Zinc deficiency: causes, symptoms & tips for zinc deficiency

Zinc is a mineral that has multiple functions in the human body. A zinc deficiency can lead to various symptoms such as white spots on the nails, night blindness and a reduced sense of taste and smell. A zinc deficiency can also slow down the growth process and weaken resistance. The causes of zinc deficiency are usually too low a dietary intake of zinc or a problem with the digestive system. If you have too little zinc in your body, you can compensate for this by eating foods such as oysters, seafood, poultry and legumes. In addition, zinc supplements can help to quickly eliminate the deficiency. However, you should be careful not to exceed the recommended dose of zinc. After all, too much zinc can lead to unpleasant symptoms. What tips are useful in treating a zinc deficiency?

What is zinc?


Zinc plays an important role in the renewal of tissues in the body and in metabolism. As an antioxidant, zinc is also crucial to act against free radicals and thus reduce the risk of disease. This makes the mineral useful for strengthening the immune system. Zinc promotes the healing of wounds and also ensures the construction and breakdown of proteins and carbohydrates. Furthermore, zinc plays an important role when it comes to testosterone production and male fertility.


The recommended dose of zinc for adults is on average 8 mg per day, specifically 7 mg for women and 9 mg for men. Pregnant women preferably take 20 mg of zinc per day, while breastfeeding women are recommended to take 25 mg.

Zinc deficiency symptoms


The symptoms of zinc deficiency can be quite diverse. For example, difficult healing of wounds may be due to a zinc deficiency. White spots on the nails and night blindness can also indicate insufficient zinc in the body. If your eyes have difficulty adapting to darkness (night blindness), this could be a signal of too little zinc. If you suffer from colds relatively often, your resistance may be weakened. This may indicate a deficiency of minerals, such as zinc. In addition, a deficiency of this mineral can also be associated with a slowdown in the growth process.


  • reduced sense of taste and smell
  • dizziness
  • headache
  • fatigue
  • skin problems
  • hair loss
  • weight loss
  • erection problems
  • concentration problems
  • have difficulty remembering things

Causes of zinc deficiency

Nutrition and digestion

A zinc deficiency is primarily caused by the body not being able to absorb enough zinc. Insufficient absorption of zinc in the digestive system can be due to an unhealthy diet or excessive alcohol consumption. Alcohol makes it difficult to absorb zinc in the body. A disorder of the digestive system (e.g. chronic intestinal diseases such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis) can also prevent your body from absorbing enough zinc.

Risk groups

Furthermore, vegans and vegetarians generally suffer more from a zinc deficiency than other people. This is because zinc is more difficult to absorb from plant foods than from meat. People with diabetes and pregnant women are also at greater risk of zinc deficiency.

Zinc deficiency treatment

The treatment of a zinc deficiency consists primarily of a healthy lifestyle and a balanced diet, with an emphasis on foods that contain a lot of zinc. Additionally, you can also take zinc supplements to give your body an extra push to quickly increase zinc levels. If a chronic condition or disease in the digestive system is the cause of the zinc deficiency, the treating physician will propose an appropriate treatment, taking into account the specific medical condition of the patient.

Diet with zinc

You can mainly absorb extra zinc by consuming more food products that contain a lot of zinc, such as fish and seafood. Oysters, crab, lobster, seaweed and herring in particular contain a lot of this important mineral. You can also find zinc in poultry, eggs, legumes and liver. Other sources of zinc include:

  • beef
  • almonds
  • peanuts
  • ginger
  • Sesame seed
  • pumpkin seeds
  • whole grains

Zinc supplements: tips

Not together with iron

If your zinc level is too low and you want to see rapid progress, supplements can offer a solution. Zinc as a supplement is easily available online in the form of capsules and tablets. Zinc can also be part of supplements that promote resistance or provide more energy. It is important not to take zinc supplements at the same time as supplements containing iron, as iron can reduce the absorption of zinc. On the other hand, zinc also complicates the absorption of iron and NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory painkillers). It is therefore recommended not to take it together with zinc.

Too much zinc

Exceeding the maximum dose of zinc can cause unpleasant symptoms . For example, taking too much zinc in the short term can lead to nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal cramps. Excessive zinc intake in the long term can cause anemia and reduce resistance. While a healthy dose of zinc can strengthen resistance, too high a dose produces the opposite effect.


You may have a strange, metallic taste in your mouth when taking a zinc supplement. You can avoid this by taking the zinc supplement with a meal. Be careful not to overdo it with taking zinc supplements as this can have negative consequences. It is recommended to stick to an upper limit of 25 mg zinc per day to avoid damage to your body. It is preferable to have your zinc level determined by your doctor based on a blood analysis. This may advise you to reduce or stop the zinc dose once the zinc deficiency has been eliminated.

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