When looking at prenatal supplements recently and during discussions with my peers I learned more of the importance for copper and zinc balance. Please keep reading…this isn’t just associated with pregnancy!
Copper is an essential trace element required for proper organ function and numerous metabolic processes. Zinc is important for immune support and it plays a role in cell division and cell growth, so is very important for proper growth and development, as well as wound healing, and the breakdown of carbohydrates. Copper and zinc compete for the same absorption sites, hence can impact the absorption of each other. The ideal ratio being somewhere between 8:1 and 12:1 zinc to copper. The tolerable upper intake level (TUL) for zinc is 40 mg for adult women and men. The TUL for copper is 10,000 ug/day for adults.
Copper and zinc are also associated with taste and smell and so can impact appetite. Excess copper can cause people to skip meals and crave more spicy, sugary, or salty food to stimulate their taste more.
This is where my interest first peaked having suffered with Anorexia nervosa. You can see how a copper/zinc imbalance can be potentially lethal for people with eating disorders as it can lead to further food deprivation, and increased imbalances and deficiencies.
Copper excess also increases the risk of yeast and viral infections (some of which contribute to chronic fatigue), immune deficiency, abdominal pains, headaches, prolonged and heavy menstrual cycles (which zinc supplementation may reduce), depression, and postpartum depression.
This is where my interest peaked a second time! Having suffered with depression, anxiety, and anorexia, I am classed as being more likely to develop postnatal depression. After attending my first Mindful Mum’s class at the hospital, one mother had been diagnosed with postnatal depression after her first baby and is now suffering with it again during her second pregnancy…I wanted to find out more to see if I could help her, and also prevent this happening to myself!
During pregnancy we often become much more diligent with our diet and supplementation to ensure we are getting the right nutritional support, well I certainly have anyway, and like many, I take a natal supplement to support the growth of my babies. Like most multi vitamin supplements, it of course contained copper. Now copper is highly prevalent in people’s diets. Our water pipes are commonly made of copper so we get a dose in our drinking water, and it occurs in many foods including almonds, avocado, beans, broccoli, buckwheat, chocolate, lamb, mushrooms, pork, prunes, sunflower seeds, legumes, liver, quinoa, asparagus, kale, chia seeds, goat cheese, and wholegrain cereals…many foods we consume as pregnant ladies and even as healthy women in general!
Zinc on the other hand…well I read at http://www.bodyandsoul.com.au that 85% of Australian females are deficient in zinc. I can’t find a research paper to confirm this, but it doesn’t surprise me if true. As an FDN Practitioner, we may recommend clients supplement with zinc to support their immune system as this is also impacted by gut health; a foundational area that we address in healing. Some foods containing zinc include beef, capsicum, egg yolks, herrings, liver, milk, oysters, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, seafood, and yeast. Whilst we may consume most of these foods, I think it’s quite clear that copper/zinc imbalances could easily be very common.
Some other disorders associated with copper excess include hypotension, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, PMS, paranoid and hallucinatory schizophrenias, calcium accumulation around joints causing stiffness, premature aging, irritability, fatigue, amenorrhoea, pyroluria, miscarriage, metallic taste, liver and kidney failure, tachycardia, dyslexia, green stool, dizziness, childhood hyperactivity, and autism. Any mild abnormality or impairment of liver function can lead to copper excess.
Note: legumes and wholegrains contain phytates that prevent zinc absorption so ensure you soak, heat, sprout, or ferment them sufficiently before eating.
We must, however, remember that adequate copper levels are essential for the growth of new blood vessels, wound healing, and recovering from heart attacks and strokes, so please don’t think it’s the enemy! If we supplement excessively with zinc we may suffer copper deficiency increasing our risk of cardiovascular dysfunction,
This blog is to purely make you aware that this imbalance can exist, and you may want to investigate this more if you have a history with depression, an eating disorder, fatigue, or immune issues. Zinc deficiency testing is a good start; you can get a simple test at your chemist to give you a rough idea if this may be present. If you know you are zinc deficient, or you have pyroluria/pyrrole disorder (an inability to properly absorb B6, magnesium and zinc), then you may want to investigate further with a HTMA (Hair, Tissue, Mineral Analysis) test, which I can run for you.
If you are suffering with postnatal depression, depression in general, lack of appetite, fatigue or any other malady, then please don’t hesitate to schedule a free 20-minute consultation to see how I may be able to help you on your journey back to feeling good from your core!