Zinc and Immune Health
The relationship between zinc and the immune system is complex since there are different ways zinc influences the immune system.
- Zinc is necessary for immune support inside each and every cell of the body!
- Zinc helps the immune system support its innate resistance to pathogens, including secondary pathogens.
- Consuming zinc by itself is not effective. Rather than getting inside the cells where it’s needed, the zinc remains outside the cell (a little gets in, but not enough).
- When a virus lives inside the cells of the body, the zinc must be able to get to it.
- Zinc is most effective in combination with a zinc ionophore.
Read more here about the additional functions of zinc.
What is a Zinc Ionophore?
- An ionophore is necessary to transport (aka “push”) zinc across the cell membrane and inside the cell where it needs to be. This allows zinc to effectively offer immune support.
- Zinc ionophores support a normal, healthy inflammatory response, including when triggered by immune cells.
- Zinc ionophores include Epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), quercetin, elderberry, and flavonoids from citrus peels.
- Epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) is the most important polyphenol found in green tea and is a powerful zinc ionophore.
Quercetin, a "Zinc Activator"
When the pandemic struck, zinc stepped up as the immune-supporting mineral it is, but people started to see zinc had a sidekick – Quercetin.
Zinc and quercetin make a cool team because quercetin is necessary for zinc to get into the body’s cells. Once inside the cell, zinc is able to support the body’s innate resistance to pathogens and support overall immune function. And, amazingly, quercetin also promotes magnesium uptake into the cell. Mother Nature is amazing! Multiple Synergies!
Along with immune support, quercetin is capable of fighting free radical damage in the body, which is important for supporting healthy, normal levels of inflammation in the body.
I highly suggest making this DIY citrus ginger tea for immune and digestive support. The citrus peels from oranges, tangerines, grapefruit, and lemons offer a great dose of quercetin.
Kelly’s RD Recommendation: For plenty of body-loving quercetin, make yourself a berry-rich smoothie and grab a green or matcha tea for later.
Kelly Harrington, MS, RDN
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for Healthy Goods