The Dance of Zinc (Deficiency) & Copper (Toxicity) in Your Body
Zinc is an absolutely CRITICAL nutrient to all detoxification processes, whether the other health goo-roos know it or not. Fixing copper toxicity is very important too!
SUMMARY: Zinc (proper amounts, avoiding both deficiency and excess) and copper (less of it) are extremely important minerals to fix for your health, and doing this correctly will help make the detoxification process smoother, with less suffering. To achieve this, I highly suggest getting Testing & Consultation done with me–we look at zinc & copper in both the blood AND the hair–during at least the first year of your detox journey (this would involve at least 2, but up to 3 rounds of testing and consultations with me).
Otherwise, you’re guessing on your zinc intake (mainly comes from muscle meats food-wise, but we all know that foods are deficient, meat included) and your copper toxicity (stored in your liver like the toxic so-called “vitamin” A, and mainly comes from plant foods). For the rest of this article, when I say muscle meat, if it was a muscle on an animal and helped the animal walk/run/fly/swim, that’s what I’m talking about.
Why Zinc is So Important for Detox
First, why is zinc so particularly important in this process?
- Glyphosate chelates (depletes) zinc quite strongly. This means that stopping your exposure to glyphosate and detoxing it is important. EAT ORGANIC! That said, your zinc stores don’t just automatically fill up once you have the glyphosate gone, you need to put it back in (sort of like how your savings account doesn’t automatically fill up once you stop taking money out of it).
- Zinc is critical to running the Alcohol Dehydrogenase (aka Retinol Dehydrogenase) enzyme system, a VERY IMPORTANT part of the ENTIRE "vitamin" A detox process. Making Alcohol Dehydrogenase requires zinc.
- Zinc is necessary to make Retinol-Binding Proteins (RBPs), a type of antibody that your body makes to protect you from retinol while it is floating around in your bloodstream. Free retinol (“unbound”) is extremely toxic. Binding it inside RBP makes it less toxic. Making RBP requires zinc.
- We need enough zinc to antagonize copper, and zinc toxicity is a real thing (I’m not so sure at this point if copper deficiency is real though). We need to get enough zinc to overcome and bring down a high copper situation (true copper toxicity, not the “hidden copper toxicity” BS, we always can find copper toxicity by using both blood AND hair testing), but we don’t want to overshoot and cause zinc toxicity either. Fixing one problem to cause another is not what we are trying to do here!
Lots of things going on up there. Without testing, one doesn’t really get to know what is happening.
Zinc & Detoxing “vitamin” A
Here is a quote from Grant Genereux regarding his zinc observations during his first year of avoiding "vitamin" A:
During the first year or so of my diet I did supplement with Zinc. I took a 50 mg tablet about once every two weeks.
A few days after taking it, I did feel that my inflammation had subsided some. However, I was concerned about getting too much zinc, so I did not take it on a regular basis. Rather, I decided that I was probably getting enough with the meat in my diet.
Each person will have to monitor what amount is best for them.
Let me summarize and add a bit more:
- Grant told me he was eating around 1 pound (454 grams) of bison meat a day at the time. There is about 5 mg of zinc per 100 g of bison, so he was getting ~23 mg zinc a day from the bison. As his other foods were beans, rice, and cauliflower, it would be generous to then say he might have been getting a total of 30mg of zinc a day from all his food. This is well above the Recommended Daily Intake of 11 mg/day for adult men.
- He felt better when he took extra zinc. Generally, if someone feels better from taking an ESSENTIAL mineral, that means they were deficient in it. He said his “inflammation” went down, probably from the increased antagonism of old copper toxicity, an increased ability to produce Alcohol Dehydrogenase (better detox), AND an increased ability to produce RBP (more protection against free/unbound “vitamin” A).
- He was concerned about overdoing the zinc. He’s a smart guy! He decided to stay on the safe side and not supplement daily (only once every 2 weeks), even though he distinctly noticed benefits when he took it (so you are aware, he brought this up in conversation with me, I had no idea he ever supplemented zinc). Without testing, he didn’t get to reap all the benefits of a correct zinc level, but he also didn’t induce zinc toxicity by taking too much.
Many of you reading this are not eating anywhere near a pound of red meat a day...so zinc deficiency is very likely...but without testing, you’re just guessing. If you’re eating more than 1+ pound of meat a day, you still can’t ASSume that it is refilling your zinc stores…I’ve seen far too many zinc tests to say that food is enough for this process alone.
Zinc should NOT be taken lightly, and by taking it lightly, I mean simply ASSuming that you are getting enough through meat, or by flippantly taking zinc supplements without knowing 1) how much you need, 2) is it helping to raise your levels, or 3) do you even need to take any in the first place!
Do I think Grant would have benefited from testing and a correctly dosed zinc supplement? Of course! He would have fully corrected any zinc deficiency over time, while not causing any zinc toxicity (by watching the lab tests AND observing symptoms along the way!).
These two minerals are SO important, and so difficult to assess, that to get the complete picture I use blood tests AND hair tests for both minerals to assess what is needed--or NOT needed--by the person. This is not a joke. By the way, anyone assessing zinc and copper with only a hair test won’t do much better than if they had no test to use at all (this is why they all rely on saying “hidden copper toxicity” so much…because they assume it’s there, but the hair test very often doesn’t show it…blood tests DO much more often).
Regarding other "tests" that claim to show zinc status:
- Zinc taste test. I don't put any weight on this test at all. I have never been able to taste much on this test, even when my hair and blood tests both said I was OK. Way too subjective.
- "White spots on fingernails" test. This is, at best, an "old wives' tale", or "urban legend", whichever term you prefer. Please find me one bit of actual research correlating these white spots with zinc deficiency...I've looked and never found anything. I do believe they may correlate to zinc-to-copper balance, but that's about all I will give it.
- SpectraCell nutrient test. This is the worst test I've ever used (I did it for a short period in my own practice). I don't recommend it for anything, ever. One of these tests can easily cost what two rounds of full hair and blood testing costs through me. Don’t waste your money on this test.
For those who have worked with me on Testing & Consultation, you’ll recall that the mineral I spend the most time on figuring out for a person is zinc. It’s that important.
Zinc: My Client Experiences
I have seen blood tests of:
- Vegans who have driven themselves into high copper and low zinc through their diet.
- Beef+salt+water only Carnivore Dieters who have gotten themselves into excess zinc through their diet.
Obviously, we want to be somewhere between those two extremes, with correct zinc and copper levels. It would appear that both of these extreme diets give extreme results. Your goal should be to find the right amount of muscle meat (and types) for YOU, and realize that you will likely do best with MORE during the first year of the detox, and you will likely want & need less as time goes on.
Let me give some examples of why I “test, don’t guess, then address” zinc and copper as carefully as I do.
Some people with copper toxicity will cause themselves to detox/dump copper much too quickly--and feel awful-- if they take TOO HIGH a dose of zinc for their system and situation. Others with copper toxicity will feel better as soon as they start taking more zinc. We watch people for their reactions and adjust accordingly
I’ve seen a person cause himself what seems to be long-term problems from megadosing zinc supplements to force his testosterone up (150mg per day)...and now he’s forever stuck in his own supplement self-medicating, flip-flopping between taking zinc, then stopping to take copper, and back again, ad nauseum.
I’ve worked with a person who decided to do an all-beef Carnivore diet, 2-3 pounds of beef per day, as his "low VA diet" approach. I did not enthusiastically support this decision, however, he felt it was the best for him as it reduced his need to think about choices of foods. This drove him into high zinc and low copper, and then they lost the ability to eat anything except meat without a major skin reaction. Dr. Shawn Baker, a known all-muscle-meat Carnivore dieter said on a podcast once that simply eating an apple made him feel awful for 3 days (an apple!). These things are NOT good! Extreme diets get extreme results, for better or WORSE.
There are the rare “low-copper-type” people, who are often extra-sensitive to EVERYTHING they do or take, particularly to zinc supplements in the beginning. As they detox over time, their zinc tolerance and requirements slowly increase as their livers heal.
I’ve even seen a person get copper toxicity from a whole-house water distiller! Long story, crazy but true (we got the water tested, before and after the distiller).
The Confusion Around Copper
If you spend enough time on the internet poking around on copper, you’ll find that there are people saying that everyone has outright copper toxicity, or everyone has “usable copper deficiency because of ceruloplasmin antagonism”, or that everyone has “hidden copper toxicity”. They’re all wrong, because not everyone has a problem, and surely everyone doesn’t have the SAME problem! I have the lab tests to show that my statement is true.
That’s enough about my preference for “test, don’t guess, then address” on zinc and copper. Not a subject I take lightly, if you couldn’t tell. Remember, the most important time to test for this is during the first year of your detox.
Here are my suggestions on optimizing zinc and copper levels
- Get the hair and blood testing done with me so that you aren’t guessing.
- If you read everything I wrote above and start taking a zinc supplement willy-nilly, you REALLY missed the point. See below for more info on zinc dosing without testing.
- If you don’t feel good on a zinc supplement, yet you continue to take it because of what I said above, you’re ignoring your body’s signals and that may have a huge connection to why you are not well in the first place. Listen to your body first over me or anyone else.
- Don’t eat an all-muscle-meat Carnivore diet. This may lead to zinc excess, and will guarantee a gut dysbiosis in the future, as the very important Bifidobacterium probiotic family absolutely requires soluble fiber for prebiotic food to stay alive.
- Don’t eat a no-meat vegan diet. That’s just a disaster and will almost guarantee one ends up in zinc deficiency, copper toxicity, “vitamin” A toxicity, protein deficiency, Calorie deficiency, vitamin B12 deficiency, and possibly a taurine deficiency as well.
- Red meats contain the most zinc. The leaner (lower fat) the cut of meat, the MORE zinc it contains. Fish and shellfish are next highest, BUT are full of all sorts of mercury and other toxins (I don’t eat any fish or shellfish due to this FACT). Chicken has barely any zinc, and is just...chicken.
- Eat enough muscle meat. Can I give a single amount that works for everyone? No, I can’t, that would be ludicrous. Can everyone wear the same size shirt? No. Here are some ideas to help you figure it out for yourself.
- During the first year of detox, MORE meat is generally better than LESS meat.
- Minimum total protein per day, from all sources, should be AT LEAST 50 grams. If you do the minimum, you’ll probably get the minimum benefits. Do more as you are able!
- A better protein goal would be to shoot for AT LEAST 50 grams of protein from muscle meat (other food protein can be added to that). This is ~7 ounces (210 grams) of muscle meat (red meat or poultry)
- If you weigh more than 50 kg / 110 pounds, an even better muscle meat intake goal would be to shoot for your bodyweight in kilograms (or your bodyweight in pounds divided by 2.2), in grams of protein per day from muscle meat.
- Example: Jane weighs 60kg (132 pounds). Therefore, Jane would try to eat 60 grams of protein from muscle meat per day.
- If you read all of the above and are going to take a zinc supplement regardless, let me help you hopefully not cause yourself too big a problem. I would suggest you NOT exceed 30 mg of elemental zinc per day without testing. I only recommend and use zinc picolinate with my clients. Zinc supplements on an empty stomach or combined with inadequate food will cause an upset stomach, so always take your zinc with a good meal.
- Finally…NEVER supplement copper!