Zinc is probably the most important single nutrient for proper immune function. But chronic infections trigger heavy losses of zinc in the urine, which leads to a vicious cycle where zinc deficiency causes more infections, which results in more zinc deficiency and yet even more infections.
I first observed the zinc/infection link while I was in medical school. It struck me that the immune dysfunctions seen in severe, genetically-caused, zinc deficiency mimicked the immune problems seen in people with AIDS. I looked at the medical literature and confirmed the link: zinc levels in people with AIDS were every bit as low as zinc levels in people with genetic zinc deficiency, suggesting that zinc deficiency may be a major factor in the immune problems of AIDS.
People with fibromyalgia also often have low levels of zinc. This is why I strongly recommend that people with CFS take 20-25 mg a day zinc supplement for the first 3 months of therapy — that's in addition to taking their multivitamins.
Now, a new study of African children with severe pneumonia confirms what science has shown again and again — that zinc plays a vital role in optimizing and restoring immune function. In fact, it reduced deaths by 67%! And at a cost of less than 30 cents per person!
The results of the African study were simple and straightforward. In infants and children (6 months to 5 years old) with severe pneumonia, those supplemented with daily zinc (10-20 mg) had a 67% lower death rate than those who didn't take zinc. (Among HIV-infected children with pneumonia, zinc supplementation lowered the risk of dying by over 90%.)
And it's important to note that zinc deficiency is common in fibromyalgia, and may contribute to both poor immune function and increased pain.
You'd think such a powerful therapy would be endorsed by medical professionals. But, unfortunately, since zinc is cheap and natural, it's almost never discussed as a therapeutic option.
The bottom line is that to make sure you have enough zinc, you should take 20-25 mg for three months, and then maintain your zinc levels by regularly taking a zinc-containing multivitamin.
"Zinc adjunct therapy reduces case fatality in severe childhood pneumonia: a randomized double blind placebo-controlled trial." Srinivasan MG, Ndeezi G, Katureebe Mboijana C, et al. BMC Med. 2012 Feb 8;10(1):14. [Epub ahead of print]
Jacob Teitelbaum, M.D. is one of the world's leading integrative medical authorities on fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue. He is the lead author of eight research studies on their effective treatments, and has published numerous health & wellness books, including the bestseller on fibromyalgia From Fatigued to Fantastic! and The Fatigue and Fibromyalgia Solution. Dr. Teitelbaum is one of the most frequently quoted fibromyalgia experts in the world and appears often as a guest on news and talk shows nationwide including Good Morning America, The Dr. Oz Show, Oprah & Friends, CNN, and Fox News Health.