Studies: 3 Ways Zinc Boosts Digestion

Along with other metals such as Iron, Magnesium, and Copper, Zinc is part of a group called “trace minerals”, which act as helpers in tasks such as cognition, maintaining mood, growth, and digestion*. Zinc, specifically, aids in digestion by attaching to over 300 enzymes (structures made of proteins that break down other molecules); including ones in your stomach that help break down food(1). If your digestion is feeling suboptimal, there could be benefits in maintaining a more optimum zinc level.

Zinc can support alleviating diarrhea*

Diarrhea is extremely uncomfortable and can even be life-threatening, but luckily for us, Zinc can possibly shorten the duration and severity of diarrhea. Pediatricians at the Medical College of Georgia compiled a list of trials that included both random assignment of zinc supplementation and a control from which to compare results(2). 22 studies met this criteria and out of over 15,000 subjects, it was concluded that “Zinc supplementation reduces the duration and severity of acute and persistent diarrhea.”*

Zinc has a role in maintaining stomach acid levels*

Your stomach naturally secretes very strong acid in order to break down food; however, if this acid isn’t controlled properly, it could cause heartburn, stomach ulcers, and indigestion.  One exciting new discovery by Yale University of Medicine which may lead to new treatments for stomach acid problems is that zinc may have a function in reducing acid secretion both effectively and quickly(3). Researchers isolated acid secreting glands in both rats and humans and demonstrated that acid levels dropped immediately after zinc treatment. These results were then tested in human volunteers who were given doses of zinc salts and then had their gut acidity measured. All of these volunteers showed a rapid decrease in acidity that lasted for over 3 hours.

Zinc helps preserve digestive linings*

If you’re suffering from stomach irritation, inflammation, or a leaky gut, the cause might not be the food you’re eating but could possibly be due to an incorrectly functioning intestinal lining. After researchers from the Lankenau Medical Center in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania tested the effects of zinc on human intestinal cells, they found that zinc changed the composition of tight junctions (channels that connect two cells) and possibly enhances barrier function(4). Specifically, scientists measured the lining by passing an electric current through the cell and measuring how much passed through the other side. Increasing zinc concentration significantly reduced the amount of current passing through the cell, signaling that the lining was less porous. Even though this experiment wasn’t done on living organisms, it still contributes knowledge on the role that zinc may have in countering digestive diseases (5).

How you can reach ideal zinc levels

The National Institutes of Health suggests a daily zinc intake of 11 mg for men and 8 mg for women (6). To reach this recommendation, sources such as meats, seafood, beans, and nuts will get you started. If you need extra help, supplements such as MicroNourish are also great to give you a boost!

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References

  1. Function and mechanism of zinc metalloenzymes. J Nutr. 2000 May;130(5S Suppl):1437S-46S
  2. A Meta-analysis of the Effects of Oral Zinc in the Treatment of Acute and Persistent Diarrhea. Pediatrics. 2008 Feb;121(2):326-36. doi: 10.1542/peds.2007-0921. Pediatrics. 2008 Feb;121(2):326-36. doi: 10.1542/peds.2007-0921.

  3. Zinc salts provide a novel, prolonged and rapid inhibition of gastric acid secretion. Am J Gastroenterol. 2011 Jan;106(1):62-70. doi: 10.1038/ajg.2010.327. Epub 2010 Aug 24.

  4. Intestinal barrier homeostasis in inflammatory bowel disease. Scand J Gastroenterol. 2015 Jan;50(1):3-12. doi: 10.3109/00365521.2014.971425.

  5. Zinc supplementation modifies tight junctions and alters barrier function of CACO-2 human intestinal epithelial layers. Dig Dis Sci. 2013 Jan;58(1):77-87. doi: 10.1007/s10620-012-2328-8. Epub 2012 Aug 19.

  6. Zinc – Health Professional Fact Sheet.” Health Information. National Institute of Health, 5 June 2013. Web.


*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.