Meniere’s Disease, Zinc and Your Ears

Zinc is one of the sixteen essential minerals needed by the body.  Zinc is necessary  for wound healing, proper digestion,  appropriate immune function and normal growth.  It also serves as a powerful antioxidant fighting free radicals Maybe the most important zinc fact for us is that the highest concentration of zinc in the body is found in eyes and ears.  It is a crucial element of healthy ears and the reason why so many vitamin and mineral formulas targeted to helping Meniere’s disease and tinnitus contain zinc.

One tool that I have found very useful in researching health issues is Google Scholar.  Google scholar provides a simple way to research a subject and filter out all the commercial websites.  If you enter in a disease related search term, the search engine results page will contain links to papers and studies pertaining to that disease.  The searches are limited to scholarly sources.  When I wrote this post, I did a search at Google scholar for “tinnitus zinc” and there were 4,630 results.  I read half a dozen studies and they were all favorable in their support of zinc in treating tinnitus.  Go, give it a try yourself.

The RDA (recommended dietary allowances) for zinc is 15 milligrams per day.  Exposure to heavy metals, pesticides, pollution and aging all lead to zinc deficiency.  Signs and symptoms of zinc deficiency include poor digestion, slow healing of wounds, impotence, acne, hair loss, and bad breath.

If ear health is a major concern for you then maintaining proper zinc levels in your body should be a priority.  As you grow older, this becomes more of a challenge.

  • More than 90 percent of older Americans are not taking in the proper RDA for zinc.
  • One in three Americans over the age of fifty has a zinc deficiency.
  • Your ability to absorb zinc (and other vitamins and minerals) decreases with age.

Foods high in zinc include seafoods, whole grains, egg yolks, lima beans and mushrooms. Remember that the quantity of minerals contained in foods depends on the amount of minerals present in the soil where these foods were grown.  See the table below to get an idea of the zinc content in different foods.

Food Serving size Amount of zinc (mg)
oysters (raw) 6 76.3
beef 3 ounces 4.4
salmon 4 ounces 0.8
soy beans ½ cup 1.0
milk (whole) 1 cup 0.9
brown rice ½ cup 0.8
orange 1 (medium size) 0.1
butter 5 grams 0
barley 200 grams 4.26

Other things to keep in mind

  • Essential minerals and vitamins can be lost through transportation of foods over long distances, poor storage and through cooking.
  • Excess fiber in the diet slows the absorption of zinc.
  • The form of zinc preferred is zinc gluconate as it is less irritating to the GI tract than the more common zinc sulfate found in may supplements.  Also, zinc sulfate and zinc oxide are poorly absorbed.
  • Like all other minerals, you can take in too much zinc. Don’t take more zinc per day than you doctor suggests.

Keep your zinc levels up and keep your ears (and eyes) happy.