What Does Zinc Do?
Zinc is a crucial mineral for keeping the immune system strong, improving wound healing, and maintaining cell growth. Although zinc deficiency is not considered common in the US, some research has pointed to zinc as a treatment for the common cold. Can taking zinc be preventive? Here’s what people need to know about taking the supplement during the winter.
How to take the supplement
There are two common ways to take zinc: through an oral tablet or the nose, such as in a swab or gel. Research has shown that taking zinc within 24 hours of the first sign of a cold can reduce the duration of the cold. Because there are serious risks associated with taking zinc through the nose, such as losing the sense of smell, experts recommend taking the supplement orally as a lozenge.
Are there any side effects?
The mineral can cause nausea and gastrointestinal symptoms. Taking too much zinc long-term can cause other health problems, such as a copper deficiency. Always talk to a doctor before starting a supplement, as the mineral can interact with specific medications, including antibiotics and medicines to treat rheumatoid arthritis.
Zinc as prevention
Can a zinc supplement help people avoid the common cold? The answer is yes and no. While zinc is not listed explicitly as a prevention measure, the supplement can help to boost the immune system. With a stronger immune system, people may be more likely to fight off the common cold when exposed.
When to consider a supplement
Zinc can be found from a variety of food sources, such as red meat, oysters, poultry, whole grains, beans, and nuts. Because many of these food sources are animal sources, people who follow a vegetarian or vegan diet may consider talking to a doctor about whether taking a supplement would be helpful. For many people, however, a daily supplement is not necessary, even during flu season. Instead, make sure to get the flu shot, wash hands frequently, and eat a nutritious, balanced diet. For more information about supplements, speak with a pharmacist or healthcare provider.