Q. Dear Terry, “How does zinc help the immune system and is it safe to take daily?”– Brenden W., Nampa, ID
A. Dear Brenden, Zinc is one of my favorite minerals for the immune system and overall health. It’s estimated that over 30% of the world’s population is deficient in this key mineral. Researchers even believe that zinc may play a big role in age-related immune system decline.
Zinc is involved in both arms of our immune system – the innate and adaptive. The innate immune system is our first line of protection in the body and utilizes chemical, physical, and other defenses. Zinc is key to many of these defense mechanisms. The adaptive immune system is more specific and involves the formation of “memory” to help the body deal with pathogens faster and more effectively the next time they are encountered. The cells of the adaptive immune system are highly dependent upon zinc.
When it comes to immune support, zinc is crucial for fighting viruses such as rhinovirus, influenza, and respiratory syncytial virus. In fact, one study showed that supplementing with zinc decreased the risk of pneumonia by over 60% for patients on ventilators in the critical care unit. Zinc has even been shown to decrease death from any cause.
Zinc works synergistically with another mineral, selenium. Selenium is crucial for an enzyme in the body that produces glutathione. Glutathione has been called the “master antioxidant”. Selenium deficiency greatly increases the risk of many types of viral infections.
Selenium has also shown great promise for its anticancer properties. It’s one of the few natural ingredients out there that has been reviewed by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) for its potential to decrease the risk of prostate cancer.
Deficiencies in zinc and selenium can increase the risk of infections overall and worsen health outcomes for people who end up being hospitalized. Because zinc can be hard to absorb, I prefer zinc that is chelated, which means bound to the amino acid glycine. This form of zinc is also called zinc glycinate. I would take 30 mg of zinc per day and 200 mcg of selenium. These minerals are very safe and can be taken daily.
Terry . . . Naturally
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