Zinc and fertility, what it does and why it’s important

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Zinc is actually one of the most studied nutrients when it comes to fertility.

Much of the reason behind that statement most likely stems from the fact that zinc is an essential component of the genetic material. This means that a deficiency in zinc can cause chromosomal changes in either partner which in turn causes reduced fertility and greater risk of miscarriage.

What is Zinc?

Zinc is basically an essential mineral that your body uses in all sorts of ways, and it is needed daily to replenish your body’s supply. It’s so essential that it’s found in every cell of our bodies.

  • it helps in the production of DNA,
  • assists in wound healing,
  • is important for hormone production,
  • boosts your immune system,
  • helps in supporting the balance of our blood sugar levels because when we’re low or deficient in this mineral, our bodies insulin response slows and our blood sugar becomes harder to stabilize,
  • it’s required for the production of hydrochloric acid in your stomach to digest and break down foods,

It also directly affects your fertility.

For women, zinc is important in helping your body utilize the reproductive hormones, oestrogen, and progesterone. A deficiency can lead to hormone imbalance, abnormal ovarian development, and menstrual irregularity. When your body is low in zinc it also inhibits the metabolism of protein, which in turn can lower egg quality.

For a man, it can greatly impact the sperm count since zinc is found in high concentrations in the sperm. It is also needed to make the outer layer and the tail of the sperm. If a man is deficient in zinc, it can affect his sperm quality and quantity.

zinc and fertility

Zinc and fertility

Despite how essential zinc to our overall health about 12% of the U.S. population is deficient. Stress, soil depletion, over processing of food, and overcooking of zinc-containing foods. 

Because zinc does not store well in our bodies we must continually consume whole food sources. Some of the best food sources include:

  • beef, venison, and poultry
  • eggs from grazing, happy chickens
  • whole grains
  • whole fat dairy products, especially raw or farm fresh when available
  • seeds like sunflower and pumpkin
  • molasses and maple syrup

The recommended daily allowance is only 11mg for men and 8mg for women, though these amounts may be too low to help boost fertility and may only work well for those who already have an ample supply of zinc. When there is a deficiency or other imbalance in the body, getting more than the RDA is often needed.

For boosting fertility I’ve seen amounts anywhere from 25 mgs to 50 mgs per day. Although long-term use above 40 mgs has also been shown to cause deficiencies in other minerals (like copper), so if you plan on taking large doses, I’d talk to your doctor or get tested to see if you have a deficiency first.

Gluten and Zinc

When I taped our podcast with Dr. Tom O’Bryan (an expert on gluten intolerance and how it affects reproduction), one of the things he said really made me think. You see…..I’ve often known that a gluten intolerance or celiac can affect a woman’s fertility and ability to carry a pregnancy, but I never thought too much about the male side of the coin.

He told me that when the villi in the intestines are worn down from a gluten intolerance, that zinc is the first nutrient we lose the ability to absorb.

Yup, just let that sink in a minute.

So if someone is intolerant to gluten, before it’s even noticed, before you have any symptoms, you start losing the ability to absorb zinc. And with zinc so high on the list of important nutrients for men, this has to have drastic consequences.

Testing for Zinc Deficiencies

One of the other things I learned from talking with Dr. O’Bryan was that there was a way to test for zinc deficiencies at home by using something called zinc talley.

This stuff is supposed to taste horrible.

But if you’re deficient in zinc, you won’t taste a thing!

How to test for zinc deficiency:

Take about 1 tablespoon of the zinc talley liquid and swish in your mouth for 5 – 10 seconds. (you can then either spit it out or swallow it)

If you can’t taste anything, seems like it was just water, you have a zinc deficiency.

If you want to spit it out right away and it has a strong flavor, you have enough zinc in your system.

When you’re somewhere in between it probably means that you have zinc, but maybe not enough. If you notice you’re deficient you can supplement with extra zinc and then test every once in a while to gauge your zinc levels.

While fertility issues are usually not attributed to just one thing, have you ever thought about zinc as a needed nutrient? How will you increase your whole food zinc intake?

 

 

Donielle Baker

Donielle Baker

owner and editor of Natural Fertility and Wellness at Natural Fertility and Wellness
Donielle believes women can learn how to heal their bodies & balance their hormones through natural methods. An advocate for natural health, she has a passion for nourishing/real food nutrition and natural living. Her personal background includes both infertility and miscarriage and she started Natural Fertility and Wellness in 2008 in order to share all of the information she found helpful in her journey to heal from PCOS and overcome infertility.
Donielle Baker
Donielle Baker
Donielle Baker
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  • Crystal says:

    Do you take a prenatal vitamin???

  • Donielle says:

    When TTCing and breastfeeding I do take a prenatal vitamin plus a B-complex vitamin since I don’t feel the normal prenatals have enough in them to do anything. It helps with my energy level and helps balance out my hormones a bit.

    Now that I’m pregnant I still take a prenatal but am not as diligent with my B-complex. I don’t want to take to much of it at the moment, but I still get it in a few times a week. Plus I find that not only does it help with my energy level, it helps with nauseousness during the first trimester.

  • Evie says:

    This is very interesting to me especially since I’m gluten intolerent and have not been able to get pg since I have been GI. So if I’m lacking zinc and can’t absorb it, how to I fix that problem?

    • donielle says:

      @Evie, The best thing to focus on would be healing the gut through a gluten free / anti-inflammatory diet. Things like probiotics and fermented/cultured foods, and bone broths can be really helpful in healing along with a diet free of processed foods and refined sugars/flours. Many people try a diet like the GAPS diet or the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, or even just going grain and sugar free, for a while to help their guts heal.

      • Evie says:

        Wow, so I probably won’t get pg till my gluten intolerance is cleared up?

        • donielle says:

          @Evie, Well…..it’s not so cut and dry as that. I mean, some women with gluten issues do get pregnant – others don’t. Sometimes it just takes a few months of strict gluten free eating along with adding in things like fish oils and bone broth, maybe some supplementation of zinc or a really good whole foods vitamin.

  • Kristie says:

    So is the stuff you swish around in your mouth made out of metal? Just curious if it could add to any metal problems.

  • Ryan says:

    Hello donielle

    My name is ryan and i recently been taking this vitamins, selenium, zinc, folic acid, vitamin c and centrum mainly for fertility. I was just wondering if i could take it all at once. And how much can i take. Thanks ryan

    • Personally, I usually google the RDAs for each nutrient to make sure I’m not overdosing by a lot. You may want to look into a whole foods based vitamin though as most vitamin companies like Centrum use synthetic vitamins that are not absorbed well by the body. (also an fyi, folic acid is synthetic, you’ll want to look for folate in a vitamin as that’s the natural source)

      And of course, always check with a health practitioner knowledgeable in supplements.

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