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As I sit reflecting upon all the events of 2020, the most shocking of all is protecting and preserving the very crucial life-supporting act of simply breathing.  The respiratory system is under a mind-blowing, hard-hitting attack.   We will be facing the onset of the flu season beginning in November and lasting thru April.  Commercials and signs are starting to appear, reminding us of the flu virus’s dangers and recommending the flu vaccine.  Not to mention or shall I say the current threat of the second wave of the COVID-19 virus, which is even more challenging.  The respiratory system is most definitely under a double threat.

However, let us not forget how strong and resilient our bodies are fighting each day with a powerful Immune system.  The immune system’s principal task is to eradicate all foreign invaders (viruses, microbes, bacteria) attempting to enter our bodies.  As a result, we rely heavily on our immune system’s forces to protect and, once under attack, conquer and restore health and well-being.  Therefore, it is essential to ensure that the immune system is always well taken care of to maintain full efficiency.  According to evidence-based research, there are several ways to care for our immune system; however, the primary way is through Nutrition.  There are various nutrients found in food that contribute to the immune system‘s health, and among these is the trace mineral Zinc.  According to David Hafler, professor of neurology and immunobiology at Yale School of Medicine, “If you are zinc deficient, your immune system will not function as well.”

Zinc is an essential trace mineral, necessary because the body cannot make or store it; thus, a daily source of Zinc is dependent upon the food we eat or supplements. The word Trace implies the body only requires a small amount to meet the protective requirements. 

Recently, Zinc has become the new headliner because it displays a significant role in the treatment and duration of various respiratory illnesses such as the common cold.  Several studies are showing mixed conclusive results regarding the effects of Zinc on colds.  A recent finding from a  Cleveland Clinical study indicates Zinc significantly cut the duration of colds among study participants.  Data from a clinical trial study also supports the value of Zinc in reducing the time and severity of symptoms of the common cold when taken 24 hours of the onset of cold symptoms. 

More importantly, researchers from Spain suggest Zinc may play a role in COVID-19 outcomes.  The study indicates the patients with a low level of Zinc in their body upon admission tend to have higher inflammation (depressed immune system), resulting in poorer COVID-19 outcomes.  The study shows after adjusting for factors such as age, gender, illness severity, and treatments received, every unit increase of Zinc in the blood notes a 7% lowering of the odds that a patient would die while in the hospital.  Please note the study group was small, and further studies are needed to assess Zinc’s therapeutic impact.

Although study results are mixed and inconclusive, evidence-based research proves. Zinc is an essential trace mineral playing a vital part in keeping the immune system healthy.  It is crucial also to know excessive amounts of Zinc can be dangerous, leading to serious adverse side effects.  The most common cause of zinc toxicity is taking too much supplemental Zinc. Please consult with your Primary Care Team before beginning any regiment of Zinc using supplementation.  Severe Zinc deficiency is rare in people with rare genetic mutations, poor absorption, alcoholism, and old age.  The Recommended Daily Intake of Zinc necessary to maintain your immune system at peak performance is 11 mg for adult men and 8 mg for adult women.  To avoid overconsumption of Zinc, avoid all forms of high-dose Zinc supplements unless recommended by a doctor.

Build your Regiment of Zinc through Diet.   Excellent sources are:

Shellfish: (oysters, crab, mussels, lobster, and clams),
Meat:  Beef pork, lamb, and bison.
Poultry: Turkey and chicken.
Nuts and seeds: Pumpkin seeds, cashews, hemp seeds.
Dairy products: Milk, yogurt, and cheese
Whole grains: Oats, quinoa, brown rice
Vegetables: Mushrooms, kale, peas, asparagus, and beet greens

You are what you eat. Choose wisely -the efficiency of your immune (defense) system is dependent upon your choices.