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A to Zinc

By Shelley Burns

Originally published in Skin Deep, July/August 2009. Copyright 2009. Associated Skin Care Professionals. All right reserved.

Acne is probably one of the most common and dreaded skin conditions. It is so prevalent that significant research has been devoted not only to the physical impact of acne, but also to the societal impacts on the acne sufferer, ranging from reduced self-esteem to depression. This condition can be significant at any age. So, if all other strategies have failed to resolve acne, think zinc.

Acne comes in many forms: noninflammatory, resulting in blackheads or whiteheads; and inflammatory, resulting in pimples or boils. Inflammatory acne can be very painful and can lead to increased risk of scarring. The causes include hormonal fluctuations any time between adolescence and menopause or andropause (decline in certain hormones in men), overgrowth of bacteria in pores, exposure to chemicals, side effects from medication, or a family history of acne.

So how does zinc play a role in eliminating acne? Zinc is an important mineral in skin health, especially in the case of acne prevention. It can help control the production of oil in the skin and can help control the hormones responsible for creating acne outbreaks. Zinc is also responsible for reducing inflammation associated with acne and expediting wound healing, which decreases the risk of acne scarring. Zinc can also act as a catalyst in tissue regeneration. A number of studies support zinc deficiency as a cause of acne breakouts.

Foods rich in zinc include almonds, cashews, eggs, lean meat, oats, oysters, pecans, poultry, and pumpkin seeds. Whole grains and milk are also good sources of zinc. Six medium oysters have 77 milligrams of zinc (the highest amount) and 3 ounces of beef have 9 milligrams. However, slurping oysters isn't for everyone, so supplementation may be necessary. The recommended dose of zinc is 15 milligrams daily. Since prolonged zinc supplementation can lead to a copper deficiency, it's critical you and your clients consult a healthcare practitioner before considering long-term use of zinc.

Zinc can create a path to healthier skin, provide relief from acne, eczema, and psoriasis, strengthen the immune system and build healthier senses, including vision, smell, and taste. Zinc also reduces the risk of prostate cancer and age-related macular degeneration.

Shelley Burns, a doctor of naturopathic medicine, completed studies at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine and has certification in complementary and integrative medicine from Harvard University. She can be reached at the Scienta Health Centre at 416-222-5880 or shelley.burns@scientahealth.com.




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