It’s Time to Stop Taking your Extra Zinc

During covid, many of us started taking zinc supplements to help our immunity.  But now, many are overdoing it!  It’s common for me to see people taking a high dose such as 50 mg or more daily for years on end! 

Functions of Zinc:

  • Part of immune system to fight off invading bacteria and viruses
  • Helps make DNA and proteins
  • Speeds wound healing
  • Part of thyroid function
  • Maintains a healthy prostate
  • Important for proper sense of taste and smell

Zinc can be Harmful:

  • Too much for too long can LOWER your immunity
  • An excess can lower copper levels
  • GI symptoms – nausea, dizziness, headaches, upset stomach, vomiting, and loss of appetite
  • Can cause low levels of HDL (“good”) cholesterol
  • Too much can make prostate cancer worse

Copper Deficiency Caused by high Zinc Levels

Low copper can cause symptoms of anemia, low body temperature, bone fractures and osteoporosis, low white blood cell count, irregular heartbeat, loss of pigment from the skin and thyroid problems.  Copper needs to be balanced with not only zinc but also manganese.  If you are taking zinc, you should be taking copper and a multimineral too! Adults need about 900 mcg of copper daily.  1 – 2 mg daily is a common daily dose when supplementing.    

How Much Zinc do Adults Need?

Adult females 8 mg

Adult males 11 mg

(see Resources below)

Worried you’ve Overdone it? 3 Options for Testing

  1. Your doctor can order blood tests and you can see if insurance will cover. 
  2. You can order your own zinc and copper blood tests at  Inexpensive tests but no insurance coverage.  Individual mineral tests run $10 – $60

While you are testing – consider running a couple more important mineral tests:  ferritin, mercury, and lead.   Ask your doctor to make a list for you if you want to add others.

Look for Zinc in your Diet

Whole foods have zinc and other minerals – beef, chicken, nuts, dark leafy greens, whole grains, beans.  It takes at least 4 cups of plant foods per day to meet your minimum requirements. 

A great article about foods rich in zinc:

When to Add more Zinc

  • When considering a multivitamin, look for one that contains no more than 15 mg/zinc/day.
  • If you are coming down with an infection or recovering from an injury or surgery, extra zinc might makes sense.  Check your multi first and take that amount into account for your daily total. Adults can consider taking total of 25 – 50 mg once a day for a about 1 month.  Take a low dose copper supplement  – again, check your multi first. 
  • Take zinc supplements WITH FOOD due to nausea which is a common complaint.