Zinc – What Causes Deficiency?

Loads of things can upset your levels of zinc and cause zinc deficiency such as heavy metal contamination (there’s a Metallica joke in there somewhere), drinking alcohol to excess, smoking, the oral contraceptive pill, and living in a house with copper plumbing. The latter two are problems because copper and zinc don’t like each other much and so try to push each other out of the body. So if you’re taking zinc supplements over a long period it’s usually a good idea to take some copper too (in much lower amounts) to prevent copper deficiency. Smoking is a source of heavy metals, like cadmium, and so is also antagonistic to zinc. This is also one reason why so-called ‘detox’ diets, and detox supplements, often have zinc incorporated in order to flush out the heavy metal build-up.

Zinc, Copper, and Farming

Copper is also a problem due to the use of copper-containing pesticides and fungicides which may have raised environmental exposure to dangerous levels, particularly as over-farming can seriously deplete the levels of zinc in the soil. Vegan organic agriculture certainly has its benefits… If you’re concerned about copper toxicity then look out for symptoms such as nausea, diarrhoea, dizziness, headaches, depression, hypertension (high blood pressure), insomnia, hypoglycaemia and premenstrual tension (PMT).

Zinc Deficiency – Dietary Causes

Other causes of zinc deficiency can include a diet high in phytates, with unleavened bread a prime suspect here. Things like flatbreads, pita bread, and other unyeasted bready goodness have higher levels of phytates which inhibit zinc absorption, as do beans, pulses, and legumes – particularly when not cooked properly. So, while your diet could be amazingly rich in sources of zinc the presence of bread and other high-phytate foods at every meal might be the cause of your zinc deficiency.

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