Monday September 1 2014

Zinc supplements are crucial for the body

Oral rehydration solution can be made at home by mixing salt, sugar and water.

Oral rehydration solution can be made at home by mixing salt, sugar and water. 

By Stella Nakakande

Lean meat, peanuts and pumpkin seeds are common foods that we consume every day. But are you aware that these foods are rich in zinc, a mineral that is crucial for the body’s immune system?

Zinc is not made in the body, which means a person has to get it through supplements or food. It has several benefits, one of which is that it can be used in combination with Oral Rehydration Salts, to treat diarrhoea. It works by reducing the frequency, volume and duration by which a person with diarrhoea passes stool.

Although the World Health Organisation recommends its use, zinc should only be taken when there are signs that a person is deficient in the mineral.

Symptoms of zinc deficiency
Having a poor sense of smell, stunted growth, passing diarrhoea-like stool, white spots on the nails, poor appetite, dry skin, hair loss, eye and skin lesions are some of the signs that a person lacks zinc in their body.
This deficiency usually occurs if a person is not consuming enough Zinc in their diet or has a poor absorption of food. People who have wounds are also likely to suffer from zinc deficiency.
The absorption of the mineral can also be compromised by concurrent consumption of calcium or iron, oral contraceptives, caffeine, alcohol or when a person is stressed.

Immune booster
Zinc is required to keep the immune system functioning properly, which in turn protects people against germs. It helps to trigger enzymes, especially those involved in bone formation, and is useful in the manufacture of hormones that are required for the normal functioning of the thyroid glands.
Inadequate amount of zinc in the body is said to lower the levels of male hormone testosterone and also reduces sperm count, which consequently, is associated with impotence. This explains why men are encouraged to consume a lot of pumpkin seeds, which are high in zinc mineral.

Side effects
When taken as a supplement, zinc is associated with side effects such as nausea, stomach pain, diarrhoea, vomiting and headache. People who suffer from kidney-related problems are also cautioned against taking zinc supplements without prescription.

The writer is a pharmacist