Zinc is an essential mineral that is required by many enzymes in the body. Some functions of zinc are as follows - helps release insulin from the pancreas, necessary for proper hydrochloric (HCL) acid production in the stomach, helps with bicarbonate production to maintain normal intestinal pH, assists various enzymes in the methylation cycle and more. There are a variety of different forms of zinc supplementation – aspartate, alpha-ketoglutarate, amino acid chelates, as well as picolinate, citrate and gluconate. The absorption and metabolic utilization of zinc is controlled by many factors such as digestive enzyme function, competing minerals (such as copper), metallothionein levels (chemical in the body which controls the levels of zinc and copper inside the cells), and the presence of heavy metals. In many cases when the zinc levels do not normalize the answer is not always to give more zinc. Because digestive function, the health of sulfur levels in the body, and the proper ratio of zinc to copper all control zinc utilization and metabolism correcting zinc can take time – even many, many months. Usually, zinc that remains abnormally low means more time is need to work on diet and improving gastrointestinal health.
These are some general rules for giving zinc. Because zinc supplementation can be an ongoing process to get levels up to normal values, here are some strategies that can be implemented:
Give individual zinc supplements (not zinc included in a multi-mineral) between meals twice daily or at bedtime. In some individuals zinc can cause some nausea so taking with a small amount of food can prevent this.
Avoid giving zinc at the same time as phosphatidylcholine or phosphatidylserine supplements. Also, do not take supplements with calcium, iron or folate products (folic acid, folinic acid, etc).
Periodically, a child will have a negative reaction to zinc which can manifest as agitation, irritability, sleeping problems, etc. This is uncommon, but can happen. In most cases the reaction is not from the zinc itself, but something in the zinc supplement. Worsening of behavior could be related to low copper levels as zinc and copper oppose one another. Giving additional zinc could lower copper even more. This phenomenon is usually rare as most individuals with autism have high normal or elevated copper levels. If needed, trying a different type of zinc supplement will help sometimes in resolving adverse reactions.