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Why Do Moms Need Zinc | Hea Boosters

Zinc plays a vital role in many of the body’s metabolic functions, ranging from developing immune cells and DNA synthesis to the enzymatic activity involved in digestion and nerve function.

This mineral is also a major contributor to skin health and protein production and is responsible for our ability to smell and taste things. Second only to iron in terms of its abundance as a trace element within our bodies, zinc is present in every cell.

Zinc is required for numerous processes in our body, including:

  • Gene expression
  • Immune function
  • Protein synthesis
  • DNA synthesis
  • Growth and development

Why do women need zinc?

- During pregnancy:
Many changes occur in a woman’s body over the nine months of her pregnancy, including her womb expanding and various organ systems being squeezed together to make space for the new baby.
Zinc is involved in the production and functioning of the baby’s DNA (the basic unit of our genetic code), and is critical during pregnancy since a rapid acceleration in cell growth is seen during this period.

- Keeps immune system strong:
Zinc is involved in both, innate and adaptive immune systems. It is crucial to the functioning of (and signaling between immune cells), owing to which a zinc deficiency often leads to a breach in the immune system.

This is something pregnant women and new moms alike should avoid at all costs. Zinc supplements stimulate certain key immune cells, reduce oxidative stress, significantly reduce the risk of infections and promote a strong immune response.

- Development of placenta:
Zinc plays a role in developing the placenta (an organ formed in the uterus during pregnancy responsible for providing oxygen and nutrients to the baby). It also helps transport iron to the child through the placenta. A deficiency of zinc can impact the function and formation of this organ, leading to adverse pregnancy outcomes.

- Smooth digestion:
Heartburn is a common complaint amongst pregnant women. Zinc acts as a co-factor in many gastrointestinal activities, thus reducing the occurrences of heartburn. Insufficient levels of this nutrient impact your body’s ability to digest food and absorb nutrients properly, which in turn causes heartburn.

After pregnancy:

- Important component of breastmilk:
Zinc is an extremely important part of your baby’s nutrition. The only way a baby’s immune system gets zinc is through breastmilk. As previously mentioned, zinc plays a vital role in immunity. It's crucial for developing T-cells, which help fight viruses and inhibit the growth of cancerous cells. It also promotes cell division, boosts DNA production and functioning, and provides structural support to the cells’ proteins.

- Reduces oxidative stress:

Oxidative stress is caused by a rise in free radicals in our bodies and a corresponding decrease in our antioxidant levels. Lethargy, muscle and joint pains, headaches, and memory loss are common symptoms of oxidative stress. Zinc partly functions as an antioxidant, reducing the free radicals in the body and relieves the body of this oxidative stress.

- Increases metabolism:
Zinc helps metabolize proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. When we don’t have enough of this nutrient, we tend to experience reduced energy and sluggishness. A deficiency in zinc also slows our metabolism down, which causes us to store fat and poses challenges to us losing weight.

Foods rich in zinc:

Our bodies cannot produce zinc, so it is essential to include it in our diets. The good news is that zinc is abundantly present in a wide variety of plant and animal-based foods.

According to FSSAI, men, pregnant and lactating women need 12 mg per day and women, in general, need 10 mg per day. This means that we only need Zinc in trace amounts, which can be easily achieved by having a properly balanced diet.

Despite the small quantity, the WHO claims that over 80% of pregnant women worldwide have an inadequate intake of zinc. This inadequacy can lead to low birth weight and premature birth.

A cup (245 g) of chicken contains 3 mg of zinc, equivalent to 30% of your daily value. A cup of chickpea contains 2.5 mg of zinc, which is equal to 25% of your daily value. A cup of peanuts contains 4.8 mg, equivalent to 48% of your daily value. A cup of dark chocolate contains 8.6 mg, equal to 86%% of the daily value.

Who is at risk for zinc deficiencies:

Aside from people who do not have access to a well-balanced diet, people with chronic conditions such as chronic diarrhoea, chronic kidney disease, chronic liver disease may experience zinc deficiency.

Vegetarians and vegans may also be at risk of zinc deficiencies because the body breaks down zinc found in meats more efficiently. Pregnant women and lactating moms may also be at risk because their bodies automatically prioritize the baby’s nutrition needs and tend to deplete the mother’s nutrient reserves in order to meet these during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

What happens if we take zinc or zinc supplements in excess?

Excess of zinc may lead to stomach pain, diarrhoea, vomiting, frequently falling sick and copper deficiency. That said, it is difficult to have excess zinc through our diet alone since this would imply us having more than 5 kilograms of chickpeas or 15-20 eggs in a day.

It has long been known that zinc is an essential trace element and that it plays a crucial role in every metabolic system that we possess. It helps maintain an overall state of good health for mothers and their children. It is a vital contributor to cell division, DNA synthesis, digestion, nerve function, immunity, metabolism, enzyme activity and cell construction.

Zinc plays a role in stabilising our blood sugar, encourages the healing of wounds through clotting mechanisms, and helps us taste and smell our food.

While we do not require large quantities of zinc for any of this, it is important to remember that our bodies do not produce this nutrient, owing to which we need to ensure an adequate intake of the same through our diets. Zinc is passed on to infants through breastmilk alone and is crucial to develop and maintain the placenta, activate the baby’s immune system, and maintain hormonal balances within the body.

When access to a balanced diet is limited, and for people who suffer from illnesses that inhibit the proper absorption of zinc by the body, it is worth considering adding a zinc supplement to your diet.

Do remember to consult your doctor before doing so, avoid high-dose supplements and stay within the limits of recommended dietary allowance in order to avoid inadvertently experiencing ill effects of an excess amount of Zinc.

A varied, balanced diet of zinc-rich foods such as meat, seafood, nuts, seeds, legumes and dairy is the best way to ensure that we get enough zinc and stay healthy.

If you’re worried that you’re not getting enough zinc through your diet, consider speaking to your healthcare provider about the possibility of taking a supplement.

Factsheets on importance of zinc:

Study on deficiencies of zinc:

Zinc has effects on immunity and immune cells:

A study on zinc impact on mother's womb:

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