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Zinc - Everything You Need To Know

by Carly Neubert, BA, NC on October 21, 2020

What do you think about zinc?

Do you want to boost your cellular metabolism, immune function, wound healing, as well as support daily cellular function?

Zinc supplements just might be the perfect addition to your routine. Zinc comes in a few over-the-counter forms: zinc oxide, zinc picolinate, zinc glycinate or bisglycinate, and zinc lozenges. All of these zinc supplements have some pretty incredible health benefits. To learn more about what exactly zinc is, how it can help your body, what it does for you sexually, overcoming zinc deficiency, as well as general information about appropriate supplement usage, keep on reading. This all-in-one zinc source has got you covered!

What actually is Zinc, and what can it do for your body?

Zinc is a naturally-occurring mineral that can be found throughout your body.  Your body doesn’t make zinc, so you must get it in your diet or through supplements. If you aren’t eating enough protein and green vegetables, you are likely not getting adequate amounts of zinc. More info on zinc deficiency is contained below.

Zinc is a vital mineral. It plays an important role in cell function, including protein synthesis, DNA synthesis, and cell division. It is important for healing skin wounds from scratches to surgical incisions. Plus, zinc maintains your body’s metabolic structures; it is responsible for the operations of approximately 100 enzymes!

Without zinc, over 100 enzymes within your body cannot be activated and perform their essential roles. Moreover, zinc contributes to your body’s overall immune system - helping your immune cells to fight off invasive bacteria and viruses. Clearly, zinc has a variety of applications within your body, thus it is crucial to your overall health.

What does zinc do for you sexually?

Zinc is critical for producing testosterone in both men and women. Several studies have been executed using zinc as a treatment for erectile dysfunction. Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a relatively common condition in the U.S. (affecting more than 30 million men), which results in the difficulty of the penis becoming or staying erect during sex. According to an article medically reviewed by health psychologist Debra Rose Wilson, Ph.D., MSN, R.N., IBCLC, AHN-BC, CHT, zinc is vital to the development and function of male sex organs.

In fact, zinc-deficient males have been observed to have less-developed testes in addition to lower sperm count. Zinc may be the key to male sexual performance and sexual competency in males. 

A study published in the Journal of Human Reproductive Sciences found a correlation between zinc and the sexual capabilities of rats. Based on the results, it appeared that “Zinc therapy improves sexual competence of male rats.” 

An additional recent study identified the impacts of zinc in combination with folic acid and the herb golden root. It determined that zinc supplements were able to improve male ejaculatory control. 

Lastly, zinc supplements have been identified as a possible treatment for ED in those with kidney disease.

Altogether, zinc’s improvement of ED is due to the fact that zinc supports the production of key sex hormones, such as prolactin and testosterone.  It is also the the main component of prostatic fluid.  All of these factors are crucial to male sexual performance.

What is zinc deficiency?

According to Oregon State University, dietary zinc deficiency is quite common. It affects an estimated 2 billion people in the world. Do you like to smell and taste your food? Then make sure your zinc levels are optimal. Other signs of zinc deficiency include: loss or appetite, weak immune system/frequent infections, diarrhea, weight loss, lethargy, fatigue, and low libido.

On the other hand, severe zinc deficiency is rare. Severe zinc deficiency is inherited by a condition called acrodermatitis enteropathica. It can also be acquired, via malabsorption syndromes (think of IBS and Crohns’ disease) and chronic alcoholism. Dietary zinc deficiency most often occurs as a result of decreased consumption of animal byproducts, as well as the increased consumption of diets high in phytates.

This form of zinc deficiency has been associated with immune dysfunction, impaired growth in children, and pregnancy complications. Some additional symptoms of zinc deficiency include: loss of energy, poor appetite, slow healing wounds, long-term respiratory infections, acne, dermatitis, and psoriasis.

What types of zinc supplements are available?

Zinc supplements that are available include zinc oxide, zinc picolinate, zinc glycinate or bisglycinate, and zinc citrate. Zinc oxide is a topical ointment typically used to treat diaper rash and other minor skin irritations. This application is meant for skin only. It should be applied as directed on the product package or as instructed by a doctor. You will also find zinc oxide in sunblock.  

Zinc picolinate is the most widely used form of zinc you will find in a supplement. Thorne Zinc picolinate is easily absorbed into the body. It aims to support general wellness, contributes to your body’s overall immune system, promotes healthy connective tissue, and helps maintain healthy eye and reproductive health. Suggested use is 1 capsule, one to two times daily, or as recommended by your healthcare practitioner.

Zinc lozenges are also a method of receiving portions of your body’s well-needed zinc. Recently, studies have demonstrated that taking a zinc lozenge has the capability to decrease the length of a cold by a day. This is due to the fact that most common colds are caused by one thing: the rhinovirus.

Zinc lozenges can stop the rhinovirus from multiplying and taking refuge in your throat and nose. This considered, zinc may be more effective when consumed in the lozenge form, however, it is important to note that it also has side effects, including nausea or a bad taste in the mouth. Consuming excessive amounts of zinc can also lead to copper deficiency, anemia, and damage to the nervous system.

How much zinc is too much?

The respective recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for adult men and women is 11 mg/day and 8 mg/day of zinc. If you are zinc deficient, or have genetic SNPs related to zinc, you may need to take higher doses.  If you have been practicing a vegetarian diet, which is known to deplete zinc levels, you may need to take large doses to restore your cellular zinc levels. 

The Food and Nutrition Board (FNB) at the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies (formerly National Academy of Sciences) identifies four different intake recommendations:

  • Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA): Average daily level of intake sufficient to meet the nutrient requirements of nearly all (97%–98%) healthy individuals; often used to plan nutritionally adequate diets for individuals.
  • Adequate Intake (AI): Intake at this level is assumed to ensure nutritional adequacy; established when evidence is insufficient to develop an RDA.
  • Estimated Average Requirement (EAR): Average daily level of intake estimated to meet the requirements of 50% of healthy individuals; usually used to assess the nutrient intakes of groups of people and to plan nutritionally adequate diets for them; can also be used to assess the nutrient intakes of individuals.
  • Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL): Maximum daily intake unlikely to cause adverse health effects.

(Source: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Zinc-HealthProfessional/)

The table below is from the National Institutes of Health and can serve as an excellent guide when considering the appropriate amount of supplementary zinc to take.

When should you take zinc?

Zinc supplements are best when taken approximately one hour before or two hours after meals. Nonetheless, if you find that zinc supplements cause stomach irritation, they can be taken with a meal.

What foods contain naturally-occurring zinc?

Ideally, you would consume all of your zinc simply through the foods you eat.   According to the National Institutes of Health, red meat and poultry provide the most zinc in the American diet. Other sources include beans, nuts, and certain types of seafood (oysters contain the most zinc per serving than any other food). Below is the full list provided by the National Institutes of Health:

However, many people fail to get adequate zinc through food alone. If you are deficient or looking to support your immune cells, a zinc supplement provides therapeutic doses. 

The most reliable method for testing zinc levels is through hair analysis.  

For more information about a home test for measuring your zinc levels, set up a consultation with Carly Neubert, BA, NC.  Happy zinc-ing!

Carly Neubert BA, NC

For additional recipes, biohacking tips and lifestyle hacks -- check out my other blog on my coaching site www.cleancoachcarly.com! I post weekly about nutrition and lifestyle topics, all backed by science. Happy Reading!



  1. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Zinc-HealthProfessional/
  2. https://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/zinc-supplement-oral-route-parenteral-route/proper-use/drg-20070269
  3. https://www.uchealth.org/today/zinc-could-help-diminish-extent-of-covid-19/
  4. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/316241#zinc-deficiency
  5. https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/minerals/zinc
  6. https://www.webmd.com/drugs/2/drug-7102/zinc-oxide-topical/details
  7. https://www.thorne.com/products/dp/zinc-picolinate