Zinc is an essential mineral that is necessary for growth and overall health. Signs of zinc deficiency may include slow healing of wounds, minimized capacity to ward off infections, poor night vision and a decline in the sensitivity of taste buds. People who are unable to get an adequate amount of zinc in their diets may need to take zinc supplements. Zinc supplements should be taken with a meal to avoid stomach upset.
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The Mayo Clinic says that zinc supplements work best if they are consumed a minimum of 1 hour prior to eating or 2 hours afterward. People who take zinc on an empty stomach may become nauseated or suffer other symptoms of an upset stomach, such as heartburn.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) says zinc supplements contain numerous forms of zinc, including zinc gluconate, zinc acetate and zinc sulfate.
According to Spineuniverse.com, zinc sulfate is the most widely consumed and least costly form of zinc. It is also the most difficult for your body to absorb and is more apt to cause an upset stomach.
Some forms of zinc that may be more easily tolerated by the stomach include zinc picolinate and zinc citrate.
In order to optimize the effectiveness of zinc supplements, they should be taken with juice or water (not milk) in between meals. If this causes your stomach to be upset, then take zinc with food. Zinc should be not taken along with calcium or iron supplements. If you take iron or calcium they should be ingested at a different time of day than when you take zinc since all three are absorbed in the same area of the small intestine.
Zinc can be toxic if taken in excessive amounts. The NIH says symptoms of zinc toxicity include abdominal pain, diarrhea and vomiting. These symptoms typically occur within several hours after taking zinc supplements and dissipate quickly once you stop taking the supplements.