Zinc Poisoning - The Problem May Be the Supplement You Don't Take

Zinc SymbolFull-fledged, acute zinc poisoning is a very rare event. Causing symptoms such as loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and destruction of white blood cells, zinc toxicity usually occurs when someone has drunk large quantities of an acidic beverage, such as orange juice, from a galvanized (zinc lined) container, releasing 800 to 2,000 mg of zinc per day, or more.

Fortunately, the symptoms of acute zinc poisoning usually abate within 24 to 72 hours of withdrawing the source of excess zinc from the diet.

Chronic nutritional imbalance caused by taking too much zinc is a relatively common problem. People who take 100 to 150 mg of zinc a day for several weeks to several months develop problems with the ways the body uses copper.

Zinc and Copper Reaction

In one case, a woman who took 400 mg of zinc a day became almost totally depleted of copper; her copper levels fell to 7 micrograms/dl, compared to an average of 70 to 155 micrograms/dl. She developed various zinc toxicity symptoms, especially neurological problems, including an unsteady gait, dizziness, and a low white blood cell count. She recovered a normal white blood cell count, but her central nervous system did not completely recover even after six months of avoiding zinc and taking copper.

So how can you avoid taking the wrong amount of zinc? Here are five recommendations to consider:

  1. If you take zinc, take copper, at least 1 mg but no more than 3 mg a day.
  2. Unless you have a medically diagnosed zinc deficiency, don't take more than 40 mg of zinc a day.
  3. Get treatment for nasal symptoms quickly. Zinc nose sprays can cause permanent loss of sense of smell. However, people who suffer this complication usually experience intense pain after using a zinc nose spray to treat a cold. The pain is so bad that the user can't stand up. If this happens to you after using a zinc nose spray, see a doctor at once. You may have a very short time to get medical treatment that may save your sense of smell.
  4. Get treatment for central nervous symptoms quickly, and stop taking zinc while you are waiting for your appointment, if you can't see your doctor right away. Damage to the central nervous system caused by too much zinc depleting copper in the central nervous system can take months to correct.
  5. How Much Zinc is Too Much - If zinc tastes bad, you probably don't need it. When your body is zinc-deficient, a zinc supplement will not leave a bitter or metallic aftertaste on your tongue. When your body has enough zinc, a zinc supplements will leave a bitter or metallic aftertaste on your tongue. If it tastes bad, don't take it.