Zinc and stress, how are the two related?

Here’s what you should know:

  • Zinc is an essential mineral that regulates your health and your body’s response to stress.
  • Zinc helps blunt the release of cortisol, one of the stress hormones.
  • The problem is, chronic stress depletes zinc. Which causes your body to have a harder time controlling cortisol.
  • One of the ways you can ensure your body stays resilient to stress is by taking enough zinc daily. Either through foods or natural supplements.

In this article, we’re going to explain these key points in more detail – showing you the effects that zinc and stress have on each other.

The Effects of Zinc on Your Health

You may already know that zinc is an essential mineral. We get it from our diet or supplements.

Zinc plays a role in countless functions in our body. Among which are testosterone production, nerve function, and the immune system. (6)

In fact, a deficiency in zinc can cause a whole range of health issues. (7)

These include:

  • Hormone disbalances
  • Poor immune system
  • Brittle hair and nails
  • Acne
  • Cognitive issues, memory problems, mood swings

And yes, zinc also plays a role in stress.

Below we explain how zinc and stress related.


zinc chemical element

How Are Zinc and Stress Related?

One of the many functions that zinc has is hormone regulation.

One of these hormones is cortisol – also known as the ‘stress hormone’.

Cortisol releases in a mix with adrenaline and other stress hormones to make us act and think quickly.

Zinc helps blunt cortisol release in the body. (1)

However, chronic stress is known to deplete zinc.

Low zinc levels, in turn, can make it hard for your body to turn off the stress responses, leading to a constant influx of cortisol.

And so the vicious cycle is born.


Can Stress Deplete Zinc?

As we’ve seen – yes – stress can deplete zinc. This is mainly due to cortisol which works in a see-saw manner with your zinc levels. When one rises, the other slowly diminishes. (1)

Ultimately, you’re looking to keep your zinc levels high so that even if you’re under constant stress, your body will be able to handle it more easily with the help of zinc. And some of the best ways to ensure that is by eating zinc foods – or supplementing with the mineral.


a stressed man sitting on a sofa

How To Reduce Stress With Zinc

One of the ways you can regulate your cortisol secretion, and your stress levels with it, is by getting enough zinc. Be it through diet or supplementation.

Zinc Foods

Here are some of the best zinc foods:

  • Oysters
  • Meat and organs, especially liver
  • Eggs (the yolk part)
  • Pumpkin seeds (they also contain antinutrients which can lower zinc absorption)

Ideally, you want to get at least 10-15 mg of zinc per day for optimal benefits. This will not only help normalize your stress hormones but will also ensure optimal hormonal health – including testosterone and estrogen. (8)

Supplements: Yes or No?

If you aren’t sure you can get enough zinc through your diet, supplementation is another effective route.

That said, it’s important to choose the right supplements.

  • Many producers use synthetic ingredients which are nothing like zinc found in nature.

But there are companies that use nature-identical zinc so your body recognizes and utilizes it fully.

Such is the case with Performance Lab Whole-Food Multi which uses natural proteins, enzymes, and other cofactors with zinc and other nutrients to ensure their optimal absorption – just like with real food.

You can read our detailed review of Performance Lab’s Multi here.


egg yolk - a source of zinc

Yes – Zinc is Good For Your Nerves

Here’s the thing: zinc doesn’t just control your stress hormones.

It’s also important for brain chemicals that regulate your mood.

These chemicals are also called neurotransmitters.

And they include serotonin, dopamine, and GABA.

Zinc is known to regulate certain neurotransmitters, and as a result, it plays a key role in mental disorders such as anxiety and depression. (3, 5)

Studies show us how low zinc levels often lead to irritability and anxiety. Even depression is seen in some people with chronic zinc deficiency. (3)

So yes – zinc is good for your nerves.


FAQ: Your Questions Answered

Here we have the answers to some of your most commonly asked questions in regards to zinc and stress:

Does zinc help with OCD? Yes, we have studies that show us how zinc helps with OCD. If you suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder, make sure to get enough zinc daily. Low zinc levels could contribute to OCD getting worse. (2)

Can zinc affect your mood? As we saw, zinc can have a significant impact on your mood. It affects different brain pathways, including the neurotransmitters, which regulate how you feel in your day to day life. (3)

How does zinc affect the brain? Zinc affects brain health in several ways. It regulates your neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin, along with affecting the signaling between neurons. (5) Zinc deficiency is linked to various disorders affecting the brain, among which are depression and anxiety. (3, 4)

What does zinc do for mental health? As discussed, zinc deficiency can have a negative impact on your mental health, leading to anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders. Zinc plays a vital role in how your brain cells communicate, along with affecting your neurotransmitters, and therefore, is of critical importance for mental health. (3, 4, 5)

Is zinc an antidepressant? Zinc isn’t classified as an antidepressant, however, research suggests it can help mitigate depression. Zinc plays a role in neuron signaling along with affecting neurochemicals that control your mood. (3, 4, 5)


Conclusion

Zinc may be one of the most underrated minerals for mental health.

Many individuals are deficient in it, and as a result, suffer from a wide range of issues – including elevated stress levels. (9)

Zinc and stress are greatly affected by each other.

When your zinc levels are low, your cortisol (the stress hormone) levels stay elevated.

On the other hand, by having optimal zinc intake – be it through food or supplementation – you’ll help your body blunt the excess cortisol, calming your nerves in the process.

References

  1. Zinc acutely and temporarily inhibits adrenal cortisol secretion in humans. A preliminary report. (source)
  2. Evaluation of oral zinc sulfate effect on obsessive-compulsive disorder: a randomized placebo-controlled clinical trial. (source)
  3. Role of zinc in the development and treatment of mood disorders. (source)
  4. Association of Mood Disorders with Serum Zinc Concentrations in Adolescent Female Students. (source)
  5. Zinc, the brain, and behavior. (source)
  6. Zinc and its importance for human health: An integrative review. (source)
  7. Zinc deficiency. (source)
  8. Zinc: An Essential Micronutrient. (source)
  9. Zinc deficiency - StatPearls. (source)

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