How to treat too much zinc in your body?
In this brief guide, we will answer the question, “How to treat too much zinc in your body?”. We will further elaborate on the symptoms of zinc toxicity, and the risk factors for zinc toxicity.
How to treat too much zinc in your body?
To treat too much zinc in your body, you should follow medical advice. There are several possible treatments to reduce the levels of zinc in the body. However, the most indicative method may vary depending on the levels of overdose of the patient and other specific individual health characteristics.
Different therapies may be followed by a physician, as a strategy to effectively overcome the symptoms of overdose/ toxicity of zinc in the body and simultaneously eliminate the excess of this mineral from your body (2).
Some therapies are listed below:
- Antiemetics and fluids should be given, as well as proton pump inhibitors or H2-blockers
- If an abdominal X-ray confirms significant gut burden in the setting of toxicity, whole bowel irrigation may be a consideration
- Chelation with calcium disodium edetate or DTPA
- Treatment for inhalation of metal fumes is supportive, with a focus on antipyretics, oral hydration, and NSAIDs
- Treated with copper sulfate, though severe cases may also require chelation
- Identifying and eliminating the exposure source
If you suspect your zinc toxicity is due to taking nutritional supplements or multivitamins, consult a healthcare expert to prepare a different supplement or medication regimen.
What are the symptoms of zinc toxicity?
The symptoms of zinc may be gastrointestinal, such as nausea, respiratory, such as airway irritation and flu-like symptoms or cutaneous, such as local skin damage. Zinc toxicity can be both acute, which leads to short-term consequences, and chronic, which leads to long-term consequences.
Acute zinc toxicity
In the case of acute zinc toxicity, the symptoms appear shortly after getting a large dose of zinc. These can include (2,4):
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Stomach pain
Acute toxic ingestions of zinc sulfate and concentrated zinc chloride will primarily cause gastrointestinal symptoms, including hematemesis, due to their direct caustic effects. Renal injury, ranging from asymptomatic hematuria to interstitial nephritis or acute tubular necrosis, has also been reported.
Acute respiratory distress syndrome, liver necrosis, thrombocytopenia, coagulopathy, and even death have been reported from acute exposures, though primarily due to iatrogenic parenteral administration of toxic doses (2).
Chronic zinc toxicity
Chronic zinc toxicity manifests primarily as copper deficiency (2). Frequent symptoms of copper deficiency include hypocupremia, impaired iron mobilization, anemia, leukopenia, neutropenia, decreased superoxide dismutase, ceruloplasmin as well as cytochrome-c oxidase, but increased plasma cholesterol and LDL:HDL cholesterol and abnormal cardiac function (4).
In the case of chronic zinc toxicity, the symptoms appear if a person takes great levels of zinc for a long period of time. These can include:
- Low levels of HDL or good cholesterol
- Reduced immune activity
- Deficiency of copper
People working in metallurgy, most commonly welders can develop a condition termed metal fume fever. This illness is acute and remains for a short time. It occurs when a person breathes in excessive zinc by dust or fumes. It usually only persists for about 24 to 48 hours. Symptoms of metal fume fever include (2,4):
- Muscle soreness
- Chills and fever
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
The person may experience these symptoms after a few hours of exposure. Though this condition is normally short-lived, doctors have no idea about the potential long term consequences of inhaling zinc dust or fumes.
What are the risk factors for zinc toxicity?
The risk factors for zinc toxicity are exposure to zinc, via the oral pathway, through ingestion of food containing zinc; via the inhalation of fumes containing zinc (such as bomb gas) or via the manipulation of artifacts containing zinc.
Toxic exposures to zinc can also occur via ingestion of nutritional supplements, pennies manufactured after 1981, and zinc chloride solutions in concentrations greater than 20%. Additionally, the application of excessive amounts of denture cream can lead to zinc overdose and secondary copper deficiency. Lastly, toxicity to zinc oxide can occur after exposures through the dermal route, particularly from overuse of makeup, sunscreen, and ointments (2).
You may likely experience zinc toxicity if:
- You are consuming too many zinc supplements or your daily diet exceeds recommended daily intake of zinc
- You are exposed to toxic chemicals such as metal fumes, cleaners, paint, lead, varnish, industrial chemicals, solvents, rubber, and anti-rust products.
How to reduce the risk of zinc toxicity?
The risk of zinc toxicity can be significantly reduced through proper handling, use and storage of hazardous chemicals and other materials that include zinc.
Also, you should be completely familiarised with the minimum daily requirements for zinc in your diet.
You must know that zinc toxicity is a very serious, potentially fatal condition. Although it can be treated, it is best to avoid it through basic preventive actions.
Keep the following points in mind to lower your risk of zinc toxicity:
- Make sure paints, varnishes, and all other chemicals are properly kept aside after every use
- Make sure to properly store products comprising zinc
- Limit your exposure to paints, rubber products, industrial solvents, and other chemicals that likely incorporate zinc
- You must carefully read and follow the dosing instructions when taking vitamins and minerals comprising zinc
- Dairy products can have a reasonable contribution for dietary zinc intake in Western diets, where dairy consumption is high. However, the co-ingestion of dairy products can also improve zinc absorption from other food products (5).
How to reduce the amount of zinc from the diet?
To reduce the amount of zinc from the diet you should be aware of what foods are rich in zinc and avoid them. In addition to food, medications and supplements can also be oral sources of zinc and therefore must be thoroughly controlled.
The richest food sources of zinc include meat, fish, and seafood. Oysters contain more zinc per serving than any other food, but beef contributes 20% of zinc intakes from food in the United States because it is commonly consumed.
Eggs and dairy products also contain zinc. Beans, nuts, and whole grains contain zinc, but the bioavailability of zinc from these foods is lower than that from animal foods because these foods contain phytates.
Phytates, the storage form of phosphorus in plants, bind some minerals such as zinc in the intestine and form an insoluble complex that inhibits zinc absorption. Fruits and vegetables contain very little zinc (1).
Why do our bodies require zinc?
Our body requires zinc because zinc is an essential mineral that plays a variety of functions in the human body. It acts as a cofactor in enzymatic reactions involved in DNA expression, membrane stabilization, vitamin A metabolism, and in the gustatory and olfactory systems (2).
It is a crucial cofactor for over 300 enzymes required for the synthesis and metabolism of nucleic acids, carbohydrates, lipids, proteins and other trace minerals.
Zinc helps to support cellular membranes. It is, therefore, important for the structure of cells and organs. Zinc has been ascribed roles in the metabolism and interaction of malignant cells, particularly in apoptosis in different tissues and cell types (3).
Zinc is required for normal growth and development throughout pregnancy, infancy and puberty, for the sense of taste and smell as well as for cell division. In pregnant women, zinc deficiency may lead to fetal brain cells decrease and may affect their development. Children’s zinc deficiency may hinder normal growth, intellectual development, and reproductive system health (3).
Zinc is involved in DNA synthesis and genetic expression. It is also important for immunity and in healing wounds and repairing tissues.
How much zinc does our body require?
The prescribed daily zinc consumption for an adult woman is 7 milligrams, for males is 9.5 milligrams and for children is 8.5 mg per day. The limit should not surpass 25 milligrams a day.
The recommended daily adult intake of zinc is 15 mg. Symptoms usually do not become evident until ingestions exceed approximately 1 to 2 g of zinc. Toxic exposures have occurred through the gastrointestinal, dermal, respiratory, and parenteral routes (2).
In this brief guide, we have provided an answer to the question, “How to treat too much zinc in your body?”. We have also elaborated on the symptoms of zinc toxicity, and the risk factors for zinc toxicity.
- Zinc professional sheet on health professionals. National Institute of Health.
- Agnew, U. M., and T. L. Slesinger. Zinc Toxicity.[Updated 2020 May 7]. StatPearls [Internet] (2020).
- Chasapis, Christos T., et al. Zinc and human health: an update. Archives toxicol, 2012, 86, 521-534.
- Plum, Laura M., Lothar Rink, and Hajo Haase. The essential toxin: impact of zinc on human health. Int j environ res public health, 2010, 7, 1342-1365.
- Shkembi, Blerina, and Thom Huppertz. Influence of Dairy Products on Bioavailability of Zinc from Other Food Products: A Review of Complementarity at a Meal Level. Nutrients, 2021, 13, 12.