Fertility: Are you getting enough zinc?

Zinc is an incredibly important mineral for women hoping to conceive, as well as pregnant woman.  It is critical to healthy immune systems, growth and brain function. For example, zinc is needed for normal egg production in the ovaries and for your body to produce and use the reproductive hormones oestrogen and progesterone. In other words the growth and development of the embryo depends on zinc.

Zinc is equally important for men as it is found in high concentrations in sperm and it has been shown that reducing zinc in a man’s diet actually reduces his sperm count.


In pregnancy, zinc is needed for all areas of growth, development of the reproductive system, the nervous system and the brain, bone and teeth formation and is important for the mother’s health. Research has shown that babies born to mothers who supplemented 25 mg of zinc from the nineteenth week of pregnancy had a greater birth weight and head circumference. Zinc is also a valuable mineral in maintaining skin elasticity and preventing stretch marks during pregnancy and is helpful for decreasing food cravings.


Zinc deficiency doesn’t just damage your fertility it can also harm memory and attention because adequate levels of zinc are essential for healthy brain function and libido. Even adult men who were tested after lowering their zinc intake level were found to have mood swings, poor memory, poor attention and loss of libido. In addition zinc deficiency can block the absorption of folic acid – another key nutrient for fertility. 


In short, zinc deficiency can lead to reduced fertility, loss of libido and an increased risk of miscarriage in women. Hair mineral analysis reveals that a very large percentage of couples who fail to conceive or experience miscarriages are found to be short of zinc. (see the Resources page to see how you can get this test by post)


Checking for a zinc deficiency along with other minerals is vital for couples struggling to conceive and well as those who have experienced a miscarriage as this mineral is vital for hundreds of enzyme systems, many of which affect sexual performance and fertility in men and women. In modern day diets, zinc can be low anyway and stress, smoking, pollution and alcohol all deplete body levels of zinc further. And if you have been taking the contraceptive pill for a while, zinc is likely to be deficient.


Clearly, it is crucial for both men and women hoping to have a child to consume proper levels of zinc. Symptoms of deficiency include white spots on the nails and a poor sense of taste and smell. Zinc is probably one of the hardest minerals to easily boost into your diet. And while extreme zinc deficiencies are rare in most developed countries, researchers are finding mild zinc deficiencies more and more frequently. Good food sources for zinc include: whole grains, peas, nuts and seeds, in particular pumpkin seeds.  Alcohol also reduces zinc absorption by the body.


If you are trying to conceive you should aim to supplement with 30 mg of zinc a day and your partner should also take 30 mg a day. With each ejaculation men lose around 9 per cent of their daily zinc so a good daily intake of zinc is strongly advised.  (I use a supplement called Fertility Plus for Women in the clinic and the man takes Fertility Plus for Men, both contains 30mg of zinc along with other important nutrients, see the Resources page).

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