The cold and flu season is upon us, which means that at any moment your already busy week can become completely overwhelming. The sniffles aren’t even the worst of it. The worst part is when you can’t get everything done because you’re not feeling up to it. Your work gets put on hold, your family gets sick too, and your diet plans become your last priority. So much of your weekly balancing act hinges on a properly functioning immune system.

Many of us have been told to drink orange juice and tea when it comes to preventing sickness. But in the realm of vitamin supplements, Zinc is the immune system superstar. Knowing what Zinc does for you and how you can get your daily allowance can be useful information year-round. During cold and flu season, it’s your survival guide.


Why Do We Need Zinc?

Zinc is an essential nutrient – our body both needs it and doesn’t produce it, which means we have to get it from our diet. Many processes – from wound healing, immune function, and growth – are fueled by Zinc. This is why it’s become a major synthetic mineral, fortified into cereals and snacks so people get enough.

It’s an abundant trace mineral, has a hand in most metabolic and nerve reactions in our bodies, and supports our immune cells too. If you’re truly Zinc-deficient, you even start to lose your taste and smell: that’s how important it is.

Here are some specific, noticeable health benefits you can get from supplementing with Zinc.


1.     Immune System Function

This is why we’re all here. Zinc plays a huge role in immune cell function, which means that supplementing with it can help those cells do their job. This reduces oxidative stress, which reduces your risk for everything from the common cold to infections.

With cell growth and division in healthy overdrive, your body can build up ironclad defenses against the flu season.


2.     Age-Related Conditions

As we get older and our systems weaken, we become susceptible to a host of conditions. Pneumonia and various infections can be deadly if your body can’t fight them, which is why Zinc becomes even more important as you age.

The improved immune response provided by a healthy dose of Zinc encourages the production of “T-cells,” which are your body’s little soldiers against the impending forces of infection. It’s so effective at boosting your activity that people have even reported improved vision and mental performance when taking Zinc daily.


3.     Inflammation Response

One of the reasons that Zinc improves not only your defense against sickness but the symptoms as well is that it decreases inflammation by reducing oxidative stress. This affects your whole body, reducing your risk for heart disease, cancer, and age-related mental conditions.

While this doesn’t reflect a direct impact on immune health, it does make us healthier, which is why we’re all here.


4.     Improved Healing

Zinc helps us produce collagen, which is a class of proteins that make up a lot of our vital tissues. For this reason, Zinc can be used as a supplement to treat skin wounds, ulcers, and burns. Since it improves your inflammation response, this accelerates wound healing as well.


How to Know You Need More Zinc

If you need more Zinc, your body will tell you with some pretty clear symptoms. Diarrhea, thinning hair, lowered appetite, and noticeably slow wound healing are some of the more obvious cues. If you find yourself frequently getting sick, you may be at risk for even greater Zinc deficiency.

Zinc supplements come in many forms, often as cold lozenges. There are different kinds of Zinc supplements available – you’ll see the words “gluconate,” “sulfate,” or “acetate” on the label. However, your tolerance to each type is entirely personal. Experimentation is generally safe with this kind of supplement.

Alternatively, to get more Zinc naturally, you need to eat more meat, including shellfish, beef, pork, chicken, and certain fish like flounder. Cashews, chickpeas, and milk provide other supplementary sources.


The Takeaway

Zinc is an essential vitamin in our bodies because we don’t produce it, but it’s essential in another way during cold and flu season. Without enough Zinc, our bodies become vulnerable to sickness and infection, runaway inflammation, and impeded wound healing.

Since you’re already busy and don’t need the added stress of being sick (or getting your family sick too), Zinc could be your best friend during the chilly Fall and Winter months.