Kidney Diet Tips

Zinc Deficiency and Dialysis: Causes and Signs

Zinc is a mineral with several important roles in the human body. It aids in immunity, wound healing, protein synthesis, and helps maintain sense of taste and smell.

Zinc deficiency is common among dialysis patients. It is estimated to affect 40 to 78% of dialysis patients.

Causes of Zinc Deficiency

One may become zinc deficient several different ways including:

  • Not consuming enough zinc in the diet
  • Decreased zinc absorption due to diarrhea and/or gastrointestinal conditions
  • Excess zinc being lost during dialysis
  • Use of corticosteroids
  • Use of thiazide diuretics

Signs of Zinc Deficiency

Signs of zinc deficiency may include:

  • Lack of energy
  • Hair loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Redness, flaking/scaling of the nasal region
  • Weight loss
  • Slow wound healing
  • Decreased ability to taste food, particularly sweet, sour, bitter or salty foods
  • Reduced ability to smell
  • PICA (a compulsive craving for food or non-food items such as ice, baking soda, cornstarch, clay, dirt/sand, burnt match heads, coffee grounds, chalk, plaster, milk of magnesia, cigarette butts, freezer frost, mothballs, paper, raw flour and raw oatmeal)

Recommendations and Sources of Zinc

The recommended amount of zinc to consume daily is 8 to 11 mg; 8 mg for females and 11 mg for males.

Dietary sources of zinc include:

  • Certain seafood’s such as oysters, crab and lobster
  • Red meat
  • Fortified cereal and oatmeal
  • Yogurt, milk and cheese
  • Baked beans, chickpeas, kidney beans
  • Almonds and cashews

Unfortunately some foods that are good sources of zinc can be high in phosphorus, potassium or calcium. Consult with a registered dietitian (RD) about ways to safely include these food items into your diet.

If eating high zinc foods does not resolve a zinc deficiency, zinc supplementation may be recommended. However, zinc supplementation can limit absorption of iron and copper. For this reason it is not recommended to be supplemented long term. Consult with a dietitian or physician before taking a supplement. They will tell you what zinc dosage and length of time for supplementation is appropriate for you.


ADA Pocket Guide to Nutrition Assessment, 2nd edition by Pamela Charney and Ainsley Malone.

A Clinical Guide to Nutrition Care in Kidney Disease, 2nd edition by Laura Byham-Gray, Jean Stover, and Karen Wiesen. Published January 12th 2012. Written by Alison Steiber. Updated February 11th, 2016.

Erika Stahl, RD, CSR, CNSC

Erika Stahl, RD, CSR, CNSC

Erika Stahl is a Registered Dietitian (RD) and Board Certified Specialist in Renal Nutrition (CSR). Erika has been working as a dietitian for 4 years and prior to becoming a dietitian, worked as a dietetic technician registered. Erika works full time as a dialysis dietitian but also privately counsels clients with Celiac Disease on how to follow a gluten-free diet.