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Copper-Zinc Imbalance

By Dr. Michael Veselak, D.C.


Leaders in the field of functional medicine have discovered that one of the most commonly observed mineral imbalances in clinical pracitces is the pairing of insufficient zinc with excess copper.  These dynamic minerals are most compatible when in the range of an 8:1 to 12:1 zinc-copper ratio, research states. For example, someone consuming about 30 mg of zinc per day would require around 3 mg of copper.  This correlation is often perfected in sources of animal protein, in which levels of zinc and copper occur in balanced quantities. Yet due to the inherent variability of our modern world, these minerals are not always experienced in such perfect harmony.

Copper and zinc work together to promote such fundamental life-sustaining processes as immune response, nervous system function and healthy digestion. Often copper and zinc can work against each other as levels of one decline, the other will rise. If one nutrient falls out of balance, both levels shift- confounding symptoms and making this dynamic relationship quite troublesome. The relatively common occurrence of excess copper with deficient zinc can thus lead to such diffuse and overlapping symptoms as: 

  • fatigue
  • depression
  • anxiety
  • severe PMS
  • learning disabilities
  • headaches
  • impaired memory
  • behavior changes
  • loss of appetite and taste perception
  • slowed sexual maturation
  • sensitive skin
  • hair loss
  • diarrhea
  • delayed wound healing

Where Has All The Zinc Gone?

Great question! Research experts in the field estimate that 1 in 10 Americans have diets that are overtly deficient in zinc, although many more have insufficient zinc ratios in comparison to copper. Zinc is actually present in a wide variety of protein containing foods from animal products- such as red meat, egg yolk, organ meats, and seafood- to certain nuts, seeds, beans and cereal grains. The recommended daily allowance for zinc is currently set at 8-11 mg, which is certainly achievable from food sources.

Regaining Zinc-Copper Balance

Minerals can function in delicate patterns throughout the body. Thus when working towards regaining a nutritional balance, it is important to do so slowly finding the full support that you need. Everyone has a unique situation and intricate physiological patterning that can be difficult to navigate on one’s own. Here are a few easy steps to get you started on the way to regaining a successful zinc-copper balance:

1. Test Mineral Levels

To get started you can try the Zinc Assay Test. After this test we can determine further procedure.

2. Limit Exposure to Copper

  • Limit copper cookware
  • Get a good water filter.
  • If you take a multivitamin, check to see that it doesn’t have copper

3. Increase Zinc Intake

  • Consume red meats, organ meats, and seafood. Or ask your doctor about zinc supplements.

4. Heal the Adrenals

Stress triples the rate of zinc depletion. The adrenals must also be working properly in order to stimulate the liver to remove excess copper.

  • Practice techniques to build resilience to stress
  • Learn how to manage your cortisol levels.


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