Zinc and Magnesium – An Essential Dynamic Due for the Body
Our bodies require several essential vitamins and minerals, such as magnesium and zinc, to function correctly and maintain equilibrium, which is scientifically known as homeostasis. These essential vitamins and minerals are made available through a balanced diet or supplementation. Two of these crucial minerals have gained much popularity as of late and become a focus of recent scientific research.
A deficiency in this dynamic duo can disrupt a number of body’s normal processes, including bone health, mood, immunity, the sleep cycle, and more! So if you suffer from common ailments like poor bone health, skin health, muscle cramps, or depression, supplementation with zinc and magnesium may be the holistic key to improvement.
Now, let’s meet this dynamic duo in further detail!
What is Zinc?
So what is zinc you ask..? Zinc is a mineral that is a vital nutrient for humans, animals, and even plants to maintain homeostasis. Looking back at your once forgotten elementary science class, you can find zinc on the periodic table of elements, with the element symbol of Zn and atomic number of 30. This element is considered a trace metal. It is essential for many of the processes that take place within the body at the molecular level.
Zinc is needed in the body to help facilitate metabolism, gene expression, growth/development, reproduction, and immunity. The body does not store this trace element in excess, which means you must obtain it in proper amounts through a balanced diet or supplementation. Just like the other essential vitamins and minerals, it is essential to maintain the right amount in your body, as too much zinc or too little can lead to unhealthy consequences.
On a side note, this element has many industrial uses. You use it to galvanize other metals to prevent rust formation. You can also use it in manufacturing processes of products like cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, batteries, and plastics.
So, regardless if you identify as an animal, plant, human, automobile, or an inanimate object like paint, zinc is necessary for you to live a healthy and happy lifestyle. In addition to its importance at the molecular level, it is also a beneficial remedy for some common ailments, either by itself or with its favourite counterpart, magnesium. Stay tuned…
What are the health benefits of Zinc supplementation?
Since most of us identify as humans, you must be wondering if there is a health benefit in taking a zinc supplement. As briefly mentioned above, zinc is vital for many processes that take place at the cellular level in our bodies. It is crucial to correct zinc deficiency, which can occur due to inadequate intake or other underlying health conditions like malnutrition or chronic diarrhea.
Here is a brief list of ten foods that are naturally high in zinc content:
- Red meat
- Pumpkin Seeds
Many parts of the body benefit from a balanced diet or supplementation. Zinc has been linked to slowing the progression of age-related macular degeneration, which in simple terms is the natural worsening of eyesight over time. Many eye vitamin combination products contain zinc for this exact reason.
Zinc has been used for many years topically for its many benefits at the dermatologic level. It has anti-inflammatory and soothing properties when applied topically to the skin. It has shown to be beneficial in healing and symptom management of conditions like ulcers, diaper rashes, hemorrhoids, acne, rosacea, cold sores, and warts. Zinc helps protect and heal the skin while also increasing your body’s immunity at the same time.
Boost Your Immune System with Zinc Suppliments
Many adolescents in developing countries suffer from chronic diarrhea that is associated with zinc deficiency. According to the WHO (World Health Organization), a ten to fourteen day course of zinc supplementation helps reduce the duration of diarrhea in addition to symptoms. However, it is suggested that this health benefit has only been found in diarrhea associated with zinc deficiency, not any other modality.
Zinc has also shown benefit in helping fight the common cold, which seems to be a seasonal bother to most of us. As a natural remedy, studies have shown how Zinc helps reduce the span of the cold, accordingly by 33 %. Tablets or syrup solutions are available that help reduce symptoms and ailment duration when taken within 24 hours of symptom onset. It is important to note that tablets and syrup formulations are the most effective (not oral pill form and not topical) in this case as they coat and stay in the throat for an extended period. It is of importance since the rhinovirus causes the common cold. This virus multiplies within the upper respiratory tract, which includes the throat and nasal passages. It is suggested that zinc helps prevent this virus from multiplying and restricts access to the mucus membrane.
Zinc and mental health
In other news, zinc has undergone clinical trials in combination with anti-depressants in patients suffering from major depression. Although not exclusive, multiple studies have shown that there is a plausible benefit of zinc supplementation as an adjunct therapy in helping with depression and other psychosis conditions. It suggests that it can be useful as a more natural and cost-effective agent.
In regards to zinc’s counterpart Magnesium, these two essential substances play a “balancing act” when taken at proper doses. Magnesium helps regulate levels of zinc in the body, while zinc helps facilitate adequate magnesium absorption. At the correct dosages, these two help each other out with the plethora of processes in which they partake. But in excess, they can counteract each other, which can lead to unwanted effects.
What is Magnesium?
Magnesium is also a mineral that is essential for the body to maintain homeostasis. It is also found on the periodic table (back to elementary science class again…) with the elemental symbol of Mg and an atomic number of 12. It plays a vital role in over 300 cellular reactions and is needed for processes like energy production, muscle contractions, nerve impulses, bone health, and heart rhythm (to name a few). Magnesium even plays a role in DNA synthesis! As you can see, this mineral has a huge impact on the way our bodies function.
As stated above with zinc, it is important to maintain adequate levels of this nutrient as well, since hypomagnesemia (too little magnesium) and hypermagnesemia (too much magnesium) can lead to undesirable health effects. The majority of this element is stored in bones and muscle tissue, while some remains in the circulatory system (blood). When in excess, your kidneys do their duty to excrete into the urine what is not needed.
What are the health benefits of Magnesium supplementation?
Magnesium has numerous health benefits when taken correctly. It is crucial in correcting magnesium deficiency caused by insufficient intake or other underlying health conditions.
Ten foods that are high in magnesium include:
- Whole grains
- Pumpkin seeds
- Chia seeds
- Peanuts or peanut butter
Magnesium is a natural laxative used to help alleviate constipation. It is also a remedy used for heartburn and dyspepsia (the medical term for indigestion). It suggests that it has benefit in aiding the GI tract, depending on your specific need. For these purposes, you can find it in many over-the-counter products. Magnesium has also been shown to decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease since it has been shown to reduce elevated blood pressure to a small extent. Lowering blood pressure, even slightly, helps reduce one’s risk for heart disease and promotes heart health.
Magnesium is a crucial factor in glucose metabolism. Inadequate levels of magnesium have been linked to insulin resistance, which can lead to or worsen Type II diabetes mellitus. A symptom of uncontrolled diabetes is increased urination, which can continue the cycle of worsening disease by excreting much-needed magnesium in the urine. As mentioned briefly, this mineral is also a key player in bone formation, and a lack of it can contribute to osteopenia and even osteoporosis. Low levels of magnesium have also been associated with an increased risk of migraine headaches.
Magnesium also plays a vital role for the largest organ in our body, the skin. Not only does it have protectant properties when applied topically, but it also helps skin cells repair and regenerate. It in turn speeds up the wound healing process. It has been used for several skin conditions, including carbuncles, ulcers, and boils.
The effects of zinc and magnesium deficiency
It is essential to correct a deficiency in any vitamin or mineral that is essential for your body. It stands true for both magnesium and zinc. A lack of magnesium can be due to underlying health conditions like malnutrition, alcoholism, GI disease, or merely insufficient intake. Certain medications have the potential to decrease magnesium levels in the body, which can attribute to insufficiency.
Symptoms of magnesium deficiency include but are not limited to:
- Muscle cramps
- Numbness and/or tingling
- Abnormal heartbeat
It is important to correct zinc deficiency as well, which can occur due to malnutrition or chronic diarrhea. Zinc deficiency is less prevalent in developed countries compared to low income or less developed countries. As always, maintaining a balanced diet is something to strive for, but supplementation may be necessary to ensure adequate intake.
Symptoms of zinc deficiency include but are not limited to:
- Growth retardation
- Decrease in immunity
- Wound healing insufficiency
Supplementation – Who may benefit and who should avoid it
So, you may be thinking to yourself: “what are the recommended daily dosing of these two elements?” The tables below show the recommended daily allowances of magnesium and zinc based on age and sex, according to the National Institute of Health. Pregnancy and lactation recommendations are not included in the tables below, but you can find it on the NIH website. As always, it is essential to consult with your healthcare provider and get your levels checked before supplementation.
First and foremost, those with a deficiency would benefit from supplementation.
Individuals with one or more of the following conditions may benefit from zinc supplementation:
- GI or digestive issues
- Chronic diarrhea or bowel issues
- Sickle cell disease
- Macular degeneration
- Skin eruptions (topical application)
Vegetarians can benefit from supplementation or a diet with more zinc, since meat is a significant source. In pregnant women as well as those lactating, it can also help since there is a relatively high fetal requirement, while the latter excretes a fair amount in breast milk. Zinc supplements can also interact with some prescription medications, so it is essential to consult with your healthcare provider.
Individuals with one or more of the following conditions may benefit from magnesium supplementation:
- GI disease
- Type 2 diabetes mellitus
- Frequent migraines or headaches
- Cardiovascular disease
- Skin eruptions (topical application)
Also, those within the elderly population may benefit as their diets are typically lower in magnesium than that of younger people. As we get older, excretion increases while intestinal absorption decreases, which can lead to a deficiency if you do not routinely consume a Mg-rich diet. As briefly mentioned above, certain medications (ex: diuretics, proton pump inhibitors) decrease the amount of magnesium in the body. Those at higher risk are people on multiple drugs, which typically are the elderly.
Excess magnesium is excreted in the urine, and typically does not pose a health risk except in rare cases when vast amounts are consumed. Those with kidney disease or renal insufficiency should proceed with caution and maybe even want to avoid it.
Can zinc and magnesium together be taken with other essential vitamins and minerals?
You can take the dynamic duo with most other vitamins and supplements. They are usually main ingredients in many, if not all, once-daily multivitamins. Interesting enough, there are also many supplements on the market that consist solely of calcium, magnesium, and zinc. Shall we name them the Dynamic Triad?!? It may be because all three are essential factors in many bodily processes. In combination, they promote bone health, mood elevation, immunity boost, as well as skin health.
In conclusion, there are many health benefits associated with taking zinc alone or together with magnesium. The same goes for magnesium. Many food groups are high in content of these minerals if you are looking for a more naturalist way to maintain the right amount your body needs to stay healthy. Your skin also greatly benefits when this dynamic duo is used topically. Regardless of the source of supplementation, your body will thank you for maintaining a healthy intake of these minerals. In turn, you will thank your body for performing all its molecular processes at it’s best.
*Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only. It should not be used in any other way, such as to treat, diagnosis, or cure any disease or condition. Organicha and its writers/affiliates can not be held legally responsible for the use of this information by its audience.*
Dr. Alex Kolb, Pharm.D, R.Ph. is a licensed pharmacist, practicing in the long term care sector. He graduated from the University of New England College of Pharmacy in 2016.