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IBD and Zinc Deficiency

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Updated July 31, 2013

Zinc is a mineral that has several important functions in body, including the transport of vitamin A, the healing of wounds, supporting the senses of smell and taste, and more than 80 enzyme actions. Zinc deficiencies are uncommon in the Western world, except for those with certain health conditions.

Zinc and IBD:

Zinc is lost through diarrhea, and zinc deficiency, while uncommon, can occur in people who have inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), especially those with chronic diarrhea. Other impediments to proper zinc absorption include gastrointestinal surgery and short bowel syndrome. Zinc deficiencies are not as common as they once were because of improvements in nutrition for people with IBD. However, severe vitamin and mineral deficiencies can still occur, and proper nutrition is extremely important for anyone who has Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis.

Symptoms of Zinc Deficiency:

Symptoms of zinc deficiency include slow healing, weakness, white flecks in the fingernails, and impaired senses of sight, taste and smell. Zinc deficiency can also cause a condition known as acrodermatitis enteropathica. Acrodermatitis enteropathica results in the inflammation of the skin on the elbows, knees, cheeks, mouth, and perineum (area around the genitals and anus).

Treatment of Zinc Deficiency:

Zinc deficiency is often treated with supplements. The best way to avoid a zinc deficiency is to eat a healthy diet, and in the case of people with IBD, treating the underlying disease. Proper treatment of your IBD is the single most important was you can prevent zinc deficiency.

Zinc can be found in these foods:

  • Beef, lamb, pork, veal
  • Bran
  • Cheese (cheddar, American, gouda, mozzarella, muenster, Swiss)
  • Chicken, turkey (dark meat)
  • Crab, lobster, oysters, shrimp
  • Grains (wheat, rice, wheat germ and products made from these)
  • Green peas
  • Liver, Heart
  • Legumes and lentils
  • Nuts

Check with your doctor or nutritionist about vitamin and mineral supplements if you are concerned about these, or any other, vitamin deficiencies.

Sources:

Office of Dietary Supplements, National Institutes of Health. "Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Zinc." National Institutes of Health 18 Apr 2008. 31 Jul 2013.

Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America. "Extraintestinal Complications: Skin Disorders." CCFA.org 28 Apr 2006. 31 Jul 2013.

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