Mineral deficiencies, including zinc deficiencies, are becoming more common in many regions around the world because of nutrient-depleted soil. Poor soil reduces the mineral content in the grains, fruits and vegetables that are grown in it. Zinc deficiency can also result from malabsorption problems in your intestines, but inadequate dietary intake is the primary cause. A lack of zinc hampers your immune response and affects your ability to metabolize fats and vitamin A, which are needed for healthy skin. Dry and stinky feet are obvious and relatively common symptoms of zinc deficiency.
Zinc deficiency is estimated to affect at least 25 percent of the world’s population, although the vast majority live in third-world countries, according to “Contemporary Nutrition.” Zinc-deficient soil and vegetarian diets are common causes of zinc deficiency, but diseases of the intestines, liver and kidneys are important factors also. According to the National Institutes of Health, the recommended dietary allowance for zinc ranges from 8 mg to 13 mg daily, depending on age and, in women, whether someone is pregnant or lactating. The earliest visible symptoms of zinc deficiency are white marks on your fingernails, acne, scaly skin around your face and feet, and foot odor. Advanced symptoms of zinc deficiency include hair loss, diarrhea, reduced vision and sense of smell, poor immune response, deterioration of body tissues and organ failure.
Stinky feet are a common occurrence, at least occasionally, for a lot of people. The most common cause is sweaty feet that are trapped within poorly ventilated footwear. Sweat doesn’t often smell bad by itself; dark, moist areas promote proliferation of bacteria, and their waste products are the primary cause of body odor.” Socks made of synthetic fibers and nylons seem to promote stinky feet the most. You may sweat profusely from your hands and feet due to anxiety or hormone imbalance, which increases the chances of foot odor, but poor hygiene is a more common cause of stinky feet. Toxic build-up in your body or a poorly functioning liver can also cause your sweat to smell badly, regardless of hygiene or footwear. Foot odor from zinc deficiency is a much less common cause and a poorly understood one.
Zinc and Foot Odor
Why zinc deficiency causes foot odor in some people is not well understood. One theory is related to reduced immune response leading to bacterial proliferation, while another suggests tissue deterioration, rancid fatty acids, toxin buildup or liver dysfunction, according to the “Doctor's Complete Guide to Vitamins and Minerals.” Regardless, there is substantial anecdotal evidence collected over many years that suggests taking zinc supplements or eating zinc-rich foods can eliminate chronically smelly feet in some people very quickly when other approaches fail. If zinc deficiency is the cause of your stinky feet, then your feet will most likely be dry and scaly too, as may your face, elbows and knees.
Sources of Zinc
Your body can only absorb limited amounts of elemental zinc at a time; any supplement should contain at least 30 mg of elemental zinc to be effective, but not more than 100 mg per day, according to “Nutritional Sciences.” Zinc supplements should not be taken with food, especially whole grains, legumes and nuts, because the foods lower absorption rates. Good natural sources of zinc include oysters, red meat, poultry, crab, lobster and dairy products.
- “Contemporary Nutrition”; Gordon M. Wardlaw; 2010
- National Institutes of Health: Office of Dietary Supplements -- Zinc Fact Sheet
- “Human Biochemistry and Disease”; Gerald Litwack; 2008
- “Doctor's Complete Guide to Vitamins and Minerals”; Mary Dan Eades and Philip Lief; 2002
- “Nutritional Sciences”; Michelle McGuire; 2007