Why Take Zinc & Magnesium Supplements?

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Doctor speaking with patient in office. (Image: XiXinXing/XiXinXing/Getty Images)

Zinc and magnesium are essential minerals that your body needs from your daily diet. Magnesium is vital to every organ, including the heart, muscles, kidneys and bones. Zinc plays a key role in normal development and growth and keeps your immune system working optimally. It is rare to have a deficiency of zinc or magnesium. But your doctor may recommend taking supplements for nutritional reasons or to help treat and prevent certain health conditions.

Amounts and Sources

Your doctor may recommend zinc and magnesium supplements if you have a very low-nutrient diet. Adults require 310 to 400 milligrams of magnesium per day. This mineral is found in a range of foods such as whole grains, green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds, bananas, potatoes and chocolate. Zinc is found in fewer foods including red meat, poultry, oysters, beans, whole grains and dairy. Only a trace amount is needed, however; adults should get 8 to 12 milligrams of zinc per day.

Causes of a Magnesium Deficiency

According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, low magnesium is usually due to a medical condition. These include intestinal viruses that upset the balance of magnesium by causing diarrhea or vomiting and digestive diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome that hinder its absorption. Diabetes, pancreatitis, high thyroid levels and kidney disease can also cause a magnesium deficiency. Additionally, you can get a magnesium deficiency due to excess coffee, alcohol, soda, salt, sweating and prolonged stress.

Treating Conditions With Magnesium

Magnesium has some medicinal uses, too. The University of Maryland Medical Center notes that magnesium is given intravenously -- through the blood -- to treat high blood pressure and seizures, conditions called pre-eclampsia and eclampsia, in pregnant women. Magnesium supplements may also help relieve premenstrual syndrome symptoms such as bloating, insomnia and leg swelling.

Alcohol and Zinc Deficiency

Your doctor may recommend zinc supplements if you drink excess alcohol. According to the National Institutes of Health, alcohol hinders the amount of zinc your body absorbs and increases how much it loses. Many alcoholics also have poor nutrition, leading to a zinc deficiency.

Improving Health With Zinc

Zinc plays a key role in the immune system and wound-healing. The National Institutes of Health notes that it may help in treating skin ulcers in individuals who have low zinc levels. Additionally, the World Health Organization recommends treating diarrhea in children, particularly in developing countries, with a 10- to 14-day dose of zinc. Elderly individuals may also benefit from zinc supplements. Research suggests that taking 80 milligrams of zinc along with other vitamins and minerals may help prevent age-related macular degeneration, which can cause vision loss.

Zinc and Colds

As zinc is an important mineral for the immune system, it has been linked to cold and flu remedies. "Bioscience Reports" notes that using throat lozenges containing zinc helped to relieve cold symptoms seven days early. Studies have not been conclusive on this effect, however, and more research is needed on using zinc to beat the common cold.

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