Zinc is popular supplement that is very easily obtained in supplement stores in pharmacies. When taken the right way this supplement has many benefits such as boosting immune function, increased testosterone production and improved reproductive function, just to name a few. Adding this mineral to your diet through supplementing is a very good option if your normal diet lacks in it, but you must know that there is such a thing as too much zinc. The supplement is very cheap and unfortunately some people go overboard, wanting to get that extra edge with everything they do. If you surpass the recommended dosage of zinc, or don’t use one of the best and most absorbable forms (chemical formula), you might get yourself into trouble.
What are the negative and unwanted effects to zinc supplementation?
1) Digestive problems and stomach upset (light side-effects)
Consumption of zinc, either too much, the wrong type or just an intolerance on your part can cause stomach upset. Problems such as indigestion, heartburn, headaches and abdominal cramps are not uncommon. Make sure you don’t take more than the recommended dose and avoid cheap commercial formulas that not only offer low absorption rates but have higher chances to cause stomach upset. Try to stay around 40-50 mg of zinc per day to avoid stomach upsets. Taking your supplement with a small meal also helps avoiding digestive problems. If none of these tips work, try to change your zinc formula. For example if you’re taking zinc oxide you might want to try zinc picolinate instead or some other form. It’s not THAT much more expensive and they’re more bioavailable to your body, which means more of it absorbed in your body for each milligram ingested. Also see natural sources of zinc in food.
2) Lowered immune function
Ironic that adequate zinc intake is often said to improve your immune system, but on the other hand too much of this trace mineral can have the opposite effect. Taking high doses of zinc around 200-400 mg/day can have disastrous side effects and one of them is impaired immune function.
3) Reduced sense of taste or smell
Some patients subject to relatively high doses of Zn supplement for a small period of time have experienced a change in taste and smell. High doses give you the impression of a metallic smell in your mouth, as well as changing the taste of food and beverages. The unwanted side-effects usually go away after a couple hours. While this side effect is not dangerous at all, I would recommended any professional wine taster to avoid this!
4) Copper and Iron deficiency
Zinc competes with copper for absorption in the human body. Having too zinc unbalances your copper levels which become deficient. Copper deficiency causes : low white blood cells, risk of infection and osteoporosis. Zinc also plays a role in how your body uses iron and higher than normal levels of Zn can potentially cause anemia, paleness of the skin and fatigue. Check out how our bodies can leach zinc.
Most cases of zinc toxicity are caused by accidental ingestion of high amounts of zinc oxide from creams for example, but zinc overdose is not to be taken lightly, especially when over dosage is for a prolonged period of time. Ideally you don’t want to go higher than 50 mg and maybe a little more for special treatments, but serious side-effects have been noticed starting at 150-200mg up to 500mg and more. The more serious unwanted side-effects include dizziness, chest pain, trouble breathing, fever, chills and jaundice. If this ever happens to you discontinue use immediately and consult a doctor. I’m totally serious about this.
For a more in-depth analysis of the effects of zinc in the body, check this out
A quick resume :
- Zinc is a healthy mineral and supplementation is a healthy choice if need be;
- Get the right dosage and type of supplement;
- Having a little too much of this trace mineral in your system cause mild side-effects that go away quickly;
- Overdosing on this supplement is extremely dangerous and should be taken seriously.