Zinc Deficiency Symptoms & Causes - Steps To Feel Better

Zinc deficiency symptoms affect about one in three people worldwide, especially those in undeveloped countries. [1] Other research done on this health concern discovered that an additional 25% of the population has low zinc consumption. From what we’ve seen, there are three main causes: processed foods tend to have low zinc value, we are growing food in zinc-deficient soil, and high-whole-grain diets. These are troubling realizations, especially because zinc is one of the most important minerals for a healthy life. It’s responsible for more than 300 crucial enzyme reactions in our body such as DNA and RNA maintenance. This mineral is also crucial for achieving sexual maturity (especially for men) and going through puberty. Zinc is particularly important for children in development, and they are the most susceptible to not getting enough in their diet [2]. Because zinc assists in so many bodily functions, you might immediately recognize a few symptoms of deficiency in our list. Have no fear, because we’ll also go over what you can do to remedy this through food and liquid zinc supplementation.

The Symptoms

Zinc is so important that there are a variety of symptoms that go along with not consuming adequate amounts in your diet. You should check through this list and speak with a doctor and take a hair test to determine the true cause, especially if you have two or more of the symptoms.


Among developing countries with few opportunities for zinc consumption, diarrhea is a frequent concern. Unfortunately, zinc deficiency and diarrhea go hand-in-hand. [3]

Reduced Appetite

If you are discovering that you aren’t eating as much as you used to be and you can rule out other obvious reasons, then the key may lie with zinc. It has been shown to be helpful with those dealing with anorexia. [4]

Reduced Testosterone

With zinc being needed for puberty and sexual maturity, it may come as no surprise that zinc is essential for testosterone production in men. With sperm counts down in men[5], one could postulate that diets low in zinc might be responsible for this health crisis. Since testosterone is so important for bodily health, energy, and muscle recovery, low levels of zinc in your diet will cause a downward spiral of other health issues.

Pregnancy and Childraising Issues

Both mother and fetus will run into issues if the mother does not consume the necessary level of zinc. For instance, labor will take longer, and there is a higher chance of other issues such as hemorrhage during the birthing process. Children born from women with zinc deficiency also show slower development during childhood.


Psychological Issues

Zinc is required for proper brain functions. Research has shown that zinc deficiency is one of the leading causes of schizophrenia and depression. [3] Experiments with increasing zinc consumption in those suffering from these issues has shown some success. There are other mental health problems that may also result because of an inadequate diet.

Skin Issues

Zinc deficiencies can manifest as a variety of skin problems, with one of the most visible being acne. [4] If you’re suddenly breaking out, you should start reevaluating the micronutrients you’re getting your diet. Of course, we’re still not 100% sure that your overall diet will impact your skin’s health, but studies have conclusively shown that low levels of zinc will result in acne. Other skin issues include eczema and dry skin. Any of these appearing out of the blue are definitely dead ringers for a potential dietary deficiency.

Smell and Taste Irregularities

If things haven’t been tasting the same recently, or your sense of smell has been duller, you could potentially have a zinc deficiency. A study conducted on patients with low zinc revealed such a factor [8].

Stunted Growth

One of the biggest plagues of low zinc is that of stunted growth of children. Zinc is absolutely necessary for the functions of puberty because it is involved in DNA replication and the processing of nucleoproteins. Many developing nations struggle with the development of children for this very reason. I cannot understate how critical it is that your children are getting enough zinc in the diet.

Thinning Hair

If you’re not stressed out and it’s not genetic but your hair is suddenly starting to thin, there is a very high chance that you’re deficient in zinc.

Zinc Deficiency Causes:

Not Enough In Diet

It seems obvious to read, but most people just aren’t consuming a proper amount of zinc in their diet. However, when you consider the diet of many Americans, it may not be surprising. In the next section, we’ll discuss in full the foods that you should be getting.

Low Levels In Soil

The mineral deficient soil from which much of our food is grown is one of the greatest concerns for our health, but it rarely seems to be talked about. Even if your food is grown organically, it just won’t have the same nutrients as it did even 50-100 years ago.

Too Much Processed Food

Western diets, in particular, have seen processed food become a staple. Unfortunately, convenience comes at a cost: our health. These processed foods lack the same vitamins and minerals that we need for our body to function properly. Combine the problems of processed foods with the previously mentioned reduced soil levels, and it’s a logical conclusion that most people suffer from a zinc deficiency symptom.

Diet High In Whole Grains

Whole grains might sound healthy, but it’s sort of like the concept of “farm-raised fish” - it’s not actually healthy even though it uses “healthy” words. The primary problem is that whole grains contain a protein, phytate, that interferes with zinc absorption.

How To Test Your Zinc Levels:

Hair and Blood Tests

Hair and blood tests are great ways of figuring out what minerals and metals are present in your body. We recommend taking a hair test for three reasons: it’s less likely to be influenced by outside factors, it’s more accurate, and it’s also easier (and less painful) to do. You can check out our hair mineral analysis tests here.

What To Eat and Next Steps:

Once you’ve established that you have a zinc deficiency, it’s time to act on it quickly. You can start by consuming more zinc-rich foods, as well as taking supplements. Keep in mind that the daily recommended minimum zinc consumption level is about 8mg a day for women and 11mg a day for men. If you are physically active, you’ll need even more than this. We recommend consulting with a nutrition specialist or doctor, as consuming too much zinc has its own issues, as well. Most people will do great with about 15-20mg of zinc a day.

Foods High In Zinc

Getting more zinc in your diet should be pretty simple. One thing to do that we mentioned already is avoiding diets high in whole-grain, as there are proteins in it that interfere with zinc absorption. In this list, we’ll go from the highest levels to the lowest.

  • Oysters
  • Beef
  • Crab
  • Cashews
  • Lobster
  • Baked Beans
  • Almonds
  • Chicken (Dark Meat)
  • Yogurt
  • Milk
  • Cheese - Cheddar or Mozzarella
  • Peas

Oysters provide a massive amount of zinc, and they’re the clear winners here. Meat and seafood, in general, are the best sources for zinc consumption. If you’re vegan or vegetarian, don’t despair - there are still plenty of non-meat sources! Cashews give you 4.8mg with a 3-ounce serving, and 1/2 cup of baked beans gets you 3mg. If you’re vegetarian, you can also benefit from the variety of dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt. And if you’re fitness minded, pea protein powder is not only one of the best types of veg protein in addition to having zinc.

Zinc Supplements

In addition to consuming zinc-rich foods, we highly recommend taking a zinc supplement. In particular, we recommend a form of zinc called liquid nano zinc. It is highly absorbable, so it’s great if you need zinc immediately. In fact, it absorbs better and acts more quickly in your system than quite literally any other form of zinc on the planet. With reduced levels in the soil, it may even be better than traditional food consumption. If you are vegetarian or vegan, it is even more important to take a zinc supplement because nonmeat sources of zinc aren’t as bioavailable.


There is a lot to consider when it comes to figuring out whether you have a zinc deficiency or not. Considering that a lot of the population is already not consuming the proper level of zinc in their diet, you could be one of them. If you feel that you have some or most of these symptoms, you should take a hair test and consult with a doctor or a registered nutritionist. From there, you should start consuming more zinc-rich foods as well as taking a more bioavailable liquid zinc supplement.

  1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0946672X12000582?via%3Dihub
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26912464
  3. https://www.cochranelibrary.com/cdsr/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD005978.pub3/full
  4. https://academic.oup.com/jn/article/130/5/1493S/4686425
  5. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/sperm-count-dropping-in-western-world/
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5492454/
  7. https://academic.oup.com/nutritionreviews/article-abstract/39/2/104/1814045?redirectedFrom=fulltext
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9010918?dopt=Abstract

Photo Credit: Ademir Alves