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Unlock the Power of Zinc: Top Health Benefits You Need to Know

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Zinc, a crucial mineral, and essential nutrient has a number of roles in our bodily functions. From the production of DNA and cell growth to the reinforcement of our immune system, zinc is foundational to our health. This nutrient can be obtained from dietary sources, both plant and animal-based, and supplements. Many individuals who take zinc supplements are aiming for specific health improvements, thanks to the breadth of benefits that zinc provides.

Did you know that there are seven surprising benefits to taking zinc or consuming more zinc-rich foods? But, as with any supplement, it’s important to take the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of zinc – and no more.

“The RDA for zinc varies by age, sex, and life stage,” reveals Avery Zenker, RDN, a dietitian associated with Everflex Fitness. “For adult men, the RDA is 11 milligrams per day, while for adult women, it’s eight milligrams per day. Pregnant and breastfeeding women need higher amounts, around 11 to 12 milligrams per day.”

She also highlights the importance of not exceeding the Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL), which is 40 milligrams per day for adults. However, as always, consulting with your doctor before starting any new supplementation is highly recommended. Zenker emphasizes that our medical team can help evaluate our individual zinc needs, especially if there are certain health conditions involved.

According to Lauren DeDecker, MD, a physician specializing in Internal Medicine, “Zinc deficiency is not very common in developed countries such as the U. S.,” But, apart from a known deficiency, there is an array of reasons one might wish to discuss taking zinc supplements with their doctor.

Zenker explains, “Individuals who might benefit from zinc supplements include people who have undergone bariatic operations, people with gastrointestinal diseases like celiac disease or IBD, pregnant and breastfeeding women, and people with chronic illnesses or those recuperating from any surgical procedure or wounds.”

Older adults, particularly those with a poor appetite, or individuals unable to consume enough zinc-rich foods, vegetarians, and vegans may also benefit from zinc supplements. Zenker also adds, “Zinc bioavailability decreases in plant-based foods containing phytates, like legumes.”

How can you get the necessary zinc from your food? Zenker highlights, “Oysters contain about 32 mg of zinc per three ounces, the highest amount of zinc per serving.” Foods like crab, lobster, beef, pumpkin seeds, fortified cereals, poultry, oats, cheddar cheese, lentils, beans, tofu, hemp seeds, wheat germ, liver, chicken, chickpeas, sunflower seeds, cashews, pecans, and scallops are also high in zinc.

For those with adequate zinc levels, you may not see a significant gain from zinc supplements. However, those with low levels may witness major improvements. Experts share the seven unexpected benefits you can experience.

“Zinc is vital for the correct function of the immune system. It aids in the production and activation of T-cells which are crucial for immune responses,” Zenker notes. She highlights that research suggests adequate zinc intake may lessen the duration and severity of infections.

However, Kimberley Wiemann, MS, RDN, owner of Kimberley Wiemann Nutrition, states that more research is needed to substantiate its benefits for acute infections. “Studies show that if someone starts taking zinc within 24 hours of symptoms developing, then symptoms can be reduced. However, other studies have shown little to no effect,” she says.

If you have a wound, zinc supplements may assist in hastening the healing process. “Zinc plays a significant role in maintaining skin integrity and structure. It’s involved in collagen synthesis, cell proliferation, and immune function, all of which are necessary for wound healing,” says Zenker.

Did you know that zinc supplements can also benefit fetal development during pregnancy? Zenker mentions this as another surprising benefit of zinc. The World Health Organization (WHO) states, “The central role of zinc in cell division, protein synthesis, and growth means that an adequate supply of zinc is especially important for pregnant women.”

Furthermore, zinc supplements have dermatological benefits. Zenker notes that zinc can support the health of your hair and nails. “Zinc has anti-inflammatory properties and can help in treating acne and other skin conditions.”

Zinc’s anti-inflammatory properties may have wider health implications. “Zinc has antioxidant properties that help combat oxidative stress and inflammation. This can be beneficial in reducing the risk of chronic diseases,” Zenker suggests.

A 2022 meta-analysis of nine studies, published in the journal Nutrients, reveals that zinc deficiencies are frequent among people suffering from Irritable Bowel Disorders (IBD) like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. “The present research highlights the importance of considering zinc as a micronutrient to be monitored, because every second IBD patient shows a deficiency,” the study states.

The final surprising benefit of zinc supplementation is that it may assist in delaying age-related macular degeneration, a vision impairing disease. “Taking zinc supplements may delay the progression of advanced AMD, thereby helping to preserve your vision for longer if you have been diagnosed with intermediate or advanced AMD,” say experts from Cove Eyecare.

However, it’s also important to note that taking oral zinc supplements can lead to side effects such as indigestion, diarrhea, headaches, and vomiting. Excessive zinc intake can result in copper deficiency, causing an array of health issues like anemia, neurological problems, osteoporosis, and irregular heartbeat.

DeDecker warns, “People should not use intra-nasal zinc (such as homeopathy remedies) as this poses the risk of permanent loss of smell.”

So, do make sure to consult with your medical professional to learn more about the risks and benefits of zinc before deciding whether a zinc supplement is right for you.

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Understanding Abdominal Pain: Causes, Relief, and When to Seek Help

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Experiencing abdominal pain can be due to a myriad of reasons, ranging from something as mundane as gas to more significant health conditions like appendicitis or Crohn’s disease. Recognizing the intensity of the pain and location within the abdomen can significantly aid in diagnosis.

The abdomen, situated between the chest and pelvis, is often where this discomfort occurs. Manifestations of such discomfort range from crampy, achy, and dull feelings to intermittent or sharp pains. It’s a remarkably common issue within the United States, with up to 1 in 4 people affected by this gastrointestinal symptom.

While the discomfort is typically transient, resolving with dietary changes and lifestyle modifications, it can also be chronic or indicative of a potentially drastic, life-threatening condition requiring immediate medical care.

“Determining the correct treatment for abdominal pain will ultimately depend on the root cause. This can involve a combination of natural remedies, medications, and, in more serious cases, surgical intervention,” says an expert on the topic. For instance, the fleeting pain caused by bloating might not necessitate medical treatment.

There are instances where over-the-counter (OTC) medications can alleviate abdominal discomfort, such as cramps, bloating, and nausea. However, appendicitis that results in severe pain might need a more robust treatment plan involving antibiotics and potentially an appendectomy, a surgical procedure to remove the appendix.

A healthcare professional is instrumental in creating the most effective treatment plan. While there are plenty of home remedies available to help soothe abdominal pain, it’s critical to consult a medical professional before trying anything new, as what works for one person may not necessarily work for another. Always remember health is an individual journey, and taking into account personal medical history is crucial for effective treatment.

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Unlocking the Parkinson’s Puzzle: Vital Vitamin Links Revealed

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Parkinson’s disease, a neurodegenerative disorder whose precise origins continue to elude the scientific community, may have a new suspect in its etiology: vitamin deficiencies. While physicians and scientists have long hypothesized that an interplay between genetic and environmental factors contributes to the disease’s onset, new findings suggest a possible role for the absence of certain vitamins.

A recent study undertaken in May 2024, published in the Parkinson’s Disease journal, endeavored to uncover “gut microbial features” prevalent in individuals diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. The research involved a meta-analysis of fecal matter from a group of 94 diagnosed Parkinson’s patients, juxtaposed with 73 healthy individuals hailing from Japan. The data from this study was compared with earlier studies carried out in the U.S., Germany, China, and Taiwan.

The study’s findings were illuminating. It appears that those suffering from Parkinson’s disease were lacking in bacterial genes, which may cause a deficiency in two B vitamins, namely riboflavin (B2) and biotin (B7). The researchers stated: “Pathway analysis showed that genes in the biosyntheses of riboflavin and biotin were markedly decreased in Parkinson’s disease after adjusting for confounding factors.”

Riboflavin, known as B2 vitamin, is a component of the B-complex vitamins and is commonly found in a variety of food items including meats, fortified grains, and nuts, as confirmed by the Cleveland Clinic. “Riboflavin is an essential micronutrient that helps cells develop and work well,” says registered dietitian Kayla Kopp, RD. “Healthy bacteria in your gut microbiome make small amounts of riboflavin. But your body needs more to function. That’s why it’s important to get enough of this B vitamin in your diet every day.”

Significantly, the study also highlighted how riboflavin has been shown to improve conditions such as “oxidative stress, mitochondrial dysfunction, neuroinflammation, and glutamate excitotoxicity,” all of which are associated with Parkinson’s disease onset.

Biotin, or B7, is another B-complex vitamin that supports vital bodily functions. It is found in foods like meat, eggs, fish, seeds, nuts, and certain vegetables. The study notes that biotin produces anti-inflammatory substances and has the ability to decrease inflammation, providing relief from symptomatic allergies, immunological symptoms, and inflammatory bowel disease.

Given the implications of these vitamin deficiencies on health, the researchers suggest that introducing vitamin B supplements might be beneficial to Parkinson’s patients. In their words, “Supplementation of riboflavin and/or biotin is likely to be beneficial in a subset of Parkinson’s disease patients, in which gut dysbiosis plays pivotal roles.”

Nonetheless, it is critical to exercise caution before hastily adopting the study’s conclusions. “I think these data are much too premature to warrant therapeutic interventions,” warns Tim Sampson, PhD, assistant professor in the department of Cell Biology at Emory University School of Medicine. He emphasizes that these findings just widen the understanding of how the gut microbiome might be contributing to Parkinson’s disease.

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Endocrinologist Reveals Top Gut Health No-Nos to Live By

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Our gut health is more important than many of us realize. With more than 100 trillion microbes, including bacteria, fungi, yeast, and viruses, the gut microbiome plays a crucial role in how our bodies function and respond to stress, certain foods, and even some medications. Registered dietitian Kristian Kirkpatrick, RD, calls it the ‘second brain,’ thanks to its vast influence on our overall health.

1. Limit Red Meat Intake

Endocrinologist and researcher, Max Nieuwdorp, PhD, highlights the vital role gut microbes play in the production and release of various hormones, affecting our daily processes like mood and metabolism. One of the items Nieuwdorp suggests we limit for optimal gut health is red meat. He told Business Insider, “I try to not eat meat every day.”

While red meat can alter the composition of the gut microbiome, producing “dangerous” metabolites during the digestion process, Scripps Health also warns that a diet centered around red meat may increase risk for diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and colorectal cancer due to its high cholesterol, saturated fats, and sodium content.

2. Avoid Ultra-Processed Foods

Nieuwdorp also advocates for reducing the intake of ultra-processed foods, including sweetened breakfast cereals, processed meat, soda, and some frozen ready-to-eat meals. Instead, he recommends prioritizing fresh, additive-free foods.

Gastroenterologist Preeya Goyal, MD, explained in an interview with PIH Health that “ultra-processed foods contain large quantities of saturated fat and trans-fat, added sugar, salt, and food additives that seriously affect the gut and physical health.” Additionally, the consumption of ultra-processed foods can disrupt brain functions.

3. Use Antibiotics Only When Necessary

Lastly, Nieuwdorp suggests using antibiotics only when absolutely necessary. “They drive dysbiosis in the gut,” he said.

Cleveland Clinic explains that dysbiosis means a lack of diversity in the gut’s microorganisms, which can make us vulnerable to infections. An imbalanced gut microbiome can also negatively affect our hormones and other essential microbiome services.

Harnessing the power of hormones for optimal health means nourishing our ‘second brain’ — the gut microbiome. By reducing red meat intake, avoiding ultra-processed foods, and using antibiotics only when necessary, we can better care for our gut health, positively impacting our overall wellbeing. Just like every part of our body, our gut requires thoughtfulness and care. With these tips from Dr. Nieuwdorp, we can take actionable steps to improve our gut health and consequently, our general health.

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