How to Improve Zinc Uptake to Boost Immune Health

How to Improve Zinc Uptake to Boost Immune Health

Analysis by Dr. Joseph Mercola


  • Your immune system is your first line of defense against infectious diseases, and there are many different ways to boost and improve its function
  • Zinc is one nutrient that plays a very important role in your immune system’s ability to ward off viral infections, and may play a vastly underrated role in the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Zinc is vital for healthy immune function and a combination of zinc with a zinc ionophore (zinc transport molecule) was in 2010 shown to block viral replication of SARS coronavirus in a cell culture within minutes
  • Zinc alone is incapable of fully stopping viral replication as it cannot easily enter through the fatty wall of a cell. Getting all the way into the cell is crucial, as this is where the viral replication occurs
  • The antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine appears to work against COVID-19 by improving zinc uptake into cells. Natural zinc ionophores that improve zinc absorption include quercetin and epigallocatechin-gallate (EGCG)

Remarkably, prominent physicians have been paraded in the media saying it’s impossible to strengthen your immune system to beat the SARS-CoV-2 virus. It’s hard to understand this kind of ignorance still pervades the conventional medical system — and that they can get away with criticizing people who offer proof to the contrary.
Your immune system is your first line of defense against all disease, especially infectious disease, and there are many different ways to boost your immune system and improve its function. One nutrient that plays a very important role in your immune system’s ability to ward off viral infections is zinc.
In the MedCram video above, Dr. Roger Seheult reviews compelling evidence suggesting the reason the antimalarial drug chloroquine appears so useful in the treatment of COVID-19 is in fact because it improves zinc uptake into the cell. (Hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil) uses the same pathway as chloroquine, but has a safer side effect profile.1)
While the antimalarial drugs chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine act as a zinc ionophore (zinc transport molecule) in that they facilitate zinc absorption in your body, other natural compounds can have the same effect.

Zinc Binding Compounds Boost Immune System

Zinc may be a vastly underrated player in the COVID-19 pandemic. It is vital for healthy immune function2 and a combination of zinc with a zinc ionophore (zinc transport molecule) was in 2010 shown to inhibit SARS coronavirus in vitro. In cell culture, it also blocked viral replication within minutes.3
In an April 6, 2020, article,4 consumer advocate, investigator and author Bill Sardi highlighted this decade-old evidence, suggesting conventional medicine could have prevented quite a few COVID-19 cases had everyone put into practice what was already known about zinc and zinc ionophores. Sardi writes:5
“The long-standing bias against natural over patentable synthetic molecules in the practice of medicine has now resulted in the avoidable premature death of thousands of the most vulnerable individuals and the abrupt and near-complete economic collapse of modern society due to an unwarranted over-response by health authorities, political overseers and sensationalist news media.
The narrow and archaic vaccine-only paradigm to treat infectious diseases has left human populations vulnerable to a highly transmissible … virus … This unprecedented man-made chaos could have been avoided by putting into practice a remedy described … a decade ago.
In 2010 … researchers … reported that the combination of … zinc plus a zinc transport molecule (ionophore) that facilitates zinc’s entry into cells effectively impairs the replication of RNA viruses, like the newly mutated COVID-19 coronavirus, to affect a cure …
This prior discovery appears to validate the recent report6 of Vladimir Zelenko MD, a New York-based physician who has treated 699 consecutive cases of COVID-19 … with complete 100% success. His treatment protocol includes oral zinc, chloroquine as a zinc ionophore and an antibiotic (azithromycin).”

COVID-19 and Zinc Deficiency Share Many Symptoms

As noted by Sardi, a majority of the symptoms of COVID-19 — 18 symptoms in all — are near-indistinguishable from those of zinc deficiency.7 Symptoms shared by both include but are not limited to:8
Dry cough
Back pain
Abdominal discomfort or cramping
Loss of smell
Atrial fibrillation
Lowered immune function
Reduced lymphocytes (white blood cells)
Increased interleukin-6, indicative of inflammation
Elevated iron storage
“This calamity could have been avoided without the aid of public health agencies,” Sardi writes, adding:9
“In the present COVID-19 coronavirus epidemic the zinc + ionophore combination could have been employed in a targeted fashion for high-risk groups (elderly, diabetics, smokers, alcohol abusers, immune suppressant and illicit-drug users) as prevention and for curative purposes among patients with severe lung disease.
The family of RNA viruses also includes poliovirus and influenza virus. In other words, zinc therapy would also simultaneously address the seasonal flu viruses also in circulation, something public health authorities strangely paid no attention to this flu season.”

Facilitating Zinc Entry Into Cells Is a Crucial Component

Importantly, zinc alone is not capable of fully stopping viral replication, Sardi notes. The reason for this is because zinc is largely insoluble and cannot easily enter through the fatty wall of your cells. Getting all the way into the cell is crucial, as this is where the viral replication occurs.
“[This] makes the discovery of an ionophore as important as zinc’s primary role in infection control,” Sardi points out, adding,10 “Such a discovery, if put into practice, would have upset the reigning vaccine paradigm that now predominates in modern medicine. Research dollars would evaporate as a cure for seasonal influenza and coronaviruses … would have been found.”

Other Natural Zinc Transporters — Quercetin and EGCG

The good news is drugs like chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine probably would not be necessary either (except for perhaps the most serious cases), as other natural compounds can do the same job.
A comparative study11 published in 2014 looked at two zinc ionophores: quercetin and epigallocatechin-gallate (EGCG found in green tea), noting many of the biological actions of these compounds may in fact be related to their ability to increase cellular zinc uptake. As explained by the authors:
“Labile zinc, a tiny fraction of total intracellular zinc that is loosely bound to proteins and easily interchangeable, modulates the activity of numerous signaling and metabolic pathways. Dietary plant polyphenols such as the flavonoids quercetin (QCT) and epigallocatechin-gallate act as antioxidants and as signaling molecules.
Remarkably, the activities of numerous enzymes that are targeted by polyphenols are dependent on zinc. We have previously shown that these polyphenols chelate zinc cations and hypothesized that these flavonoids might be also acting as zinc ionophores, transporting zinc cations through the plasma membrane.
To prove this hypothesis, herein, we have demonstrated the capacity of QCT and epigallocatechin-gallate to rapidly increase labile zinc in mouse hepatocarcinoma Hepa 1-6 cells as well as, for the first time, in liposomes … The ionophore activity of dietary polyphenols may underlay the raising of labile zinc levels triggered in cells by polyphenols and thus many of their biological actions.”
Quercetin is also a potent antiviral in its own right, and both quercetin and epigallocatechin gallate also have the added advantage of inhibiting the 3CL protease12 — an enzyme used by SARS coronaviruses to infect healthy cells.13 As explained in a 2020 paper in Nature, 3CL protease “is essential for processing the polyproteins that are translated from the viral RNA.”
And, according to another 2020 study,14 the ability of quercetin, epigallocatechin gallate and certain other flavonoids to inhibit SARS coronaviruses “is presumed to be directly linked to suppress the activity of SARS-CoV 3CLpro in some cases.”

‘Poor Man’s Coronavirus Defense’

In closing, Sardi proposes imitating Zelenko’s COVID-19 protocol using natural remedies if you have symptoms of SARS-CoV-2 infection and cannot obtain a prescription for chloroquine/hydroxychloroquine and a Z-Pak:
  • A natural antibiotic such as cinnamon extract or oil of oregano
  • Quercetin as a zinc ionophore (to enhance zinc entrance into cells)
  • Zinc, up to 30 milligrams per day
  • Vitamin B3 (niacin), 25 to 50 mg per day, and selenium to further boost bioavailability of zinc
Should zinc turn out to be in short supply, consider eating more zinc-rich foods.15 Examples include hemp, sesame and pumpkin seeds, cacao powder, cheddar cheese, and seafood such as oysters, Alaskan crab, shrimp and mussels.

Zinc + Niacin + Selenium Is a Winning Combo

The addition of niacin and selenium appears to be good advice, considering both play a role in the absorption and bioavailability of zinc in the body. For example, a study16 published in 1991 demonstrated that when young women were on a vitamin B6-deficient diet, their serum zinc declined, suggesting B6 deficiency affected zinc metabolism such that “absorbed zinc was not available for utilization.”
A more in-depth exploration and explanation of both niacin and selenium’s relationship to zinc is provided in the 2008 paper, “Zinc, Metallothioneins and Longevity: Interrelationships With Niacin and Selenium”:17
“Ageing is an inevitable biological process with gradual and spontaneous biochemical and physiological changes and increased susceptibility to diseases.
Some nutritional factors (zinc, niacin, selenium) may remodel these changes leading to a possible escaping of diseases, with the consequence of healthy ageing, because they are involved in improving immune functions, metabolic homeostasis and antioxidant defense.
Experiments … show that zinc is important for immune efficiency (both innate and adaptive), metabolic homeostasis (energy utilization and hormone turnover) and antioxidant activity (SOD enzyme).
Niacin is a precursor of NAD+, the substrate for the activity of DNA repair enzyme PARP-1 and, consequently, may contribute to maintaining genomic stability. Selenium provokes zinc release by metallothioneins (MT), via reduction of glutathione peroxidase.
This fact is crucial in ageing because high MT may be unable to release zinc with subsequent low intracellular free zinc ion availability for immune efficiency, metabolic harmony and antioxidant activity.
Taking into account the existence of zinc transporters … for cellular zinc efflux and influx, respectively, the association between zinc transporters and MT is crucial in maintaining satisfactory intracellular zinc homeostasis in ageing.
Improved immune performance, metabolic homeostasis, antioxidant defense occur in elderly after physiological zinc supplementation … The association ‘zinc plus selenium’ improves humoral immunity in old subjects after influenza vaccination.”