Iron is essential for the healthy production of red blood cells, for the delivery of oxygen into your cells and for transporting carbon dioxide back from your tissues to your lungs.
It is essential during periods of rapid growth which occur for toddlers, teenagers and during pregnancy.
Iron is required for energy production, DNA synthesis, as a cofactor enzyme production and is necessary for collagen and neurotransmitter synthesis.
Which people are at risk of developing a deficiency?
Health issues, dietary and lifestyle choices can have an impact on iron levels. People at risk include those with:
- Acute blood loss
- Women who have heavy menstrual bleeds
- Chronic blood loss
- Digestive issues causing a loss of nutrient absorption
- Diets low in iron, including vegetarian and vegan
- Athletes and high levels of physical activity
- Rapid growth such as infancy, childhood and adolescence
- Alcohol consumption
- Antacids and proton-pump inhibitors
- Anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen or aspirin
What are the signs and symptoms of deficiency?
- Difficulty concentrating
- Decreased energy levels or extreme fatigue
- Easy shortness of breath
- Dizzy or light-headed
- Pale skin, gums or nails
- Numb or cold feeling in hands and/or feet
- Fingernail changes including spoon shaped, brittle, and ridges running lengthwise
- Recurring colds or infections
- Irregular menstrual periods
- Restless leg syndrome
- Feeling irritable or depressed
Do you have an Iron deficiency?
People often put themselves on iron supplements without really knowing what is causing their symptoms. Sometimes they stay on these supplements for too long a period. Too much iron or an inability to absorb it can lead to toxicity.
The best way to determine whether you have an iron deficiency is to talk to a health professional. You may be advised to have blood tests to find out the extent of the deficiency. This can be useful in determining how long you need to be on the supplement.
How can you get adequate Iron from your diet?
The best way to ensure healthy iron levels is to get adequate iron from your diet. There are two forms of iron available from food, well absorbed heam form (from animal foods) and not so available non-haem form (from plant foods).
- Rich Animal sources include liver, beef, pork, lamb, chicken, turkey, salmon, sardines and oysters.
- Plant sources include kelp, blackstrap molasses, brewer’s yeast, wheat bran and wheat germ, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, nuts, grains, prunes, dates, Jerusalem artichoke, green leafy vegetables, dandelion greens and cherry juice.
Include foods rich in Vitamin C in your diet to enhance the absorption. Food combining with foods such as citrus fruits, acerola cherries, capsicums, guava, kiwi fruit, tomatoes, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, parsley, kale and peas will help to increase iron absorption.
Which foods stop good absorption of Iron?
Some foods can impair the absorption. These foods include calcium rich food, eggs, canned salmon, sardines, milk, yoghurt, cheese, tofu, broccoli, turnip greens, figs, almonds, broccoli and rhubarb. As mentioned above, also make sure you include foods rich in Vitamin C to enhance with the absorption.
So what can you do to ensure you don’t have an iron deficiency?
Iron deficiency can lead to anaemia. Addressing any underlying causes is important. Talking to a health professional can help to work out what is the best treatment for individual health requirements.
Janne Ramsay – Naturopath
Janne Ramsay is an experienced Naturopath and Nutritionist who sees many cases of stress and chronic fatigue. Sometimes iron deficiency plays a role in their development.
If you would like to find out more about the causes of your stress, lack of energy levels, the role that digestion plays, whether you have an iron deficiency and how to get adequate iron from your diet Janne can help you.
Mr Vitamins recommends
Thompson’s Organic Iron
Formulated with Folic Acid, Vitamin B12 and Pumpkin seed extract; as a natural source of iron
Find out more and shop online for Thompson’s Organic Iron here