Curious if you should take zinc for hormone balance? Zinc’s definitely important to your hormones. But aging, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, limited diets, poor gut health, too much alcohol, and hypothyroidism can all play a role in your ability to get enough or utilize zinc. Yet, as the second most plentiful trace mineral in the body, it’s vital to overall well-being—and hormone health.
Zinc for hormone balance? That’s a yes for your period, PMS, and progesterone
Stress (which most of us deal with 24/7) tells your body to up levels of your stress hormone cortisol. Which is a good thing. Except that when we’re constantly feeling anxious and worried—without ever coming down from that—your cortisol levels get high and stay there. All that high cortisol depletes the zinc in your body. But the good news? Making an effort to get enough zinc can help reverse the trend. When you take in zinc, your body temporarily puts the brakes on releasing cortisol. So, keeping your zinc intake up can help keep your cortisol levels in a good range.
Keeping cortisol levels in check means a lot for your periods. The reason: whenever cortisol stays high for too long, progesterone nosedives. Low progesterone is a big problem for your menstrual cycle. It can make you skip your period. Or, if your progesterone’s low but your estradiol (estrogen) is high, you could be stuck with heavy, frequent bleeding.
But know this: zinc is good for more than regular cycles. For some women, zinc also helps ease premenstrual cramping. In fact, one study found 31 mg of zinc per day reduced PMS symptoms in women. How? Zinc increases circulation in small blood vessels, and the improved blood flow offers relief.
Use zinc for better thyroid hormone balance
Along with copper and selenium, your thyroid needs zinc to function. Low levels of zinc can lead to low production of your thyroid hormones. (Your main thyroid hormones are called triiodothyronine, or T3, and thyroxine, or T4. Zinc’s also needed for thyroid hormone conversion. It helps you turn T4 (inactive thyroid hormone) into T3, the form that’s ready to be used by cells and helps boost your metabolism.
On the flip side: having optimal thyroid hormone levels also help you better absorb the zinc you’re supplementing with. Meaning, there’s a catch-22. Low zinc affects thyroid hormone levels. And, untreated hypothyroidism can eventually lead to zinc deficiency. If you are on thyroid medications but still feel hypothyroid, make an appointment with your physician. You’ll want to discuss whether or not you’re on the right thyroid meds for your body or if you could benefit from an increased intake of zinc.
Menopause & how zinc helps with hormone balance
Menopause and postmenopause are great times to re-evaluate zinc intake. As you age, you tend to consume less of the mineral, and it’s harder for your body to efficiently absorb it. While true deficiencies are uncommon, suboptimal levels can easily go unnoticed or be attributed to other factors.
Along with helping the immune system and decreasing inflammation, zinc preserves lean tissue by helping the body make proteins. This is especially important in menopause and postmenopause. After age 30, inactive adults can lose about 3% of muscle mass per decade. By the time a woman is in her 50s or 60s, the total loss can be substantial and affect balance and overall health and well-being.
Yet another reason to pay attention to zinc? Its role in bone density. Zinc is found in bone tissue and builds bone mass, helping to prevent osteoporosis. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, nearly 10 million Americans have osteoporosis—and 8 million of those are female. In fact, stats say, after age 50, one out of every two women will experience a broken bone due to the condition.
PCOS & how zinc helps
Studies show zinc may help with PCOS-related infertility and offer some relief for hair loss and hirsutism, or the growth of coarse, dark hair where it otherwise wouldn’t normally grow. Zinc acts as a 5-alpha reductase inhibitor, limiting the conversion of excess testosterone into dihydrotestosterone—a strong androgen hormone associated with both symptoms.
In one 8-week study, 50 mg per day of zinc helped with hirsutism and hair thinning. Because zinc can have negative side effects and be unsafe at levels higher than 40 mg daily, it’s so important to speak with your provider before you supplement. They can tell you whether or not it’s safe for you and what amount you should take.
Improving zinc intake through your diet
Including a variety of whole-food, zinc-rich sources in your diet is a great way to safely increase your consumption. Oysters, red meat, chicken, seafood, dairy, nuts, beans, and whole grains are all good options.
Supplementing with zinc
As with any dedicated supplement, it’s good to run your questions and concerns by your healthcare provider before starting. Too much zinc can cause side effects like stomach upset and nausea, and high amounts can even have a toxic effect.
If your provider gives you the go-ahead to start a zinc supplement, follow his or her recommendations on dosage and quantity. Zinc is best taken about an hour after meals. Anyone on an antibiotic or dedicated iron supplement will want to take it separately from zinc—both can hinder absorption.
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