Do You Have A Copper and Zinc Imbalance?

  • FDA Disclaimer
    The information on this website has not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration or any other medical body. We do not aim to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any illness or disease. Information is shared for educational purposes only. Learn More
  • Affliliate Disclosure
    In compliance with the FTC guidelines, please assume the following about links and posts on this site: Many of the links on DrJockers.com are affiliate links of which I receive a small commission from sales of certain items, but the price is the same for you. If I post an affiliate link to a product, it is something that I personally use, support and would recommend without an affiliate link. Learn More
  • Privacy Policy
    Please read the Privacy Policy carefully before you start to use DrJockers.com. By using DrJockers.com or by clicking to accept or agree to Terms of Use when this option is made available to you, you accept and agree to be bound and abide by the Privacy Policy. Learn More
copper, Do You Have A Copper and Zinc Imbalance?

copper, Do You Have A Copper and Zinc Imbalance?

Copper And Zinc Imbalance

Copper and zinc are essential nutrients necessary to sustain the health and function of the human body. These two metal compounds naturally exist in the environment around us including our food and water but can pose major health complications if they are concentrated in our bodies inadequately.

Up until 1963, clinicians did not even question the possibility that zinc deficiency may cause serious health symptoms nevertheless pose a fatal threat (5). Since then, an increasing rate of chronic illness and disease has caused researchers to further investigate how both metal toxicity and deficiency affect our health and wellbeing.

Symptoms of a copper and zinc imbalance are plentiful and can lead to total body dysfunction if left untreated. Learn if your symptoms are signs that a low copper and high zinc nutrition plan can improve your quality of life.  You can test your copper to zinc ratio through a simple hair mineral analysis.

copper, Do You Have A Copper and Zinc Imbalance?

Function of Zinc

Only within the past 50 years have scientist begun to unravel and learn that zinc serves the role of numerous biological interactions needed to sustain life. Once thought to have only affected the function of 3 enzymes required for metabolism, researchers have learned that zinc is one of the most important trace elements associated with the proper function of more than 300 enzymes and over 1,000 different types of proteins necessary for reading DNA. (5)

Some of the biochemical responsibilities associated with zinc includes: (1)

  • Enzyme function
  • Nucleic acid metabolism required for the necessary coding of DNA and a series of physiological processes
  • Cell signaling most importantly designed to defend the body from both real and perceived threats
  • Apoptosis, referred to as programmed cellular death

Yet what do these responsibilities look like from a physiological perspective? Zinc is required for the following tasks: (1)

  • Growth and development
  • Lipid metabolism which in most simplistic terms can be thought of as necessary fat storage for energy and support in cells
  • Brain function
  • Immune system regulation

copper, Do You Have A Copper and Zinc Imbalance?

Function of Copper

Copper is a trace mineral also necessary for the healthy functioning of the human body. Copper is responsible for enzyme function, the metabolism of carbohydrates and is primarily found in the liver, brain tissue, kidneys and hair (2, 5, 7). Although researchers continue to learn about the effects of variable levels of copper in the body, the increase in metabolic complications and cognitive illnesses has scientists focusing attention to the effects of the metal on the brain.

You may know it best as the stress hormone, but norepinephrine is a vital hormone and neurotransmitter which enables our bodies to react and respond in threatening circumstances. Norepinephrine has also been implicated as a necessary anti-inflammatory agent in stimulating brain cells found to be lacking in patients with Alzheimer’s disease (9). In order to create norepinephrine, copper is required (2).

copper, Do You Have A Copper and Zinc Imbalance?

Relationship Between Zinc and Copper

Zinc and copper compete against one another as antagonist in order to properly regulate the physiological pathways in your body. The proper balance between the two trace minerals is critical to maintaining health.

Unlike zinc, copper can readily accumulate in the body into toxic concentrations. In order to maintain adequate zinc levels, a higher dose of zinc compared to copper is required daily.  Zinc is only stored for short durations in the blood and bone and is quickly excreted through our urine and fecal matter. (7)

Ideally, nutritional biochemist Dr. Paul Eck recommends that the proper intake of copper to zinc should be a 1:8 ratio (8). When properly concentrated in the right balance, zinc behaves like the bigger brother blocking copper in food and in the body from being absorbed (5).

copper, Do You Have A Copper and Zinc Imbalance?

Signs of a Copper and Zinc Imbalance

A variety of health concerns may be signs that you have a copper and zinc imbalance. Currently based on the average American’s diet, it is most likely that people are experiencing symptoms resulting from elevated copper levels and a deficiency in zinc. Do you have any of the following symptoms? (5, 8)

  • Night blindness
  • Age related macular degeneration
  • Emotional disturbances
  • Frequent panic attacks and headaches
  • A slow recovery rate from healing ulcers, wounds and even stretch marks
  • A high rate of chronic infections and sickness
  • Mental lethargy or chronic fatigue
  • Gastrointestinal problems such as diarrhea
  • Reduced appetite and weight loss
  • Skin problems such as blisters and roughness

These symptoms may be an indication that your homeostatic balance is not properly functioning. Without attention, an imbalance of copper and zinc can lead to mental, physical, physiological, and emotional illness and disease.

copper, Do You Have A Copper and Zinc Imbalance?

Anxiety and Pyroluria

One of the most common psychiatric disorders in the United States is anxiety affecting an estimated 30% of Americans. Chronic anxiety is known to cause greater health concerns such as increased blood pressure, depression and lowered immunity. Zinc therapy has been shown to treat symptoms of anxiety. (1)

Pyroluria is a unique metabolic condition characterized by extremely low zinc status.    It is considered by many in the functional medicine world the most common unknown disorder.  Pyrolurics need a specific diet, lifestyle and supplementation program to get well.

The symptoms of pyroluria include chronic anxiety, poor stress tolerance, digestive issues, poor immunity, joint pain, acne or eczema, mood swings and poor short term memory.  These individuals often have difficulty digesting and absorbing protein and they are easily wrecked by increasing stress.

Copper and Zinc Imbalance And Depression

Just like a domino effect, there is a theme in the maintenance of health and the destruction of it. Associated with anxiety, 35 million Americans alone are believed to suffer depression within their lifetime (3). Researchers who analyzed levels of zinc and copper in depressed and anxious individuals found an interesting correlation between the two minerals.

Individuals diagnosed with depression alone but with no symptoms of anxiety had decreased levels of zinc. Those patients experiencing both depression and anxiety were not only deficient in zinc but they also have high concentrations of copper in their bodies.

Remember, copper stimulates the synthesis of the excitatory hormone, norepinephrine. If the flood of copper overwhelms zinc concentrations, anxiety may develop when checks and balances go unattended. (3)

Zinc Deficiency Lowers Immunity

Both depressed and anxious people are at a great risk of developing chronic immune infections and illnesses associated with inflammation such as cardiovascular disease (3). These health struggles are activated by oxidative stress.

Zinc shows antioxidant properties by preventing liver damage in alcoholics and regulating GABA and glutamate. Both GABA and glutamate are essential to the central nervous system. Coupled together they provide appropriate nerve impulses, and control the ability of cells to reproduce. Low levels of zinc reduce GABA and glutamate thereby triggering health consequences reliant on healthy liver function and cellular immunity. (1)

copper, Do You Have A Copper and Zinc Imbalance?

Copper and Zinc Imbalance in Autism

Researchers continue to dig deeper into the neurodevelopmental complications affecting individuals with autism. Zinc therapy can improve zinc concentrations and aid in the detoxification of copper from tissue. Already found to have success in treating symptoms of anxiety and immune dysfunction, is it also possible that autistic individuals can benefit from a healthy balance of copper and zinc?

Clinical studies have found that an increase in copper and decrease in zinc is directly correlated to the severity of symptoms associated with autism. A reduction in GABA and glutamate as noted in individuals with abnormal immune responses is believed to aggravate symptoms of autism and cause changes across the central nervous system.

The concentrations of the amino acid, GABA, and neurotransmitter, glutamate are disrupted by a deficiency in zinc and high levels of copper. Furthermore, an increase in copper known to cause excitability may be to blame for the hyperactivity symptoms of individuals with autism and ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). (2)

Digestive issues are commonly a symptom of autism. Supplementing zinc in diet has been shown to correct issues of malabsorption and improve the severity of symptoms (4).

copper, Do You Have A Copper and Zinc Imbalance?

Zinc Deficiency Can Cause Birth Defects

Low zinc concentrations in a developing fetus has been found to increase the risk of low birth weight (7). Pregnant women have a high daily zinc recommendation because of their feeding requirements to a developing fetus.

As mentioned, zinc is a critical nutrient required for growth and development which in animal studies was found to cause fatality in newborns when zinc remained absent from diet (5).

Zinc Deficiency Causes Metabolic Problems

Acrodermatitis enteropathica (AE): AE is a metabolic disorder that is characterized by zinc deficiency. This disorder is typically diagnosed shortly after birth in which these individuals are more likely to experience congenital malformations, emotional disturbances, problems gaining weight, lactose intolerance and further malabsorption problems. Left untreated without zinc supplementation, AE can lead to fatality. (5)

Hyperammonemia: A metabolic problem resulting in the excess buildup of ammonia in the blood as a possible consequence of liver disease affected by zinc deficiency (5).

copper, Do You Have A Copper and Zinc Imbalance?

Zinc Therapy For Major Health Problems

Studies have shown that the treatment of zinc therapy to individuals faced with a variety of health struggles is effective. Zinc treatment has successfully improved the health of people with the following problems: (5, 6)

  • Dwarfism
  • Hypogonadism
  • Hypogammaglobulinemia
  • Giardiasis
  • Strongyloidosis
  • Schistosomiasis
  • Sexual Ability
  • Wilson’s Disease
  • Diarrhea
  • Macular degeneration
  • Common cold symptoms
  • Sickle-cell disease

copper, Do You Have A Copper and Zinc Imbalance?

Balancing your Copper and Zinc Levels

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has developed dietary recommendations for both copper and zinc intake. They recommend anywhere from 2 mg to 13 mg of zinc per day depending on the individual (6).  Most in the functional nutrition and functional medicine world believe this should be much higher, in the 30-40 mg range per day for most individuals.

However it is likely that this recommendation should be higher given the decreased abilities of our gastrointestinal tract to absorb zinc adequately. In fact, most in the functional nutrition and functional medicine world believe this should be in the 30-40mg per day range for most individuals.  I personally recommend 10mg per 50 lbs of body weight as a great starter dosage.

The recommended dietary allowance for copper is not to exceed 4 mg daily (8).  I recommend 1mg per 50 lbs of body weight.  This comes out to a 10:1 zinc ratio which is higher than Dr Eck’s recommendation, but I have found that copper is ubiquitous due to copper water pipes.

Additionally, the modern American diet, copper is very high and zinc is low.  Those with compromised digestive function will also have more trouble absorbing the zinc and so more is needed.  If you are over consuming zinc, the most common first symptom is nausea.  When a client complains of that while supplementing with high doses of zinc, I begin reducing the dosage.

copper, Do You Have A Copper and Zinc Imbalance?

Limit Phytates in Your Diet

Phytates are compounds naturally found in plants such as whole grains and legumes which bind to zinc and reduce its availability for absorption. Phytates, however, do not affect the absorption abilities of copper and are referred to as “anti-nutrients” (5, 8).

Vegetarian based diets in particular often result in copper and zinc imbalances due to high amounts of phytates in their plant food sources and limited amounts of animal based protein. The NIH recommends soaking beans and grains in water until they sprout to increase the availability of zinc for absorption (6).

Also a major source of phytates in the American diet today, processed cereal should be avoided if not limited for consumption in growing kids. Affecting 2 billion people today, cereal is partly to blame. (5, 6)

Consume High Quality Protein Sources

High quality pastured meats such as beef and poultry sources including eggs are excellent sources of zinc. Eggs provide an almost perfect ratio of zinc to copper containing 0.7 mg of zinc to only 0.1 mg of copper (8).

If you have been seeking an excuse to give them a try, oysters are actually the highest concentrated source of zinc you can consume in your diet (6). One oyster can provide you with your daily recommended zinc requirements.

Supporting your diet with whole fruit and vegetable sources can remove excess copper from the body and prevent damage caused by oxidative stress. Aside from zinc, manganese, iron, B vitamins, sulfur and vitamin C all bind to copper and support the gradual detoxification of copper from tissue.

copper, Do You Have A Copper and Zinc Imbalance?

Proper Zinc Supplementation

Further supplementing your diet with a high quality form of zinc balance required for health. (8)  The recommended daily allowance for zinc is between eight to eleven milligrams for most adults.  However, for functional health most progressive nutritionists and doctors recommend between 30-40 mg/daily.

Zinc can be a problem when one supplements with more than 100 mg/daily, especially when it is done without additional copper.    Zinc Glycinate—an Albion® TRAACS amino acid chelate—is a high-potency source of zinc formulated for enhanced absorption. In this form, zinc is coupled with two glycine molecules to facilitate its absorption across the intestinal wall and reduce interference from phytates and competing minerals (10).

Zinc Charge supports the immune system and proper enzymatic function by providing high potency zinc in 20mg doses.

copper, Do You Have A Copper and Zinc Imbalance?

How To Test

There are several ways to test your zinc levels. One that I am a fan of due to its simplicity and cost-effectiveness is the zinc sulfate taste test. All you do purchase a bottle of zinc sulfate liquid (this a good one), place a capful in your mouth, and observe the sensations in your mouth.

Below are the possible outcomes and indications:

You Notice No Metallic Taste: Zinc Deficiency

You Notice A Delayed Metallic Taste: Slight Zinc Deficiency

You Notice Slight Metallic Taste: Zinc Levels Are Adequate, But Could Be Higher

You Notice Very Strong Metallic Taste: You Likely Have Optimal Zinc Levels
copper, Do You Have A Copper and Zinc Imbalance?

Sources For This Article Include:

1. Russo AJ. Decreased Zinc and Increased Copper in Individuals with Anxiety. Nutr Metab Insights. 2011;4:1-5. PMCID: 3738454
2. Russo AJ, et al. Plasma copper and zinc concentration in individuals with autism correlate with selected symptom severity. Nutr Metab Insights. 2012 Feb;5:41-7. PMID: 23882147
3. Russo AJ. Analysis of plasma zinc and copper concentration, and perceived symptoms, in individuals with depression, post zinc and anti-oxidant therapy. Nutr Metab Insights. 2011 Apr;4:19-27. PMID: 2394665
4. Russo AJ. Increased Copper in Individuals with Autism Normalizes Post Zinc Therapy More Efficiently in Individuals with Concurrent GI Diseases. Nutr Metab Insights. 2011 Sep;4:49-54. PMID: 23946661
5. Prasad AS. Discovery of Human Zinc Deficiency: Its Impact on Human Health and Disease. Adv Nutr. 2013 Mar;4(2):176-190. PMCID: 3649098
6. National Institutes of Health: Zinc Link Here
7. S. Department of Health and Human Services: Toicological Profile for Zinc Link Here
8. The Weston A. Price Foundation: Copper-Zinc Imbalance: Unrecognized Consequences of Plant-Based Diets and a Contributor to Chronic Fatigue. Link Here
9. Rice: Norepinephrine Link Here
10.  Gandia P, Bour D, Maurette JM, Donazzolo Y, Duchène P, Béjot M, Houin G. A bioavailability study comparing two oral formulations containing zinc (Zn bis-glycinate vs. Zn gluconate) after a single administration to twelve healthy female volunteers. Int J Vitam Nutr Res. 2007 Jul;77(4):243-8. PMID

copper, Do You Have A Copper and Zinc Imbalance?Dr. Jockers

Dr. David Jockers is a doctor of natural medicine, functional nutritionist and corrective care chiropractor. He currently owns and operates Exodus Health Center in Kennesaw, Georgia. He has developed 6 revolutionary online programs with thousands of participants.

Categories

Nutrition

Let’s Improve Your Health Today!

When You Register For Free Today You Get Instant Access To:

  • Digestion and Energy Quickstart Guide
  • 10 Fat Burning Dessert Recipes
  • Premium Digital Newsletter
copper, Do You Have A Copper and Zinc Imbalance?

Comments

comments

Comments

  1. I looked at the shoppers guide and saw a different list on another site that put coocnut, avocado, and leafy greens as high copper to avoid. But in the shopper guide here, these are all on the good list. Is that because you are trying to encourage balance (hence moderation with avocados and not avoiding entirely?). Should I eat less leafy greens if copper is an issue?

    Also, I have EHS, and a person who has been in “remission” from EHS for two years said to rebalance copper to zinc, saying those with EHS have higher copper. I had my blood tested a while ago, and it was low, and my zinc was somewhat low end of normal. This confused me as I anticipated it would be higher copper. Is it possible to have low copper in blood serum but have an overall condition that is high with copper in tissues? Thank you for any help!

    1. Yes this is possible Deb! You may need to do a hair mineral analysis, which is a good way to test your copper=zinc ratios. I would suggest avoiding nuts and grains which are high in copper and low in zinc. Stick with coconut, avocados and leafy greens as well as wild-caught fish and grass-fed animal products for good zinc.

  2. I have high zinc and in range copper. I hat bad headaches when I eat something higher in zinc stomach cramps also. What can I take to lower zinc?

    1. Hey Thomas, if you are supplementing with Zinc , you may want to lower your dose or take it less often. You may also want to consume those higher Zinc foods on a more occasional basis.

  3. Hi Dr. Jockers,

    I started taking 8 mg of zinc picolinate at the beg of September. I gradually worked my way up to 15 mg. I am very sensitive to supplements. As I was taking it, I started having insomnia. It gradually worsened and intensified until I would be awake the entire night! I have been off the zinc picolinate for a month now. My sleep has improved to insomnia 1-2x a week and great sleep the other nights.

    From what I read, this is most likely because zinc causes stored copper to be released?

    What I don’t understand is the length of time it is taking to get back to normal with my sleep.

    I have found if I eat high copper foods (like liver) now, that I will have insomnia that night.

    I am avoiding high copper foods now.

    What do you think of the zinc causing extreme insomnia? And what does that indicate about my copper levels?

    Blood work has low normal zinc and copper. ION panel also has low normal zinc and copper.

    Thank you!

    1. Hey Heather, sorry to hear about this! You may want to try a Zinc Glycinate (like we carry), a low copper diet, and potentially magnesium l-threonate to improve glutamate-GABA conversion. Of course there is the chance that there are more underlying factors.

  4. Hi Dr. Jockers,

    I have ZN/CU ratio is 18.57,

    I have problem in fertility , I was taking fertility medicine which is rich with zinc

    where I discovered recently that the copper is low in my body , I started taking copper

    pills with 2 MG twice daily and stopped taking the fertility medicine

    please advise if I shall keep taking the fertility medicine which is rich with zinc in addition to the copper or I shall keeping stopping it .

  5. I have low zinc (68 (range 60-130)) and very high copper (219 (range 70-175)). I have read other places it is not a good idea to supplement zinc with a pill form of zinc as it is easy to raise too high and upset the Zn:Cu ratio. I have also read that I can supplement with a high quality, whole food Vit C to help raise zinc and lower copper. Is this a proper approach? Is supplementing with zinc in pill form not a good idea? FYI – hypothyroid (optimal on ndt and t3 meds), bcp for 7 years continuously, back injury resulting in 18 cortisone injections, unable to exercise. I was thinking those things may have led to my current zinc and copper levels?

  6. Hello Dr. Jockers,
    I have recently had my serum Cu and Zn levels tested. My Cu is 91 ug/dL (normal range 72-166) and my Zn is 73 ug/dL (normal range 56-134). I am unsure what the proper ratio between the two should be. If the Copper to Zinc ratio should fall between 0.7-1.0 mine would be high being that it is 1.25. Looking at the serum levels individually they are both on the lower side of the scale. Do you have any suggestions on how I should address the imbalance at hand?

  7. Dr. Jockers,
    I tested Serum Cu and Zn for me and my spouse (both in late 50s) and the figures are Me: Cu – 50.4, Zn – 143.4, units in mu.gram/dL.
    I am not on any supplementation but my Zn is higher than the range and my Cu is slightly below range. Please suggest course of action to restore imbalance.
    My Spouse: Cu – 181.1 and Zn – 112.7. Her Cu is higher than range. She is on supplementation of one tab of Cenovis 50+ Multi Vitamins & Minerals which contains 15 mg of Zinc (as Oxide) and 1 mg of Copper (as Cupric Sulfate anhydrous). Would request your suggestion for the imbalance.
    Also please let us know the healthy range of Cu-Zn ratio.

  8. Hair analysis revealed zinc level of 200 and copper level of 8.3. Everything I read is about high copper levels. What does a LOW copper level mean? Zn/Cu ratio is 24.1.

    1. Hey AJ, this is just a sign you are taking in a lot of zinc. This would not be a concern unless you are experiencing the following: nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, stomach cramps, diarrhea, and headaches. In that case, you would maybe want to consider lowering your zinc intake!

  9. I have zinc= 149 (range 125-155) and copper= 20.8 (range 11-28) and i suffer from acne and hair loss. Does my zinc/copper ratio causes these problems? and how to treate it? Thank you

  10. I wonder whether the stick of butter used to illustrate grass-fed dairy as a zinc source may lead people to conclude that butter is a source of zinc. As far as I know, it isn’t.

  11. I just had a panel test for zinc
    Result 63 micrograms per/dl
    This seems high the normal serum level is: . 66mcg to 1.10 mcg per /ml these normal serum levels are alot lower than my test result should I increase my copper or do some sort of chelation? To reduce my zinc levels?

  12. I’m zinc defiecent I’ve been taking 50mg of zinc picolinate for a year but my zinc levels never went up what’s the reason shall i or can i take zinc and copper together or take them separately and how much copper do u take with 50mg of zinc picolinate?

  13. I read your article when I was looking for something to help my son who had developed a nervous tic. . As well as homeopathy and probiotics I added .zinc supplementation and it has been transformative . He is focused, happy and calm
    Thank you

  14. “Chronic anxiety is known to cause greater health concerns such as increased blood pressure, depression and lowered immunity.”

    I think the statement above is slightly off target… it’s my understanding that health concerns such as increased blood pressure, anxiety, depression, and lowered immunity have a common cause, ie anxiety is just one more symptom of a health issue, not the cause.

  15. Hi, Dr. Jockers,
    I have been supplementing with 30 mg of Zinc Glycinate , Vit C 500 mg as well as Selinium ( selenomethionine 200 mcg) as part of my regimen for Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. I do not take copper supplements. However my Zinc levels ( 155.37 mg/ ml) , copper levels ( 172.2 mg/ ml) and Selinium levels ( more than 500 mg/ ml) all of these levels have come high, copper to Zinc ratio is 1.1. I am now confused whether to stop or reduce Zinc supplement. But I do not take copper supplements. I may be consuming water with high copper content which I will stop immediately. Please advise on how to proceed . Thanks in advance
    Dr. Kavita

  16. hi,

    I have noticed that whenever i take copper 1mg at night i can sleep better. Otherwise i need to take Trazodone25mg for sleep. I also have premature grey/white hairs and lot of dandruf.

    Zinc 25/50 mg does not help me for insomnia.

  17. I recently got a copper IUD inserted after being on hormonal BC for 8 years. Recently I’ve had issues with rapid heart rate, increased anxiety, and difficulty concentrating. Your chart states that contraceptives deplete zinc…so I’m assuming after quitting those and getting the copper IUD right away I might be exhibiting signs of high copper levels and low zinc? Would a zinc supplement help alleviate this? Thanks so much.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.