Wondering what the best way is to supplement with zinc?
This episode covers what kind to take, what dose, when to take it, how often, with what foods or on an empty stomach, and of course how to know if you should be supplementing.
My preferred zinc supplement for most people is Jarrow Zinc Balance. You can use one of these two links to generate a commission to support my work at no extra cost to you.
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Read the Transcript
This is the right way to supplement with zinc.
Hi, I’m Dr. Chris Masterjohn of chrismasterjohnphd.com. And this is Chris Masterjohn Lite, where the name of the game is “Details? Shmeetails. Just tell me what works!”
And today we’re going to talk about how to supplement with zinc.
In the last episode, I talked about when you should supplement with zinc. And to briefly summarize here, if you have a severe zinc deficiency, or you have a cause of zinc deficiency that’s not your diet, and you’re working to fix that cause, but you still want to bring zinc status up to normal as fast as possible, those are the best times to supplement with zinc.
I don’t think everyone across the board should be supplementing with zinc. If you supplement with zinc, the first thing you need to choose is the type of zinc. Among them I would include zinc monomethionine, zinc citrate, zinc gluconate, zinc acetate, or zinc sulfate. Any of those are good. They’re all about equally as good. I do not recommend zinc oxide. I do not recommend zinc picolinate. I get a lot of questions about why I don’t recommend zinc picolinate, and I’ll cover that in the next episode.
When you take these, you want to take them so that you swallow them. What that means is that you’re not sucking on lozenges. You’re swallowing a capsule, you’re swallowing a tablet, or if you have a lozenge, you’re chewing it up and swallowing it. The zinc gluconate and zinc acetate lozenges are designed to put the zinc in your nose and throat. That’s great if you’re trying to prevent a cold. It’s not great if you’re trying to get the zinc through to the rest of your body. So to improve your systemic zinc status, you want to swallow the zinc. As long as you swallow it, zinc gluconate and acetate are fine.
The principle inhibitor of zinc absorption is phytate. We do know that if you take your zinc supplement with a phytate-rich meal, which means a meal that has a lot of legumes, nuts, seeds, or whole grains, you’ll have lower zinc absorption. Scientists debate whether the zinc has to be on an empty stomach or whether zinc absorption from a phytate-free meal is just as good.
My recommendation is to take it on an empty stomach when possible. In other words, when it won’t make you sick. One of the ways that you can avoid getting sick from taking zinc on an empty stomach is to take a low dose. I recommend taking a low dose anyway because you can’t really absorb more than 7 milligrams of zinc at a time. The best dose of zinc to take would be 10 milligrams. You’d absorb abou 7 milligrams of it, most likely, if it was the right form and you took it on an empty stomach. You’re probably not going to find lower than 15 milligrams. So let’s say you take a 15-milligram dose of zinc. Take it on an empty stomach. That probably will not make you nauseated. If it does, take it with a little juice, or a little bone broth, or a little food. If you need to, you can take it with your meal. It’s far more important to take the zinc than to take it on an empty stomach.
In other words, sometimes I recommend to my clients, say take it an empty stomach, and they find themselves not taking it because they couldn’t find the time to take it on an empty stomach. If you can’t take it on an empty stomach, take it with the meal. The most important thing is to take it. But you want to try to take it on an empty stomach or with as little food as possible, and if you can’t do that, if you have to take it with a meal, consume at least one meal a day that does not have any whole grains, nuts, seeds, or legumes, and put the zinc at that meal so that it’s a phytate-free meal.
If you need to take more than 15 milligrams of zinc, you want to take it at separate doses because your ability to absorb the next 7 or so milligrams of zinc basically resets every 5 hours. So it’s far better to take 15 milligrams an hour before breakfast and 15 milligrams an hour before dinner than it is to take 30 milligrams an hour before breakfast. So spread out the doses. Take small doses and spread them out through the day if you’re taking multiple doses—if you’re taking more than 15 milligrams of zinc in order to get better absorption.
The main adverse effect of too much zinc supplementation is to cause a deficiency of copper. I recommend taking copper alongside your zinc. And the easiest way to do this in my opinion is to take Jarrow Zinc Balance, which has the dose I like, a form I like, and the copper already mixed in. I’ll put a link in the description of this video. If you use that link to order it, I’ll get a commission at no extra cost to you, and that’ll help support the free work that I’m always offering.
Although copper has best been studied as an adverse effect of excessive zinc, there remains the possibility that too much zinc could cause deficiencies of other minerals. So in general, I recommend not using more than 45 milligrams of zinc per day, and I think if you do get to or above that dose, you should consider using a mixed trace mineral supplement to provide a background of all the potential minerals that the zinc could potentially cause a problem with.