Low zinc and anxiety

Zinc plays a crucial role in brain function. Zinc up regulates a brain protein used for regulating mood and stress. Research has shown the suboptimal levels of zinc affect the levels of a nerve chemical called GABA, GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that reduces feelings of fear and anxiety, so if GABA is affected, anxious feelings might crop up.

Another thing to keep in mind: the zinc-copper-anxiety link.

In a preliminary study, individuals with anxiety had significantly higher plasma levels of copper. Zinc and copper are a good example of frenamies. They are highly competitive. They work against each other and compete with each other for absorption, therefore if you are low in zinc of are not absorbing zinc well then copper will raise naturally. This imbalance of zinc and copper levels can directly affect thoughts and behaviour, and have an impact on anxiety.

What can you do?

Copper is naturally occurring in many foods and an important functional mineral for the body, we want it but not too much of it. As too much can displace zinc – and we don’t want that either, we need that mineral sweet spot, so, what can you do.

  • Up your zinc foods – This is the first go to because in doing this the body can regulate mineral balance much better, so you’re good zinc foods include: Pumpkin seeds, beef, yoghurt, oysters, legumes – kidney beans, chickpeas

  • Look at copper-containing contraceptive options such as birth control pill and copper IUD’s

  • Check your water pipes – We live in old house and our pipes are made from copper, we can’t replace the pipes! So I use a decent water filter system

  • Multi-vitamins – check the multi ingredients as a fair few will contain copper (I don’t recommend taking multi’s without seeking advice)

How else can you address zinc status

There has been ongoing research on how zinc deficiency affects anxiety-inducing behaviours and a study has shown that supplementation of zinc has been used successfully to address these feelings. However, long term supplementation of one mineral always has an impact on other minerals, especially iron and copper so it is not advisable to supplement isolated minerals long term. Supplementation is always best through a practitioner.

What else can affect zinc status

Have you ever found that when you’ve been through a stressful period or an anxious episode, right at the tail end of it you get ill, well, that’s because stress chews up a lot of zinc. Zinc is also an immune system supporter. We can’t always stop the stress, but in times of stress or when we are anxiety levels are higher than usual, we can opt for rich zinc-containing foods, try a handful of soaked pumpkin seeds on a soup or do a big beef stew in a miso and ginger broth. It’s adding it in every day that keeps things on at a good baseline.


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