Zinc is an essential trace element, meaning your body needs it in very small amounts. It's found naturally in seafood, pork, chicken, beans, nuts and dairy. Zinc is also available as a topical or oral supplement. Depending upon how sensitive your body is to these supplements, you may experience stomach discomfort when taking them. That's why it's important to consult your doctor before starting a zinc regimen.
Zinc supplements have many uses, but they primarily are for treating zinc deficiencies. Other functional uses of zinc supplements include treating the common cold, acne, eye irritation, improving athletic performance, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder, ADHD, and ulcers. Despite the fact it can be used to improve the condition of your stomach lining and to prevent future ulcers, according to Julius G. Goepp, MD, of "Life Extension Magazine," zinc supplements can cause an upset stomach if taken incorrectly or if you are sensitive to the substance.
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Taking zinc supplements carries several potential side effects with an upset stomach being one of them. Other side effects may include diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. Zinc supplementation can even cause stomach damage in some people, according to Medline Plus, a service of the National Institutes of Health. This is contrary to what Dr. Goepp's research suggests about the positive effects zinc has on the human stomach lining. Keep in mind that side effects and potential benefits of zinc supplementation will vary from person to person. While one person may improve stomach health by taking zinc, your condition may worsen. Your doctor can help you sort this out.
Stomach discomfort may be a sign you're taking too much zinc in a day. According to Medline Plus, the average adult in the United States consumes enough zinc in their diets to satisfy the recommended dietary allowance, or RDA, for zinc, at 11 mg and 8 mg per day, respectively. Be sure you have a zinc deficiency before taking zinc supplements. The upper tolerable limit, or UL, for zinc in adult men and women is 40 mg per day.
Even if your zinc supplementation is within the RDA or UL guidelines, you may still experience an upset stomach by taking these supplements. One solution is to try taking the supplements with food rather than on an empty stomach. You'll also want to talk to your doctor about potential drug interactions with other medicines you're currently taking. According to Medline Plus, you shouldn't take zinc supplements with penecillamine, and use caution when taking zinc alongside antibiotics and the cancer treatment cisplatin.
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.