include the elderly, people on acid-blocking medications, athletes, and teenagers who require more of this mineral during growth spurts. Digestive symptoms may be associated with zinc deficiency. To make hydrochloric acid your body requires zinc. To absorb zinc from food you need hydrochloric acid to create an acidic environment in the stomach.
Zinc is found in dark meat chicken, turkey, red meat and in lesser amounts in lentils, pumpkin seeds and rolled oats. Many people who eat animal products avoid red meat and primarily eat chicken breast because they believe it is a “healthier” option. We encourage our patients who eat animal products to eat a variety of cuts including “dark meat” which will provide zinc and iron.
Zinc absorption is blocked by phytates which are abundant in foods such as whole grains, nuts, seeds, and beans. Vegetarian and vegan diets low in animal products and high in phytates are at risk for zinc deficiency. Soaking and sprouting these foods reduces the phytate content.
Zinc is just one example of a common nutrient deficiency we see in our everyday practice. Bloom's Natural Health's naturopathic physicians can help you identify nutritional deficiencies that may be causing your symptoms of insomnia, anxiety, ADD or fatigue. Excess zinc supplementation can be toxic and cause gastric distress and copper deficiency. Please consult with your physician before supplementing with zinc.
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