Trying to conceive?? I have one word for you. Zinc. Although all vitamins and minerals work in synergy, zinc is a workhorse responsible for proper functioning of immune system, digestion, control of diabetes, improves stress level, and energy metabolism. It is also an important mineral for weight loss, eye health, treatment for loss of appetite and many many more factors.
One of the biggest standout roles of zinc is its function in both males and females in the conception process and in pregnancy.
Zinc is vital for both men and women during the conception process. Low levels of zinc in men cause the sperm to ‘clump’ (which means fertilization is impaired as only one sperm can fertilize one egg), therefore adequate zinc intake is imperative for boosting sperm motility. Zinc is an essential component of genetic material and since the genetic material contained within the sperm nucleus is tightly wound bound up by protein for stability, and zinc aids in the synthesis of all proteins in the body, zinc protects the protein from breaking down the DNA chromosome material making fertilization of an egg a much easier process.
High concentrations of zinc within sperm (caused by adequate zinc consumption in the diet) conserve the energy of the sperm until it is within the reproductive tract of the female (which, conversely contains little zinc), zinc concentrations dilute which give the sperm a boost of energy that’s needed to win the race to the egg to make a baby! Zinc becomes that turbo boost needed for prime fertility. Zinc is also responsible for the creation and releasing of enzymes in the head of a sperm that act as a drill into the outer shell of the egg allowing the sperm to pass. This is called an acrosome reaction. Insufficient levels of zinc can cause this reaction to happen to early (thus preventing fertilization).
In women, zinc is just as vital. The human body’s first instinct is to keep us alive, therefore fertility becomes a nonessential function when illness or dramatic deficiencies are present. Because zinc is responsible for keeping the immune system strong and balanced, making sure you have adequate zinc intake is important.
Zinc is of prime importance in the utilizing of reproductive hormones. Zinc is the precursor to progesterone production which counters estrogen in the body. If zinc deficiencies are present, hormonal imbalances occur causing menstrual irregularities, anovulatory cycles (cycles where you don’t ovulate), and ovarian developmental issues. If you are estrogen dominant, zinc containing foods and whole foods supplements can help balance progesterone which will right the wrong caused by too much estrogen in the body.
Since proper protein synthesis is imperative for quality egg development and zinc is responsible for that function, low levels of zinc can cause poor quality eggs.
Remember, zinc is an essential component of healthy of genetic material so it stays essential even after pregnancy, especially in the early stages of embryo formation but continuing throughout pregnancy and breastfeeding. During pregnancy, zinc becomes important in the formation of lean tissue mass (good for baby’s growth). As zinc is responsible for the functioning of over 300 enzymes, which means it is an important factor in many essential bodily functions, embryo and fetal development along with infant growth increases the need for zinc from good quality sources.
A zinc deficiency has been linked to an increase in preterm births. According to the findings of a review of 17 trials that involved more than 9,000 women and their babies, supplementation with zinc helped reduce preterm births. Another advantage of zinc supplementation during pregnancy is that it prevents specific types of memory impairments that are caused by excess alcohol use during early pregnancy.
And important note about zinc and gluten::
Gluten sensitivity, intolerance and/or Celiac’s Disease (and this goes hand in hand with a wheat intolerance) can cause some serious malabsorption issues by causing the villi in the intestines to be worn down (and also cause imbalances in unhealthy bacteria), sometimes even leading to “leaky gut” syndrome. Zinc is the very first mineral we lose the ability to absorb. It affects men and women. If you must eat grains make sure they are properly soaked and/or sprouted. If you are trying to conceive a child try cutting out, or at the very least down on gluten containing grains could help keep your zinc levels at optimal levels by allowing you to assimilate zinc from whole foods sources.
Quality sources of zinc::
*Blackstrap molasses and maple syrup
* Pumpkin seeds
*Seaweeds (Irish moss, kelp, nori)
*Dark Chocolate, Cacao
Note:: Some grains can be high in zinc but many are also high in copper which, if diet is too high in copper, compete with zinc assimilation. Also, because many grains contain gluten and many people have gluten sensitivities, I don’t list them as quality sources of zinc.
Zinc supplements should be taken carefully and, preferably from whole foods supplements. Long term use of supplements of over 40 mg. a day have been linked to causing other mineral imbalances. (Copper as an example) Zinc and copper often compete. Too many copper rich phytoestrogenic nuts, seeds, and beans like soy products along with chemical compounds in beauty and personal care products can cause zinc deficiencies but too much zinc can cause copper imbalances which is bad for estrogen production which can lead to luteal phase defects. It is a very delicate balance.
One of my favorite supplements when you are trying to conceive and into pregnancy and beyond is New Chapter Perfect Prenatal with its emphasis on whole foods and sprouted seeds.