When we talk about diet and menstrual cycle, we often discuss protein and iron in meats, potassium in bananas and other big and “famous” nutrients. But we forget that there are many other nutrients that are as important and valuable! Today’s nutrient hall of fame shout-out is to ZINC!
Zinc plays a role in regulation of your immune system (including development and function of immune cells), skin health and repair, growth and development, DNA synthesis, and more! In fact, hundreds of different compounds in your body that are responsible for proper metabolism and digestion rely on good zinc supplies to do their job. Isn’t that amazing?!
More than that (!) there is increasing evidence that zinc deficiency is closely related to development of many allergies and sensitivities in women, particularly eczema.
What about zinc and your menstrual health?
And here too! In the context of diet and menstrual cycle, zinc deficiency seems to be closely related to painful and irregular periods, PMS, and hormonal imbalance.
This is because zinc helps to promote healthy ovulation and progesterone release, and as I was saying in chapter 2 of my BEEautiful U Formula Course, without progesterone you can expect quite a turbulent half of your cycle!
Did you know that zinc is called “essential”? That means that we cannot get it in any other way besides eating it. Furthermore, our body can’t store zinc, which means we also need to eat it on a regular basis!
"So...", you may wonder, “how come we talk about zinc so rarely then?”
Is zinc deficiency common?
Great question! One of the reasons, I think, is that this mineral can be found in so many different foods that it has been long assumed that zinc deficiency is rare. Zinc is high in meats, shellfish, eggs and dairy…staple foods in many countries. Plant food sources that are rich in zinc are also widely available and include nuts, seeds, whole grains and legumes (although the absorption of zinc from plant sources is generally lower and quite controversial).
The problem though, is that more and more people exclude zinc-rich foods from their diet (eating less red meat, avoiding milk and so on), without replacing them with proper plant-based alternatives!
Zinc is also involved in our stress response, so the more stressed you are, the more zinc will be used up and the less of it will be left to support your healthy menstrual cycle.
If you wonder about your zinc levels, talk to a doctor you trust and see if you can test it
Unless you are severely depleted, the best way to get zinc is with food, not supplements!
Try to think of foods that you eat on a regular basis (remember we don’t store zinc!) and see how many natural zinc-rich foods you eat
As always if you need any help figuring it out, talk to your nutritionist or check out my comprehensive Menstrual Health Course here that includes menstrual cycle meal plan (for each phase of your cycle) to help support your daily nutrition and of course, optimal zinc levels!
Love you all and til next!
ZINC FOOD EXAMPLES
Very rich sources of zinc: Atlantic oysters, king crab, steamed lobster, crab cake, all cuts of beef, and all cuts of lamb.
Very good / good sources of zinc: Pork, poultry, milk, low-fat cheese, yogurt, eggs, nutritional yeast, nuts, seeds (e.g. pumpkin seeds), various whole grain products, legumes and tofu.
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2. Gray NA, Dhana A, Stein DJ, Khumalo NP. Zinc and atopic dermatitis: a systematic review and meta-analysis. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. 2019 Jun;33(6):1042-1050. doi: 10.1111/jdv.15524. Epub 2019 Mar 15. PMID: 30801794.
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4. Health Canada; Dietary Reference Intake Tables. Retrieved from https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/food-nutrition/healthy-eating/dietary-reference-intakes/tables/reference-values-elements-dietary-reference-intakes-tables-2005.html
5. Solomons, N. W. (2001). Dietary sources of zinc and factors affecting its bioavailability. Food and nutrition bulletin, 22(2), 138-154.