This blog is a way of sharing the information and resources that have helped me to recover my son Roo from an Autism Spectrum Disorder. What I have learned is to view our symptoms as the results of underlying biological cause, which can be identified and healed. I say "our symptoms" because I also have a neuro-immune disorder called Myalgic Encephalomyelitis.

And, of course, I am not a doctor (although I have been known to impersonate one while doing imaginative play with my son)- this is just our story and information that has been helpful or interesting to us. I hope it is helpful and interesting to you!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Signs of Zinc Deficiency

There are many reasons for zinc deficiency to occur, such as gut problems and mercury poisoning, but this information is especially relevant for people with Pyroluria (the symptoms of Pyroluria are essentially the symptoms of the zinc and B6 deficiency that it causes). Severe stress (both physical and emotional) can aggravate and worsen zinc deficiency, as can severe burns, diarrhea, low levels of vitamin D, and a vegetarian or vegan diet (vegetarian diets are both low in bioavailable sources of zinc and contain higher levels of anti-nutrients that block zinc absorption such as phytic acid and oxalic acid).  Interestingly many people who are chronically zinc deficient find themselves drawn to eating a vegetarian diet as the zinc deficiency can led to an aversion to meat. 

Zinc deficiency can cause-

-increased oxidative stress.
-detrimental effects on mitochondrial functioning (including disruption in programmed cell death (apoptosis) which is necessary to keep cancers from forming).
-digestive problems including poor absorption of nutrients, as zinc is an important cofactor for many digestive enzymes to function.
-inadequate stomach acid, which can contribute to poor nutrient absorption and gut dysbiosis.
-low appetite and avoidance of foods, especially proteins.  Severe zinc deficiency is one cause of eating disorders, in particular anorexia.
-slowed or stalled growth, both physical and developmental.   'Failure to thrive" is often associated with significant zinc deficiency.  Very severe zinc deficiency can cause dwarfism.
-motor problems (possibly due to the role of zinc in nerve cell signal transmission?).

-cognitive effects (it's said that "zinc rhymes with think for a reason")
-poor immune function or response, which can lead to frequent and/or chronic illnesses.
-slow wound healing.
-elevated copper levels which can be a factor in high histamine levels.
-neurological and mental health effects such as anxiety and depression.
-disrupted ability to regulate hormone levels, possibly delaying onset of puberty.
-delayed or abnormal development and maturation of genitalia.
-rashes and other skin problems.
-thin, weak fingernails and toenails with ridges and/or white spots.
-pale skin or skin paler than relatives (zinc is part of melanin synthesis.  Melanin is neuro-protective against mercury so this may increase an individual's likelihood of becoming mercury poisoned).
-premature greying of hair or greying of hair after stressful events, for same reason as above.
-altered or dysfunctional sensory perception, including taste, smell, hearing, and vision (in particular night blindness).

-disruption in the regulation of gene expression.
-limitation of the body's ability to make glucose from amino acids and to release glucose from glycogen.  

Here are resources for more information about the significance of zinc in the body:

The Linus Pauling Institute's Micro-Nutrient Database
(this also has more specific information about the role of zinc in certain diseases such as pnemonia, malaria, HIV/AIDS, and diabetes that may be useful for people with other immune challenges as well.)

Wikipedia entry for zinc deficiency

Basic overview of research involving zinc from the Natural Partners site.