David was eight years old. He often had mood swings and was a fussy eater with a very small appetite. Not long after he began taking a few drops daily of a mineral, he became more relaxed and happy. He also began to eat “anything I serve for supper” said his mother “and soon after, he tells me he is hungry and asks for more food”. His mother now wants to start giving some of this mineral to her daughter, so as to increase her appetite and decrease her fussiness.
There is much information written about vitamins and supplements. However, not everyone knows which ones are minerals and why they are so important to our wellbeing.
Dietary minerals are also known as mineral nutrients. They are chemical elements required by living organisms and are metabolized for growth and development. There are a few major minerals, such as calcium and magnesium, as well as a few important ‘trace’ minerals, such as iron, copper, zinc and iodine.
Zinc and Appetite
The mineral that David and his sister now take daily is zinc. Zinc is necessary for taste and smell sensors to be able to receive and process information. When zinc activates these areas of the brain, the levels of zinc impact both appetite and taste preferences. Studies have shown that as one’s levels of zinc improve, the taste buds on the tongue increase. Many individuals who are very fussy eaters, are bothered by various textures, or tend to prefer dairy and/or spicy foods are low in zinc.
Zinc and Digestion
Zinc is critical for digestion. It helps release digestive enzymes, including the DPP-IV enzyme which is needed for the digestion of gluten and dairy.
Michael had had digestive problems since he was an infant. He was colicky and refused to drink formula bottles. At the age of four months he temporarily did well when he drank raw goat’s milk instead of formula, but soon developed the same problems he had when he had drank formula. He was congested, vomited, screamed all day long and threw himself back and refused any bottles. He only would nurse from his mother, who at that point had removed all dairy and gluten from her diet. Soon after, he began on zinc and developed a wonderful appetite. At the age of a year and a half he was started on foods with animal protein such as chicken and eggs. Soon after, he began suffering from loose stools. He was taken off these foods and his symptoms resolved. A few months later he again started eating animal proteins and had the same reaction. His labs showed abnormally low levels of zinc in the red blood cells and he was started on a high dosage of a very well absorbed form of zinc. Within one day his symptoms began to resolve. After one week, for the first time in his life, his stools had a solid consistency. Over a year later, he now happily eats many foods with animal protein and takes zinc daily.
Addressing Underlying Nutritional Problems
Why did David and Michael begin supplementing with zinc? As a developmental optometrist, I had checked their levels and recommended supplementation. Typically, a developmental optometrist treats hidden vision problems and not nutrition problems. Developmental optometrists often treat conditions that one may not realize are visually related such as headaches, balance or co-ordination problems, reading and learning disorders, and ADHD and mood disorders. I have learned that many ‘hidden vision problems’ stem from nutritional problems. By running labs, underlying nutritional and biochemical problems that may be the cause of many issues can be discovered.
Zinc plays a critical role in many functions in the human body, including digestion and appetite, and can help alleviate fussiness with foods and textures. Many people have benefitted by taking zinc supplements. I invite you to learn the importance of zinc and encourage you to discuss it with your health practitioner to incorporate it in to your diet.
Dr. Michal Luchins, an optometric physician, runs the Family Vision & Learning Center in Suffern. She specializes in vision therapy and developmental optometry and incorporates orthomolecular nutrient treatment. Dr. Luchins can be reached at 369-3235, VisionAndLearning@gmail.com or visit Optometrists.org/DrLuchins.