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DEFINITION – Inadequate amounts of zinc in body cells. This affects function of the testes, liver and muscles, and affects the structure of bones, teeth, hair and skin. Zinc is a vital part of many enzymes that facilitate chemical reactions necessary for normal body function – including immune function and skin healing.
BODY PARTS INVOLVED – All body cells.
SEX OR AGE MOST AFFECTED – All ages, but most common in children during periods of rapid growth (10 to 18 years).
SIGNS & SYMPTOMS – 2 or more of the following:
- Poor appetite.
- Poor growth.
- Sensations of unpleasant tastes and odors, and decreased senses of taste and smell.
- Decreased sex drive.
- Darkening of skin all over the body.
- Sparse hair growth.
- Deformed nails.
- Excessive consumption of substances that bind zinc and prevent its absorption from the gastrointestinal tract. These include calcium, vitamin D, high fiber diet and phytate enzyme (found in whole-meal bread).
- Surgical removal of any part of the gastrointestinal tract, especially the stomach.
- Parasite infestation in the gastrointestinal tract.
- Excessive milk consumption in preschool children.
RISK INCREASES WITH
- Alcoholism. Alcohol increases the excretion of zinc.
- Use of cortisone drugs, which increase zinc excretion.
- Diabetes, kidney disease or cirrhosis.
- Burns or major trauma.
HOW TO PREVENT
- Adults should not drink or eat more than the recommended amounts of milk, other dairy products or whole-meal bread. Keep calcium intake at 1500 mg or less daily.
- Don’t take large doses of vitamin D supplements.
- Take zinc supplements if you have had gastrointestinal surgery.
- Obtain medical treatment for parasite infections.
- Don’t drink more than 1 or 2 alcoholic drinks, if any, a day.
What To Expect
- Your own observation of symptoms.
- Medical history and physical exam by a doctor.
- Laboratory blood studies of zinc levels; other tests to determine any underlying disorder.
APPROPRIATE HEALTH CARE
- Home care after diagnosis.
- Doctor’s treatment.
- Iron-deficiency anemia. Zinc is necessary for iron absorption.
- Poor wound healing.
- Liver and spleen enlargement.
- Excess zinc replacement or overdose may interfere with body’s manufacture of necessary enzymes.
PROBABLE OUTCOME – Usually curable in 2 months with zinc supplements and removal or treatment of the underlying causes.
How To Treat
GENERAL MEASURES – Follow your doctor’s instructions. Compliance with your medical treatment plan is essential for the best outcome.
MEDICATION – Your doctor may prescribe zinc supplements. Take with milk or meals to prevent stomach upset.
ACTIVITY – No restrictions.
DIET – Eat foods high in zinc such as red meat. Avoid excessive intake of whole-meal bread.
Call Your Doctor If
- You or your child have symptoms of zinc deficiency.
From the Complete Guide to Symptoms, Illness & Surgery by H. Winter Griffith, M.D. © 1995 The Putnam Berkley Group, Inc.; electronic rights by Medical Data Exchange.