WARNING: Alcohol inhibits absorption of vital nutrients, including zinc
(NaturalHealth365) As the nation enters its second month of social distancing, and the COVID-19 pandemic continues to take a deadly toll, it is not surprising that many are attempting to relieve stress by drinking alcohol. In fact, since the coronavirus pandemic began, online alcohol sales are way up!
Unfortunately, this may not be the wisest course of action for your health. While very moderate drinking (two drinks a day for men and one a day for women) may offer some slight cardiovascular benefits, drinking to excess can lead to serious health risks, including liver disease, heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity and stroke. And, just for the record, we – at NaturalHealth365 – think that any alcohol consumption (on a daily basis) is way too much!
And, there’s yet another reason to “ix-nay” alcohol. Research demonstrates that alcohol consumption can interfere with the absorption of the essential mineral zinc – which has shown the ability in cell studies to inhibit the replication of the coronavirus. And, while zinc is probably not a stand-alone “silver bullet” against COVID-19, maintaining adequate levels of this disease-fighting nutrient is still a smart move.
Antiviral zinc is essential for effective immune defense
Zinc, which plays an indispensable role in growth and development, is essential for the synthesis of DNA, normal cell division and proper wound healing. And, this versatile micronutrient is particularly important for immune system function – helping to develop and activate infection-fighting T-cells.
In fact, so necessary is zinc to immune health that low status has been linked in studies to increased susceptibility to pneumonia and other respiratory infections, particularly in the elderly.
Studies have shown that zinc has antioxidant, antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties – and can even reduce the severity and duration of cold symptoms. Scientists say it accomplishes this by directly inhibiting replication in the mucosa of the rhinovirus (one of the pathogens responsible for the common cold).
For example, in a cell study published in PLOS Pathogens, zinc inhibited the replication of the SARS coronavirus – a close cousin to COVID-19.
Health ALERT: Alcohol robs the body of valuable micronutrients
Not only is alcohol completely lacking in nutritional value of its own, but it interferes with the absorption of micronutrients – zinc among them – obtained through food. In addition to interfering with zinc absorption, alcohol consumption diminishes zinc levels by hastening and increasing excretion in the urine.
Keep in mind, excessive drinking can also lead to poor nutrition and low intake of zinc-rich foods, exacerbating zinc shortfalls even further. And, zinc is not the only micronutrient depleted by drinking.
Alcohol can also interfere with the absorption of B-complex vitamins, including vitamin B1, or thiamin – which helps convert nutrients into energy – vitamin B3, or niacin, which is essential for DNA production and repair; vitamin B9, or folate, which is needed for the formation of red blood cells; and vitamin B12, or methylcobalamin, which is vital for neurological function.
Severe deficiencies in B-complex vitamins from chronic alcohol abuse can cause an array of symptoms, ranging from anemia and peripheral neuropathy to hallucinations, dementia, seizures and even psychosis.
In addition, alcohol impairs the absorption of vitamin C, while speeding its depletion in the body by way of urination. Low vitamin C status can lead to poor wound healing, a heightened susceptibility to infections plus many other (unwanted) health issues.
Finally, alcohol may make it difficult for the liver to convert inactive forms of vitamin D into the active form, causing deficiencies which in turn can lead to low levels of calcium and osteoporosis.
Warning: The “golden years” can bring about zinc deficiencies
The Office of Dietary Supplements advises a recommended daily allowance of 11 mg of zinc a day for men and 8 mg for women. Unfortunately, low zinc intake and insufficient levels are not uncommon, particularly among older adults.
In fact, a National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey found that roughly a quarter of American adults over 60 had inadequate zinc intakes.
Because animal products are a major source of dietary zinc, vegetarians and vegans are also at risk for deficiencies, with some experts estimating that these individuals might need as much as 50 percent more zinc to reach recommended daily amounts.
Alcohol’s toll on zinc levels is reflected by the National Institutes of Health’s estimate, with the agency reporting that between 30 and 50 percent of alcoholics have low zinc status.
Medications can also have adverse effects on zinc levels. Certain common antibiotics, including tetracycline, can interfere with zinc absorption – while diuretics can increase the excretion of zinc by up to 60 percent. In addition, some minerals – such as copper, iron and calcium – can compete with zinc for absorption.
Signs of zinc deficiency include loss of appetite, slow wound healing, increased susceptibility to infections, slowed growth in children, impotence in men and depression. Abnormalities in sense of taste or smell, lethargy and hair loss can also signal deficiency.
Increase zinc intake and absorption with proper nutrition
You can pump up your intake of zinc with oysters, the richest dietary source of zinc on the planet. Grass-fed beef, Alaskan king crab and free-range chicken also offer hefty amounts. Plant foods – such as pumpkin seeds, cashews and chickpeas – are lower in zinc, but can still contribute to your overall intake.
However, these foods also contain phytates, natural plant compounds found in legumes, seeds, nuts and grains. Because phytates can bind zinc and interfere with its absorption, many natural health experts advise decreasing phytate level by soaking seeds, beans and grains before cooking.
Supplementary zinc is available in the form of lozenges, tablets, capsules and liposomal form. Naturally, consult your integrative physician before making any changes to your diet or supplement routine.
Liposomal formulations of zinc are considered the most bioavailable. Experts advise using the smallest liposomes available, with those between 50 and 120 nanometers considered most effective. And, finally, just a word of caution about the use of intranasal zinc sprays or gels: these products have been linked by the FDA with loss of sense of smell.
Bottom line: If at all possible, find others ways – besides drinking alcohol – to unwind from a stressful day. As an example, never underestimate the value of an easy (10 minute) walk outside for a great way to relax.
Sources for this article include: