What You Need to Know about Zinc, Leg Ulcers and COVID-19

During this COVID-19 outbreak, we’ve been hearing a lot more about the importance of Zinc in your diet.  This is what we know: zinc is a trace element which your immune systems needs to function properly. In fact, zinc is considered a type 2 nutrient because it’s a necessary part of your body’s general metabolism (other type 2 nutrients include protein and magnesium.) So, if you have a zinc deficiency, you’ll be at a higher risk for infections, diseases and viruses like COVID-19.

But supporting immunity isn’t zinc’s only important job. In fact, this little element plays many roles in your body. And a little of it goes a long way: your recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for zinc is 8 milligrams (mg) a day for women and 11 mg a day for men.

It’s entirely possible to get your daily zinc dose from your diet (more on that shortly.) Otherwise, talk to your doctor about starting a zinc supplement.

Still waiting to be sold on zinc? Let’s take a closer look at two of its numerous function: supporting immunity and wound healing.

How Does Zinc Regulate Immunity?

Without zinc, our body can’t activate its T lymphocytes (T cells). And we need those T cells for two jobs: controlling and regulating our body’s immune response, and attacking cells that are infected or even cancerous.

What does that all mean for you? If you don’t get enough zinc, your immune system just won’t work the way it should. In fact, a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reveals, “zinc-deficient persons experience increased susceptibility to a variety of pathogens.”

Now, those pathogens range from severe infections to conditions like a common cold. Which is why, according to a study published in the Open Respiratory Medicine Journal, zinc supplementation could shorten your cold experience by as much as 40%. Plus, it could make your symptoms less severe while you’re still under the weather. It’s not so surprising, then, that zinc can also help your body heal leg ulcers, a common symptom of vein disease.

How Zinc Helps Heal Your Wounds

Before we explain why zinc can help heal your leg ulcers, let’s review why you might develop this kind of wound. When you have chronic vein problems, you may develop non-healing ulcers or open sores on your lower legs. Also called venous ulcers, they usually develop around your ankle, varying in size from very small to several inches in diameter.

What’s the connection between these two issues? Chronic vein disease causes a progressive inflammatory reaction in your body, and that damages your capillaries and lymphatic ducts. After that damage, fluid leaks into the tissues of your lower legs, causing swelling and depositing hemoglobin in your lower leg tissue.

But that’s not all—capillary damage also decreases your lower leg’s oxygen levels, which translates to poor wound healing and ulcers.

We treat venous ulcers with compression therapy and wound care, while also treating your underlying vein condition. And now we know that zinc could help speed up your healing. Why?

One of zinc’s jobs is to maintain your skin’s health. In fact, you may be more susceptible to leg ulcers if you have a zinc deficiency.  As such, some studies suggest that applying zinc to your wounds could help speed healing, but further research is required before this becomes our primary treatment protocol.

How Can I Add Zinc to my Diet Naturally?

Beans, animal proteins, nuts, fish and seafood are all good sources of zinc. You can also get zinc from whole grain cereals, and dairy products. Top choices for zinc include fortified cereals, Pacific raw oysters, canned baked beans, cooked green peas, yogurt, pecans, lean ground beef and roasted peanuts.

Luckily, you’ve got lots of tasty ways to get your recommended daily zinc intake from diet alone. If, however, you feel you may have a zinc insufficiency, you may consider supplementation. Zinc supplements come in capsule and tablet form.

Keep in mind, however, that too much zinc can also cause problems in your body. So talk to your doctor before adding any new supplements to your diet. And, if you’re dealing with a leg ulcer right now, don’t delay treatment—regardless of the COVID-19 outbreak, you must stick with your follow up ulcer appointments. Failure to do so could even result in amputation!

But don’t worry. If you’re uncomfortable coming into our Houston vein clinics, you can still stick to your leg ulcer treatment protocol. In fact, we’ve found that Telemedicine for leg ulcer follow ups is very effective. So take control of your health, and request your appointment today.

Sources: Medical News Today, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Open Respiratory Medicine Journal

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