Reach for zinc

Zinc may not immediately grab the gut health spotlight, yet this essential mineral plays a critical role in gut integrity and an endless array of processes that allow our digestive systems to do their vital work.

That’s the advice from leading Australasian nutritional biochemist Dr Libby Weaver.

“Imagine your digestive system as a bustling city, where the roads are the pathways that nutrients travel along to reach their destinations, the buildings are cells lining the gut, and the city’s infrastructure includes the enzymes and immune system that keep everything running smoothly,” she explains.

“Zinc, in this scenario, acts as the city’s chief engineer and health inspector rolled into one.

“As the chief engineer, zinc oversees the construction and maintenance of the city’s roads (the gut lining), ensuring they are strong, durable, and without leaks that could let unwanted substances into the city. It also designs and maintains critical infrastructure, like the power plants (enzymes) that break down food into energy and building materials (nutrients) the city needs to thrive.

“As the health inspector, zinc checks that the city’s sanitation (immune system) is effective, preventing harmful invaders (pathogens) from causing chaos and ensuring that the clean-up crews (antioxidant defences) are equipped to deal with any waste or debris (free radicals) efficiently.”

Dr Libby says zinc ensures that the digestive system city operates smoothly, maintaining the balance between robust infrastructure and a healthy, protected environment where all residents (cells) can thrive.

Women require a daily intake of 8 milligrams (mg) while men need 14mg (teenage girls need 7mg and teenage boys need 13mg) just to prevent deficiency. Sources include red meat, oysters, eggs and pumpkin, sunflower seeds, and supplements.

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