Many children with autism struggle with poor concentration, emotional outbursts, and digestive problems. These common autism symptoms can sometimes be attributed to a zinc deficiency. Here’s what you need to know about zinc deficiencies and autism.
What Is Zinc?
Zinc is an essential trace mineral, which means our bodies alone don’t produce a sufficient amount of it. Zinc is also a co-factor–meaning it’s necessary for a variety of biochemical reactions–in hundreds of functions in our bodies. Treating a zinc deficiency in your child with autism can potentially alleviate a host of other symptoms.
Why Is Zinc So Important?
Zinc is vital for:
- Skin health
- Eye health
- Brain health
- Taste and smell. In fact, a zinc deficiency may be responsible for your child’s picky eating habits.
- Hormone production and processing
- Immune function
- Antioxidant activity
What Causes a Zinc Deficiency?
According to The World Health Organization, zinc deficiency affects about one-third of the world’s population. Here’s why:
- It is difficult to get enough zinc through diet alone
- Zinc is used to fight infection which can deplete your body’s zinc levels more quickly
- Many kids with autism have a condition called Pyroluria (i.e. pyrrole disorder). Kids with Pyroluria urinate out too much zinc and B6 which leads to a zinc deficiency.
What Are the Symptoms of a Zinc Deficiency?
A zinc deficiency can manifest in a variety of ways, including:
- Mood swings or angry outbursts
- Stunted growth
- Feeling tired or run down
- Poor concentration
- Digestive problems
- Slow-healing wounds
Metagenics offers a zinc taste test called Zinc Tally you can use at home to help determine if your child with autism has a zinc deficiency. During this test, your child holds 10 mL of Zinc Tally in their mouth for 10 seconds. If they experience a lack of taste or a delay in taste it is likely they have a zinc deficiency.
How Can I Supplement My Child’s Zinc Levels?
If your child does have a zinc deficiency, there are a few ways to increase their zinc levels.
- Foods Rich in Zinc: Foods like cashews, pumpkin seeds, lamb, and organ meats are high in zinc. However, because the soil used for farming is not repleted with zinc, the level of zinc a food should contain is often different from what it actually contains.
- Zinc Supplements: Zinc supplements can be purchased as liquids, capsules, or powders. There are also different chemical forms of zinc supplements. To determine which form of zinc you’re purchasing you can check the back of the product label. In my experience, the best tolerated and most easily absorbed zinc supplements are:
- Zinc Picolinate
- Zinc Citrate
Check this out! I’ve taken the guesswork out of choosing the right supplements for your child with autism. My Autism Essentials List is a comprehensive compilation of trusted, high-quality, third-party tested supplements including zinc, magnesium, melatonin, and more. After you click the link, just enter your email to create an account and get started!
How Much Zinc Should I Give My Child With Autism?
I typically recommend a 15-30 mg dosage. Zinc taken on an empty stomach can cause nausea, so I suggest giving your child the zinc supplement with food. A great way to do this is to “sandwich” the zinc supplement within their breakfast routine – eat a bit of breakfast, take the zinc supplement, finish breakfast. Alternatively, you can give your child the zinc supplement at night.
If your child is still experiencing zinc-related nausea you can counteract it by giving them something acidic like orange juice, lemon juice, or apple cider vinegar.
High levels of zinc, typically over 50-60 mg a day, can throw other mineral levels in your body out of balance. Copper, zinc, and iron work together as a sort of triangle in your body. Too much zinc may throw off your iron levels and lead to anemia. It is important not to go above 15-30 mg of zinc without also planning to monitor your child’s iron levels.
Whenever possible, I recommend working with a functional medicine provider in your area to provide guidance and assist with dosage.
This is just a starting point for you to understand how a zinc deficiency may be affecting your child with autism and how balancing your child’s zinc levels can help you see an improvement in your child’s autism symptoms.Tell Me More
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