Zinc Deficiency: Causes, Treatment, and Symptoms

Author: Henrik Aulbach



Lesezeit: 3 min

Zinc deficiency is very rare in Europe. A reasonably balanced diet is usually sufficient to prevent zinc deficiency. However, the consequences of zinc deficiency can be significant and may manifest as chronic intestinal disorders. Skin changes and hair loss can also occur, so if you suspect it, you should check for a zinc deficiency.

Zinc Deficiency Symptoms: Consult a Doctor if Suspicious

Zinc deficiency is life-threatening; we cannot survive without zinc. It is involved as a trace element in cell division, wound healing, and immune defense. The symptoms can be quite diverse. The following signs may indicate a zinc deficiency:

  • inflammatory skin changes (e.g., dermatitis)
  • disturbed or slowed wound healing
  • hair loss
  • loss of appetite
  • diarrhea
  • increased susceptibility to infections
  • reduced sense of taste

The mentioned zinc deficiency symptoms also apply to women. A special form of zinc deficiency can occur in newborns who genetically have difficulty absorbing zinc. This can lead to acrodermatitis enteropathica in the first months of life. This condition is characterized, for example, by symmetrical skin rashes that can appear on the hands, feet, head, and body openings. Changes in mucous membranes such as gingivitis, delayed growth, and increased susceptibility to infections are also often observed. As such, you can see how crucial treating zinc deficiency is.

Diagnosing Zinc Deficiency Properly

Accurately identifying a zinc deficiency is unfortunately not straightforward. The mentioned symptoms are not unique to zinc deficiency and occur in many diseases. Moreover, zinc is present as a trace element in minimal amounts in the blood, making corresponding blood tests difficult to impossible. Correcting and diagnosing a zinc deficiency occurs simultaneously. If the perceived symptoms disappear after zinc supplementation, a zinc deficiency has been diagnosed.

Since zinc deficiency is very rare here, one wonders about the factors that contribute to it. Athletes may experience zinc deficiency more often as their bodies excrete the element in increased amounts.

Chronic inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn's disease can also lead to limited zinc intake. Congenital zinc absorption disorders are often the cause. 

Remedying Zinc Deficiency

To prevent the serious impact of zinc deficiency on skin and nails, a deficiency should be corrected as soon as possible. Sometimes, it may be sufficient to consume zinc-rich foods more frequently. If this intake is not enough, zinc supplements can be taken. However, you should do this only in consultation with your treating doctor. Excessive zinc overdose can have negative effects on your health, so taking zinc preventively is not recommended.  

Excess Zinc: Symptoms

As we've seen, excessive zinc is not healthy either. High doses occur when the body can no longer process the amount of zinc absorbed. This can lead to symptoms of zinc overdose, such as nausea, abdominal pain, and diarrhea.

With much higher doses, the toxic effects of zinc on the intestine can also be exacerbated, known as zinc poisoning. As you can see, you should be cautious and only take zinc when a zinc deficiency exists. 

Zinc for the Skin

You might also have a zinc ointment at home. Zinc can be helpful for the skin for various reasons. Zinc works as antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antiandrogenic. It can support skin regeneration, for example, for minor injuries or inflammatory conditions. Furthermore, it may contribute to maintaining normal sebum production in the skin.

In the cosmetics industry, zinc is increasingly being used for firm and elastic skin, partly due to its involvement in collagen formation. So, if you don't have a zinc deficiency, additional zinc intake is not necessary. However, this trace element can offer benefits for your skin.

Zinc Deficiency: Frequently Asked Questions

Can you overdose on zinc?

Yes, you can overdose on zinc. Since we only require very small amounts of zinc, overdosing can occur more easily and quickly than one might think. It is therefore recommended to take zinc supplements only after consulting a doctor. Even with a zinc deficiency, consuming zinc-rich foods often suffices to remedy the deficiency.

How does zinc deficiency manifest?

Zinc is involved in numerous metabolic processes, so the symptoms of deficiency can be quite diverse. For instance, zinc deficiency can cause inflammatory skin reactions, such as dermatitis. Hair loss due to zinc deficiency is also possible, along with the following symptoms: 

  • Altered sense of taste
  • Delayed wound healing
  • Weakened immune system
  • Loss of appetite
  • Growth issues
  • Hormonal imbalances

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