Zinc is involved in hundreds of chemical reactions in the body, according to a fact sheet published by the government of Singapore. This mineral also plays a crucial role in reproductive health. If your diet consists of large amounts of wheat flour, which contains substances that interfere with the absorption of zinc, and only small amounts of shellfish, pumpkin seeds and nuts, you may have low levels of zinc that could compromise hormonal regulation.
Zinc and Prostaglandin E1
Prolactin is a hormone that helps regulate the menstrual cycle and produce breast milk. While some women with PMS do have elevated levels of this hormone, most do not; however, if a woman does not have enough prostaglandin E1, she may be unable to balance the effects of prolactin. Prostaglandin E1 is made from an essential fatty acid called gamma linolenic acid. Evening primrose oil, which has long been used by women seeking relief from PMS, is a particularly rich source of this substance. A 1983 study published in the "Journal of Reproductive Medicine" found that supplementing with gamma linolenic acid reduced the severity of PMS symptoms. Zinc increases the conversion of this fatty acid into prostaglandin E1. Other nutrients in this process include magnesium, vitamin C and pyridoxine, which is a form of vitamin B6.
Zinc Levels and PMS
Other lines of evidence indicate that zinc supplementation may help balance female hormones. A 1994 study published in "Fertility and Sterility" found that compared to women without PMS, women with PMS had lower zinc levels during the second half of their menstrual cycle. A second study, published in the March 2010 issue of the "European Journal of Clinical Nutrition" found that young women receiving zinc supplements had lower levels of depression and hostility -- two common symptoms of the syndrome.
Zinc and Acne
Many women experience an increase in pimples during certain phases of their menstrual cycle. According to the Mayo Clinic, some evidence exists that zinc intake may reduce breakouts. While not every study finds that zinc supplementation improves this condition, some do. Other studies show that serum zinc levels are lower in people with severe acne than in those who have only moderate cases.
Doses and Sources
The Unites States government has set the recommended daily allowance for zinc at 8 mg per day for adult women who are neither pregnant nor lactating. The RDA for pregnant or lactating women is 12 mg per day. According to the Singapore Ministry of Defence, it is unwise to supplement with more than 25 mg of zinc per day -- or 15 mg for children -- because too much zinc can interfere with the absorption of copper, an essential nutrient. Taking more than 100 mg of zinc per day for more than a week can also result in depressed immune function. Oysters and other shellfish are an especially rich source of zinc. Other sources include meat and eggs. Vegetarians may want to get their zinc from pumpkin seeds and nuts such as almonds, walnuts and pecans. Root vegetables like carrots, ginger and turnips and brown rice are fair sources of this mineral. White flour is a poor source of zinc for two reasons: most of the zinc is removed when the flour is refined and substances called phytates interfere with the absorption of any remaining zinc. While dark, green, leafy vegetables like kale and collard greens do not contain large amounts of zinc, the zinc they do contain is more readily absorbed than that contained in grains. Because too much of any vitamin or mineral can interfere with other nutrients, it is always wise to consult a doctor before taking more than the recommended daily allowance of any supplement.
- Ministry of Defence Singapore: Zinc It Up
- "Journal of Reproductive Medicine"; The Role of Essential Fatty Acids and Prostglandins In the Premenstrual Syndrome; D.F. Horrobin; July 1983
- "European Journal of Clinical Nutrition"; Effect of Zinc Supplementation On Mood States in Young Women: A Pilot Study; T. Sawada, et al.; March 2010
- "Fertility and Sterility"; Zinc and Copper Levels in Premenstrual Syndrome; C.J. Chuong et al.; August 1994
- NIH Office of Dietary Supplements: Dietary Fact Sheet: Zinc
- Mayo Clinic: Zinc: Evidence