Zinc supplements are key in my son’s biomedical treatment regimen. Gastrointestinal disorders may cause zinc deficiency, often with loss of nutrients due to diarrhea. Malabsorption and maldigestion that goes along with digestive enzyme weakness, food allergies and intolerance can cause kids on the spectrum to have subnormal zinc blood levels. Zinc may also be displaced by copper in some tissues if copper uptake is excessive. It also plays a very important role as an enzyme activator or stabilizer.
Since my son’s zinc blood levels were low and he also suffered from malabsorption and maldigestion, zinc supplements were necessary and important. His gastrointestinal functioning needed to improve or normalize, and required dietary intervention and regular use of digestive enzymes. Zinc also assists in healing the gut, and my DAN! doctor told me our bodies do their best work of recovery and healing at night, during our sleep. So my son takes his zinc supplement before bed, on an empty stomach with his probiotic. He has not suffered any stomach upset from this regimen.
Often zinc is included in multivitamin and multimineral blends. But we found supplementing it separately worked best for our son. According to DAN! protocol, it should be given away from meals or in the evening, several hours after dinner. The reason for this is supplemental zinc may slow the digestive action of dipeptidylpepitdase 4 (DPP4). If you’re not familiar with DPP4 is a digestive enzyme, peptidase that breaks down the peptides formed during protein digestion. It is recommended to not give zinc at the same time with calcium, iron or folate since they compete for absorption.
Another interesting benefit from proper zinc levels due to supplementation, is that parents report zinc supplements help their child with autism accept new foods in their diet. It’s also been reported that it helps with the “chewies” or mouthing of objects, or hands in the mouth. One reason for this is zinc is in the saliva protein “gustin”, which has a major role in the sensation of taste.
Zinc is a critically important nutrient for cognitive function because it protects neurotransmitters. That is why you may have heard the adage “No zinc, no think”. Therefore, zinc supplementation may improve cognition in children with ADHD and lessen hyperactivity and impulsivity. Just like children with autism, ADHD kids may be deficient in zinc.
Oral zinc supplements come in many forms: citrate, chelate, picolinate, gluconate, and aspartate. Oral zinc sulfate is available but may cause stomach upset. My son’s zinc supplement form is a combination of citrate and chelate. He swallows capsules but zinc supplements come in liquid form for those who don’t.