Zinc for your immunity

Zinc for your immunity

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Naturopath Jodi Van Dyk takes a look at the adaptive immune system and explains why zinc is important for immunity.

Zinc, an important trace element, has often been used to support healthy skin, eye health, wound healing and fertility.

Traditionally zinc has also been used to support the immune system, and these days many products targeted towards cold and flu relief contain zinc.

Spotlight on the adaptive immune system

The body's immune system protects against disease by identifying and killing various infectious agents such as bacteria and viruses.

Over time, the immune system adapts to recognise infectious agents more efficiently – this process is known as adaptive immunity.

White blood cells make up a large proportion of the many different cells involved in immune functions. One particular white blood cell, which plays a major role in the function of adaptive immunity, is the lymphocyte.

There are two different types of lymphocytes used in adaptive immunity: the B and T lymphocytes. T cells are the most abundant and both B and T cells are used by the immune system in actively fighting infections.

Positive evidence for the role of zinc in adaptive immunity

Research has highlighted the important role that zinc plays in the activation of the immune system.

In a 2009 study, researchers took an in depth look at one specific role that zinc plays in the cells involved in immunity and found zinc supplementation was able to enhance T cell activation.

What does this mean for you?

If the body is deficient in zinc, cells of the immune system, such as T cells, may not perform as they should.

Zinc may also be important in combating viral infections such as the common cold because the body requires T cells to be working optimally to remove viral infections.

The many uses of zinc:

  • Boosts T cell lymphocyte and therefore immune system activity
  • Reduces the incidence of acute lower respiratory tract infections 
  • Reduces the duration of the common cold 
  • May be beneficial in acne by both reducing inflammatory lesions and facilitating wound healing

Try to make sure you are getting enough zinc through dietary intake or supplementation to ensure a strong immunity amongst many other benefits for the body.

J Leukoc Biol. 2009 Aug;86(2):337-48. Epub 2009 Apr 28.

Other references available on request