As described by the American Academy of Dermatology, hidradenitis suppurativa is a skin disease which begins with the appearance of bumps at the level of the armpits, groins and inner thighs. These bumps resemble pimples at first but, with the progression of the disease, they can turn into abscess-like lesions. When it comes to the treatment of this skin disease, one of the most efficient approaches involves the usage of zinc, specifically zinc gluconate.
Study confirms the usage of zinc salts as a new therapeutic approach for hidradenitis suppurativa
A study published in Pharmacology and Treatment confirmed the fact that the symptoms of hidradenitis suppurativa could be efficiently treated with the help of zinc salts. The patients who were included in the study had followed other treatments before, including medication and surgery, without any success. For this particular study, they received 90mg zinc gluconate on a daily basis. Both partial and complete remissions were observed in the participants to the study. Thus, zinc salts were considered a therapeutic alternative to other currently used methods for the treatment of hidradenitis suppurativa.
All participants to the study presented a moderate form of hidradenitis suppurativa, tolerating quite well the zinc salts that were administered. Zinc has been previously used for the treatment of other skin conditions, especially acne; however, for this particular condition, the dosage required was higher. Zinc salts have anti-inflammatory properties, being efficient on both superficial and deep lesions. Moreover, there were no significant side effects, as opposed to the ones caused by other current treatments, such as isotretinoin and cyclins. This means that patients can follow the treatment without any pauses, halting the progression of this chronic disease.
Thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties, the zinc salts work to inhibit the activity of pro-inflammatory cytokines. At the same time, they have antioxidant activity, being able to protect against the damage caused by free radicals (faster elimination at the level of the skin). However, the authors of the study draw attention to the fact that the administration of zinc gluconate alone cannot technically cure the condition but rather stop it from progressing and inhibiting flare-ups. The main advantage of this treatment is the good toleration rate; this is essential for a person who is suffering from a chronic skin disease, which has a negative impact on the overall quality of life.
Corroboration from other studies
The effectiveness of 90mg daily doses of zinc gluconate was corroborated by other studies. In a 2013 review paper published in Dermatology Online, Dr. Scheinfeld from Weil Cornell Medical College discusses how 90mg per day of zinc gluconate can achieve full remission in almost half of the patients with stage 1 HS. In patients with stage 2 HS, three months of daily 90mg zinc gluconate also resulted in decreased pathogenesis and better immunity. However, Dr. Scheinfeld noted that high doses of zinc used in the long term can cause copper deficiency; therefore persons using zinc for more than 2-3 months should also take a copper supplement.
Interestingly, zinc supplementation has been found to be beneficial not only in HS, but in other skin disorders such as inflammatory acne and folliculitis decalvans. According to a report published in the Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, zinc is a cofactor of many metalloenzymes, which are involved in cell proliferation and immunity. Innate immunity plays a crucial role in the skin, which would explain the benefits of zinc of conditions characterized by cutaneous inflammation.
90mg of zinc gluconate per day has been shown to be beneficial in HS; at least to achieve partial remission. No significant side-effects have been reported with its use, with the exception of possible minor gastrointestinal discomfort in some people. To avoid this, split the 90mg dose into 2 (45mg) or 3 (30mg) doses throughout the day. If you have been using zinc for more than 2-3 months, it is advisable to also include a copper supplement to avoid a possible copper deficiency, as per Dr. Scheinfeld’s recommendation.
Recommended brands of zinc gluconate are either Swanson’s 30mg (take 3 tablets per day)
or NOW 50mg (take 2 tablets per day).
If you need to add in a copper supplement, Swanson’s 2mg once-a-day copper supplement is a good choice.
P.S. There are some combined (‘all-in-one’) zinc + copper supplements, however, they would either not have zinc in the gluconate form, or/and the dosages would not be the optimal ones. Hence why separate supplementation is recommended.
Written by Therese Wilson – nutritionist, health consultant, and author of Fast Hidradenitis Suppurativa Cure.