The Immune System - Why Zinc is important to you and your baby
Zinc is important for growth. It helps to support your baby’s body and brain to grow. Zinc also plays a big part in keeping your immune system healthy.
What to look out for when you, as a mum, are low in zinc:
• Delayed wound healing - If you've got a cut or a scratch that isn't healing as it should, this might be a sign of low zinc
• Those little white lines on your fingernails aren't necessarily damage, they could indicate when you are low in zinc and they usually pop up during and after an illness
• Weird tastes - An abnormal taste in your mouth, a bit like a strange metallic taste. I had this throughout my pregnancies, and although I didn’t make the connection at the time, it was definitely linked to my immune system being low
Where to find zinc in food:
Protein rich foods are good sources of zinc, lamb and beef especially. Dairy products and eggs, oats, pumpkin seeds, cashew nuts and ginger are also good.
How much zinc do you need if you are breast feeding?
The British Nutrition Foundation states that during pregnancy you need 7mg per day. This amount rises when you start breastfeeding, increasing to 13mg per day until your baby is 4 months old. From 4 months and beyond while you are still breastfeeding, it goes down to 9.5mg per day.
How do you know the amount of zinc you are taking in?
Different foods contain different amounts. 100g of beef for example holds 4.3mg of zinc, in 100g of brown rice there is 2.0mg. 175ml of yogurt (about 3/4 of a cup) only has 1mg.
What to watch out for:
It might not be the amount you're eating but how you are eating the food which inhibits zinc's absorption. Phytates found on grains, seeds and legumes inhibit zinc efficiency, as well as oxylates found in spinach and quinoa. To combat this try to soak grains, seeds and legumes a good 24 hours before eating as this breaks down the phytates. Raw spinach contains higher amounts of oxylates, so if you steam your spinach you will be good to go.
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Josephine is running a series of free monthly workshops in Brighton on women’s health and hormones. For dates and topics visit http://www.josephinecobb.com/workshops-1/