Zinc for Tendonitis – Everything You Need to Know

Tendonitis in ankles

Zinc is an essential mineral with surprisingly many health benefits. It plays a key role in our immune system, cell division, wound healing, and the production of insulin. It is also essential for the functioning of more than 100 enzymes.

Many people aren’t aware that they have a zinc deficiency. How many is “many,” you ask? Well, studies estimate that almost 2 billion people worldwide (yes, that’s a B) have either zinc deficiency or sub-optimal zinc levels.

The lack of this vital mineral can substantially impair how your body functions on a day-to-day basis, including your inflammation levels, which could indirectly affect tendonitis.

In this article, we will discuss the importance of zinc for your health, how to get enough zinc from your diet and supplements, and how it might help with tendonitis. Sit tight!

Tendonitis and Injuries

Let’s cover the basics first.

The most common cause of tendonitis is frequent wear and tear of tendons and other connective tissues over a prolonged period of time.

This could be from exercise, strenuous work, or any daily activities you can think of that leads to the breakdown of your tendons.

Some people have naturally weaker tendons which leads to faster breakdown of the tissue and consequently, quicker onset of symptoms. This is why you’ll see some older folks who have no apparent symptoms, while there are many individuals who start suffering from tendonitis as early as their 20s.

That said, there are other causes and contributors to tendonitis beyond just physical wear and tear. The biggest culprit behind many of today’s modern health conditions is without a doubt – inflammation.

Tendonitis and Inflammation

Tendonitis is an inflammation of the tendon. It can happen in any tendon in any part of the body.

Inflammation is something many of us struggle with, be it in chronic or acute form. It is a protective response to injury or infection. Its hallmark symptoms are redness, swelling, heat, and pain.

With tendonitis, the inflammation is a result of overuse and repetitive motion of the affected area. So it’s not something that happens all of a sudden. It’s gradual.

Over time, as tendonitis “takes hold”, you may start to notice inflammation which can cause pain and stiffness in the area where it is located.

The two conditions are related because inflammation can be a result of these two disorders and vice versa – inflammation can cause tendonitis, as well as tendonitis, which can lead to inflammation in some cases. It is a dark spiral! The good news, however, is that it can be managed and completely reversed in some cases. In order to understand how, we should first look at how inflammation works in the body.

It begins with our immune system basically. The immune system is a complex system of cells and organs that works by recognizing what is “self” (the host) and what is “non-self” (foreign substances such as bacteria, viruses or parasites). The self-recognition starts with molecules called pattern-recognition molecules, which are present in the body and on the surface of cells. These molecules allow an immune response to be triggered when specific chemical or biological markers (like those seen on bacteria) are detected.

This immune response eventually leads to inflammation, which is a result of the chemical reactions that occur within cells. Inflammation in the body is typically needed for healthy function, but when it becomes chronic, it leads to a number of problems – tendonitis being one of them.

Tendonitis in hands

How Zinc Fights Inflammation

Zinc is a mineral that is necessary for the body to function properly. It helps immune cells work properly, supports wound healing, and helps maintain blood sugar levels.

Zinc also has anti-inflammatory properties. When it acts on the immune cells, it prevents them from releasing too many pro-inflammatory chemicals, which can cause inflammation. Some of the pro-inflammatory proteins that zinc inhibits include Interleukin 6, Interleukin 10, and G-CSF.

Zinc deficiency is linked to chronic inflammation and could be a factor in conditions like atherosclerosis, asthma, and arthritis. The anti-inflammatory effects of zinc can help with not just joint pain but also things like testosterone deficiency, weight gain, and insulin resistance.

Okay, we get it, zinc is important. But where can you get this mineral from? The good news is some foods contain it in massive amounts, these are typically also protein-rich foods such as oysters, beef liver, and dairy products. If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, don’t fret, because you can also find zinc in foods like legumes, whole grains, and seeds. You can also consume it through supplements – however, it’s important that the source of the zinc is listed on the label.

Why Zinc Could Be Helpful for People with Tendonitis

While zinc is not often used to treat tendonitis, it can indeed help with the condition.

As we’ve seen, tendonitis is a condition that causes pain, swelling, and stiffness in the tendons. Zinc helps to treat the symptoms of this condition by reducing inflammation, increasing collagen production, and improving healing rates.

Obviously, don’t expect miracles from zinc alone. But in combination with other lifestyle interventions, it can really move the needle.

There is also some speculation that zinc may reduce pain by blocking the transmission of nerve impulses that cause pain signals to be sent from where your injury is. As zinc affects numerous hormones in our body, including those that are closely linked to aggravating tendonitis, like testosterone, it is a useful supplement to take if you are experiencing tendonitis.

Beyond that, zinc helps to improve joint and bone health. It may improve the strength of the connective tissue, which might reduce the risk of arthritis and other joint disorders. In addition, by reducing inflammation, it might help to prevent the long-term degeneration of the joint.

Zinc Dosage for Tendonitis

As an essential mineral needed for many bodily functions – including the healing of wounds – it’s important that you get enough zinc.

Zinc also helps maintain a healthy immune system and as such, it can be beneficial in the treatment of tendonitis. So, what’s the optimal amount?

The recommended dosage for zinc is 12 mg per day. However, if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, your doctor may recommend a lower dose.

The safe upper limit for zinc is 40 mg per day. There are no major side effects of zinc if you take it in doses lower than 10mg and with food. However, when taken in higher dosages on an empty stomach, there is a risk of side effects including nausea and vomiting. It can also drain your copper levels if you take it every day in high doses. With that said, if you’re sensitive, there is a risk of getting these side effects from zinc even from lighter dosages. If that’s you, consider talking to your doctor before taking zinc supplements.

Zinc may interact with certain medications, such as penicillin and drugs that are used to treat osteoporosis. Though interactions aren’t typically dangerous at natural dosages, it is important to speak to your doctor about possible interactions. Do not start taking zinc if you are currently taking these medicines without consulting your physician first.

Nutrients to Combine With Zinc for a Stronger Effect

Taking zinc is a good start if you want to manage your tendonitis symptoms. But there are many other nutrients and natural compounds that can help speed up the healing process of your joints as well as reduce inflammation that aggravates your tendon pain.

The following nutrients can be taken with zinc to improve its effectiveness for relieving tendonitis and joint inflammation:

  • Vitamin C – this vitamin has antioxidant properties that help reduce the oxidative stress on muscles caused by exercise, along with stimulating the repair of your tendons.
  • Vitamin D – this vitamin helps regulate calcium absorption which strengthens your bones.
  • B Vitamins – these are needed to help convert food into fuel which can be used by our muscles. B vitamins also assist in repairing damage to your tendons, ligaments, and joints, among many other bodily tissues.

Other Things to Consider

Zinc and other supplements are a great way to give your body the extra help it needs to relieve inflammation, improve joint health, and manage tendonitis. However, it’s important to not forget about the basics – a regular sleep schedule, an anti-inflammatory diet, and daily exercise if possible.

Also, think outside “of the box”, so to speak. Consider taking a massage. Massage is a great way to stimulate circulation and reduce tightness in your muscles as well as relieve tension and pain in your tendons and joints. Find an experienced massage therapist near you – they might suggest some strengthening exercises to complement the work that they’re doing on your body.

References & Literature

  1. Almekinders LC, Temple JD. Etiology, diagnosis, and treatment of tendonitis: an analysis of the literature. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1998 Aug;30(8):1183-90. doi: 10.1097/00005768-199808000-00001. PMID: 9710855.
  2. Gammoh NZ, Rink L. Zinc in Infection and Inflammation. Nutrients. 2017 Jun 17;9(6):624. doi: 10.3390/nu9060624. PMID: 28629136; PMCID: PMC5490603.

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