Health Issues My experience with zinc deficiency

Whoa182

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I made an introduction thread a few days ago where I briefly touched upon the time when I developed a zinc deficiency. I really feel like I want to share it with you all because I think it's pretty important and it isn't discussed enough. I've been receiving very positive messages from people recently from an article I also posted on Reddit. Some people have had their acne completely go away after recommending they tried zinc (some are vegan) even when doctors and dermatologists could not figure it out for years. So it just prompted me to post and share this here since it's even more important for vegans to know this.

----- TL;DR: I developed chronic acne, constantly ill with viral infections, and hair loss after developing a zinc deficiency. Cured it by taking zinc supplements and acne completely stopped and haven't been sick at all in years.

So anyway, a few years ago I started to suffer from constant acne that never responded to anything and it went on for almost half a year. I started to get sick a lot: Developed a cold, then the flu, and then another cold, right after one another (I was sick from the end of November to January.) Never been so prone to infections in my life before that point.

I ended up with a burst eardrum from it that took months to heal. Also noticed some diffuse hair thinning, and dry skin/scaling issues. For a long time, even before the face acne, I was also breaking out on my neck -- the skin seemed like it wasn't healing properly and was easily irritated. I also felt low in energy and mood sometimes.

After a while, I figured something had to be seriously wrong. My acne had stopped after changing to a plant-based diet many years ago.. but now it was back and worse than ever? I used to rarely ever get sick... And now I was sick constantly? And the hair thinning? I normally have super thick hair...

I came across a forum post where someone had cleared their acne after trying zinc. First time in 30 years his acne was much better... I then looked up signs of deficiency and it matched my other symptoms.

I also did some research and discovered that a low level of zinc is common in vegans, around 47% according to one study.

I bought zinc picolinate and began supplementing around 100 mg a day at first. Then I reduced it to 50 mg a day, and then either 22 mg a day or 50 mg every other day.

Within days of taking zinc, my acne almost completely stopped. My skin started to heal, and I stopped getting skin irritation after shaving. No more spots or sores on my neck.

A few months went by and my hair started to become thick again.

I felt like I had more energy... And I feel better than ever.

I also noticed I wasn't getting sick anymore... It's now over 2.5 years and I've not caught a single cold despite regularly having all my nieces and nephews over here (7 of them). My immune system seems to be in top form! lol

I'm sharing this because I've seen so many "popular" vegans have gone off the diet in recent years because they feel that the diet is causing them health issues. And I'm not one to say to them that they are lying when they say they feel better after being non-vegan... but I think the vast majority of them are missing something important. I'm not saying it's definitely zinc either, but it could be fairly common...

Why should vegans supplement zinc?

Have you taken a look at CRON-O-METER? If you're living on a healthy plant-based vegan diet (not a junk food one), it's quite possible that your diet is very low in zinc and very high in copper. Usually, too much zinc can cause a copper deficiency. However, the reverse might be true (especially when there is a big imbalance) for raw foodists, high veggie/fruit vegans.

Copper and zinc compete for absorption in the gut and your zinc to copper ratio needs to be around 8:1 to 10:1 to be optimal. That means 8 or 10 mg of zinc for every 1 mg of copper in the diet. I'll add a citation later if I can get some time to find it. It's worth paying attention to... Tip: You can increase the absorption of zinc and iron by adding garlic when you eat beans btw.

I knew this for years, and I was actually supplementing zinc for over a decade. I made a mistake, I got complacent... as what sometimes happens to us all. But I'm glad that it did because I've been able to help quite a few people since. I recently received a nice message the other day from a girl I managed to help:

Hi!

I wanted to say thank you for posting about how helpful zinc is in combating acne. After 3 weeks of taking 50mg of zinc gluconate approximately 90% of my body acne (that has plagued me since elementary school) is gone and my facial acne has decreased significantly as well. Total game changer for me!

Have a great day! I'm going to go wear a tank top for the first time in forever :)

Sometimes when we make mistakes (hopefully not too serious!), it can be a blessing because we get the opportunity to help others avoid the same ones.

So anyway, I just wanted to share this here in case anyone stumbled upon it or does a search for acne or infections on this forum.

I made a blog post about developing acne from going vegan http://www.crvitality.com/2018/12/going-vegan-breaking-out-with-acne/

I also link to a review of some of the studies of acne vs zinc in my post and my experience. I review studies looking at different forms of zinc and their efficacy compared to antibiotics. Which, perhaps unsurprisingly?... are very comparable in effectiveness.

That's all!

Hope that helps someone = )
 
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Jools Holland

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It's interesting that you say this, because I've developed a problem in the last few years where I am getting acne or folliculitis (a dermatologist said it was folliculitis and and a GP said it was acne) over multiple parts of my body. It started on my upper thighs on the front, then progressed to the back of my legs, butt and back of thighs, and upper arms (although I always had it on the back of my upper arms a bit) and shoulders and a bit on my upper back. It's a combination of small red dots over every single individual hair follicle (particularly so on my thighs), and also pimples (and sometimes large pimples that could be boils, but I don't know). My butt in particular at the moment is absolutely covered in pimples and marks from recent pimples. I also started getting pimples all over my chest area a few months ago when I have pretty much never had pimples in that area before. (I think what happened was that the chest area got bigger from my gynecomastia getting worse and pushed against the fabric of my shirt, causing the pimples and red dots all over my chest).

I'm pretty sure it is all from friction from clothing. For instance, I never really get acne on my face, but if I am wearing a beach straw hat with straps, the light friction of the straps lightly rubbing up against the sides of my face produces some pimples on the side of my face. And sometimes when I floss I get pimples around the corner of one side of my mouth that I think it caused from the friction of my hands rubbing up against that part of the face when I floss. (This also happened the last time I went to the hygienist when their hands rubbed up against part of my face).

However, I never used to have such acne and red dots all over my body (even when wearing slim jeans, for instance, as I am doing now), and this is something that has happened more in the last few years. In the past, I remember that I had a rash that lasted for a little while on the back of my leg (and some itchiness on the front of my leg) that I think was from wearing slim jeans, but not the type of acne and inflamed hair follicles I am getting now, so I think something is making my skin more sensitive to the friction from clothing.

Do you think a zinc deficiency (or improper zinc to copper ration) could be making my skin more sensitive to the fabric of my clothes? Because I have always worn the same types of clothes and yet I didn't used to have the acne problems that I have now.

I starting developing male pattern baldness at the start of last year as well, with the hairline starting to recede at the sides above the temples (but I think this may have been onset by hyponatremia, as I was consuming almost no sodium all the time and was drinking a lot of water, while also sweating a lot in a hot and humid climate). I would also be interested to see if this helps my chronic sleep-maintenance insomnia, as well, as you suggested in response to my other post in this forum.

However, I can't see any white spots on my fingernails, with the exception of one white dot in the middle of my finger nail of my left index finger. Would this rule out the possibility of a zinc deficiency? Even though I think I have some of the other symptoms.

I am usually eating the same things every day while varying one or only a few things at a time to keep everything as controlled as possible (to try and figure out what is causing my problems), and Cronomotor says that with the foods I am consuming I have about a 5:1 zinc to copper ratio.
 

Whoa182

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Hey Jools!

I would also get pimples in areas you mention and I would especially get them after I'd shave my chest and neck (where it would be most irritating to my skin.) My skin was just more sensitive and responded negatively to any minor insults or irritation. Zinc is a potent antioxidant but also acts to inhibit inflammation and overreaction of the immune system. So yes, this could explain your issue, maybe. = )

It's also interesting that you bring up Gynecomastia because low zinc levels could lead to an increase in aromatase activity that converts testosterone to estrogen in the body. In fact, one study (although in boys in puberty) says that low zinc is something that may contribute to the condition (see the study.)

Regarding acne on the face, this doesn't have to occur in everyone who has a zinc deficiency. Differences in oil production, bacteria colonization, pore differences and how strong your immune system is activated against antigens such as p. acnes.

Low zinc levels are implicated in various forms of dermatitis, folliculitis, as well: Read a review here.

Male pattern baldness could be more strongly genetics, it's a difficult thing to prevent even with a good diet. That being said, zinc deficiency does result in increased oxidative stress of the hair follicles, scarring, and hair loss by increasing the conversion of Testosterone to DHT by 5-alpha reductase enzyme. Although, I wouldn't expect miracles here... so don't get your hopes up if you try zinc.

Sleep, yes, zinc deficiency does cause sleep issues, I go through a few causes here if you want to read.

Zinc deficiency can also cause sleep issues, here's a study of how it acts as a sleep modulator.

No, I don't think it does. I never had white spots on my fingernails...

Re: eating the same thing every day (Yup, me too! lol).

Yeah, 5:1 is too low. You really need to get that up to 8:1 at least. Preferably 10:1 for optimal ratio.

You could give zinc a try for a month or two and see what happens. With regards to spots, dermatitis, that should respond quite rapidly (days to weeks.) At least 50 mg of zinc picolinate per day would be fine. It's NOT 50 mg of elemental zinc... it's in a complex with picolinic acid.

It can take about 1-2 years for 150 mg of zinc to cause anemia. So it's pretty safe, at least short term to take 50 mg. I was taking around 100 mg (with food!) at first then I lowered it to 50 a day for a while. And now as I said before, 22 - 25 mg per day on average.

Any other questions let me know!

Oh, and one interesting effect of zinc was very vivid dreams for at least a few days to a week when I started to supplement. Kinda interesting, but it's a known effect if you read online.

1. Copper and Zinc, Biological Role and Significance of Copper/Zinc Imbalance
https://www.omicsonline.org/copper-...r-zincimbalance-2161-0495.S3-001.php?aid=3055
 
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Jools Holland

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Thanks so much for all your help. I've been reading your blog posts and the journal articles you have provided links to in your posts, and am considering trying some zinc and magnesium supplements.

Do you know anything about blood tests for zinc and magnesium? I think I will be able to get a referral from the GP for these tests but am wondering if you know how good these tests are for identifying deficiencies?

Also, if I sweat a lot, could I be losing a lot of zinc in my sweat?
 

Whoa182

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There's a zinc taste test... but I've never tried it. Most of the zinc is inside the cell, so blood tests might not be perfect either. I know less about magnesium... But in 2005 I did have a brief issue with it where I was experiencing palpitations and twitching. They resolved rapidly when I supplemented magnesium and haven't come back since. Can't remember how long I was having problems for, might've been half a year or something.

There's a girl called Megan Elizabeth... and she also experienced issues with these two minerals. Some other vegans as well but I don't remember their names. Magnesium would be much less of an issue for most people though... Everyone has at least one mineral that they have difficulty absorbing due to genetics or biological differences and it means they need more than the "RDI". About 1.5 x.

Are you able to use something to record your temperature throughout the day? If I remember right, you said you get hot in the night? I'd be interested to see if you have inflammation going on by having some of those tests I mentioned (CBC, CRP, ESR). Again, low zinc levels can cause 'fever of unknown origin' - generally because of dysregulation of the immune system and/or chronic activation of viral or bacterial infections. Proper temperature regulation is very important for maintaining sleep. I mean, funny that we're talking about sleep lately because it's pretty damn hot here right now and I'm waking up a lot during the day (I sleep in the day xD).

So if you can figure out that part of the puzzle, it'll help your sleep I reckon.

The body tries to converse zinc when you have low levels, so you lose less through sweating. High levels of stress (sleep loss), inflammation, infections, among other things can cause it to be used up more rapidly.

There's not much harm in trying either zinc picolinate or zinc gluconate and seeing what happens. :) It's definitely something you ought to correct now you know your ratio is off.

Try to plot your temperature down on a graph or just write it down at different intervals in the day and show me. Oral temperature is fine, but do it 30-60 minutes before or after food or cold/hot drink. Your temperature cycle should go through a consistent pattern. The sweating makes me think you're running a low-grade fever at some points.

It should look something like this: https://fanaticcook.files.wordpress.com/2019/02/bodytempcycle.jpg

We have different 'set points' but it can be raised for several reasons. My set point is lower than most people, so my average temperature is about 35.5 degrees C on average. I start feeling ill like I have a fever if it rises above 36.8. So sometimes this sign can also be missed if you don't know what your set point is.. what your temperature normally runs at when you're healthy.
 
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Nekodaiden

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Thanks for sharing your story.

My experience (coming up on 2 years now in a few months) is that zinc deficiency is absolutely not an issue for those including whole grains, legumes and some seeds/nuts in their diet. I know it's not "creeping up on me" either - I drink alcohol, and zinc is absolutely required for alcohol metabolism. If a person is deficient in it, then they won't detox. It's also a component in male semen, so males with sexual desire/release also do not have a zinc deficiency problem.

I'm not a fan of supplements or promoting them (except for B12 because of how we get our water) and I would not even be vegan if it meant buying a bunch of supplements. To me this would indicate that it was a deficient/unnatural diet. Fortunately, the whole grain pastas/breads that I eat, plus legumes and some seeds and nuts work just fine without buying anything in a bottle.
 
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Whoa182

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I eat legumes pretty much every day, a lot of them. And I eat whole grains and nuts. It only around 4 years after I became vegan that things started to get worse, but as I said, I noticed that I was getting sick a lot more as well. Even a year or two prior to that I was catching colds and flu way more than normal. But it's actually been 2 years and 7 months now since I last caught a viral infection. So my immune system is also working far better now.

It's also a component in male semen, so males with sexual desire/release also do not have a zinc deficiency problem.

A zinc deficiency won't completely shut down testosterone and doesn't normally stop desire at all. But it does alter sperm quality https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6010824/

"The highest prevalence for vitamin and mineral deficiencies in each group was as follows: in the omnivorous group, for folic acid (58 %); in the vegetarian group, for vitamin B6 and niacin (58 and 34 %, respectively); and in the vegan group, for Zn (47 %)".
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26502280

It's interesting you mention beans though because they do have a good amount of zinc compared with other foods. I speculated before (not here) that one study which showed an increased risk of depression for vegans vs other groups was due to low zinc. The reason I thought that was because when vegans included legumes in the diet, the association went away. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6267287/

Well at least you know what to look out for now if anything ever does come up ?

Have you looked at your zinc and copper intake on CRON-O-METER?
 
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Nekodaiden

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A zinc deficiency won't completely shut down testosterone and doesn't stop desire at all. But it does alter sperm quality https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6010824/

Zinc deficiency does stop desire.(Edit: Deficiency has also been shown in males to slow/retard the growth of healthy sexual organs in persons from developing countries). I'm afraid you don't know me. I came to veganism with an alcohol dependence. Alcohol depletes zinc. I am very aware, by personal experience, the effect of zinc or lack of it. It was in fact a big concern for me because of my dependence on alcohol, prior to going vegan. I still have this dependence, and as my indulgence ebbs and flows I can tell you that sexual desire ebbs and flows with it. More alcohol, plus less whole food (esp whole grains and seeds) = less sexual desire/need to release. Less alcohol plus enough whole grains/seeds/legumes (and calories in general) = more desire/need to release. I can go a week without any sexual interest at all, or with daily or bi-daily interest based on A) the amount of alcohol consumed (which drains zinc) and B) the amount of calories I get from foods richer in zinc.

"The highest prevalence for vitamin and mineral deficiencies in each group was as follows: in the omnivorous group, for folic acid (58 %); in the vegetarian group, for vitamin B6 and niacin (58 and 34 %, respectively); and in the vegan group, for Zn (47 %)".
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26502280

That may have been true for the group studied, but it does not follow it is true across the board. What a vegan eats (and drinks) and in what amounts does actually matter.


Have you looked at your zinc and copper intake on CRON-O-METER?

I'm pushing 50...well, in a few years. Still have the sexual drive of my 20's/30's but like I said it ebbs and flows with alcohol usage and zinc rich food intake. Should it completely stop and/or I can't detoxify alcohol then I might look into it. Until then....
 
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Forest Nymph

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It's easy to get zinc in a vegan diet if you eat nuts and seeds. Pumpkin seeds for example have a ton. So does tofu. It's even in whole grains and fortified plant milks.

Usually when someone has a deficiency on a vegan diet that causes their hair to fall out I suspect they are doing something ridiculously restrictive like not eating soy, or only eating fruit and salads, or just not eating enough. YouTube is filled with "ex vegans" who lost hair, had no energy, or had some mysterious health issues ...and most of them were these people who did Raw til 4, or were young women on very restrictive diets. One guy who started eating eggs and fish after ten years of supposedly being a real animal rights vegan was doing that stupid thing where people only eat once a day that's going around. Intermittent fasting. He broke veganism because he was literally starving himself to death. Makes sense. Not.

I know people have legitimate health issues like Celiacs Disease that stop them from eating certain foods, but I'm talking about the orthorexics.

It never really hurts anyone to have a multi-vitamin though. I keep a bottle in my cabinet that I've had about six months, I don't see a need to take them every day. And if/when I get a cold/flu type thing I take zinc elderberry cough drops instead of the commercial kind because it really does help.
 
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Forest Nymph

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I eat legumes pretty much every day, a lot of them. And I eat whole grains and nuts. It only around 4 years after I became vegan that things started to get worse, but as I said, I noticed that I was getting sick a lot more as well. Even a year or two prior to that I was catching colds and flu way more than normal. But it's actually been 2 years and 7 months now since I last caught a viral infection. So my immune system is also working far better now.



A zinc deficiency won't completely shut down testosterone and doesn't normally stop desire at all. But it does alter sperm quality https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6010824/

Zinc is related to sex drive.
 

Whoa182

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Zinc is related to sex drive.

Right, but it doesn't completely just shut off when you're deficient either. It's more like a dial rather than an on/off switch. Like pretty much every system cells and body.

One guy who started eating eggs and fish after ten years of supposedly being a real animal rights vegan was doing that stupid thing where people only eat once a day that's going around. Intermittent fasting. He broke veganism because he was literally starving himself to death. Makes sense. Not.

Sounds like you're talking about Evan Rock and his wife? His diet did start to get pretty restrictive... I don't think there's anything special in animal foods that made him feel better. But this is exactly why I shared my story here... because for months I felt like crap with hair loss, acne, frequent infections, burst eardrum, slow healing, dry/flaky skin, low energy, etc. And within days of just taking zinc, my acne (which wasn't responsive to anything) went away and started to heal up and I felt WAY better again. All the symptoms I had were gone. Even mild symptoms that I had long before this all happened at once like skin irritation when shaving went away.

I could have just been like, well, veganism isn't working for me... maybe I should try to eat some fish or eggs. But I figured it out... and to be honest, not many people are talking about zinc and it's not that obvious. I cited just one study, there will obviously be differences depending on which group is studied, but getting zinc can be a weakness in the diet. And it's better to acknowledge and educate about that than to simply ignore it.

Sure, you can get enough zinc if you're eating plenty of calories, but raw food vegans, in particular, tend to eat much fewer calories, simply because of the volume of food they consume. Which is why vegans have a much lower BMI on average than omnivores and vegetarians.

And getting enough zinc is all well and good, but as I explained already, vegans who primarily eat a lot of leafy greens, veggies, sweet potatoes, fruits, etc, will get 4 x or more copper than the average non-vegan. Many vegans will get about 3-5 mg of copper per day compared to 1 mg for the average non-vegan (or less)

This creates an imbalance, especially if the vegan is also consuming significantly less than the RDA of zinc.

In my case, I was only getting about 50% of the RDA for zinc but 4 mg of copper a day. I meet the requirements for all over nutrients.

The optimal ratio is 10 mg zinc for every 1 mg of copper (10:1). Earlier studies suggest 8:1.

I was getting about 5-6 mg of zinc and 4-5 mg of copper per day (at that time). And my diet is heavily focused on beans, leafy greens, veggies (raw and cooked), sweet potatoes, oatmeal, almond milk, soy milk, whole grains, and EVOO.

As they compete in the gut for the same transporter systems, when the ratio is very out of whack, it's easy to create an issue. When most people have problems with getting enough copper in their diet (standard American diet), people who are plant-based have the opposite problems of too much copper and not enough zinc, which just exacerbates the problem even more when as that study I cited says, almost half of vegans are deficient in zinc.

So even if you're getting 100% RDA of zinc, it does not put you in the clear if you're consuming 4 to 5 times the RDA of copper.

I'm curious if any of you have actually crunched the numbers on something like CRON-O-METER to see what you're actually getting?