Iron Deficiency – What You Need to Know

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fatigueIron is the most abundant metal in the world and the most abundant trace element in the body, and about 70 percent of it is found in the blood. Yet iron deficiency anemia is the most common nutritional disorder in the world.

The primary cause of iron deficiency is blood loss due to ulcers, cancer, hemorrhoids, or long-term aspirin use. Women are particularly vulnerable to iron deficiency during heavy menstrual periods, pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding. Those with low dietary intake of iron (such as vegetarians) and malabsorption disorders such as celiac disease are also at risk.

Iron is necessary for cell division, energy production, oxygen transport, and proper immune function. Iron deficiency symptoms can include:

Fatigue and weakness
Pale skin
Dark circles under the eyes
Brittle hair and nails
Shortness of breath
Heart palpitations
Decreased ability to exercise
Poor concentration
Rapid pulse
Susceptibility to infections
Dizziness or faintness
Cold extremities

There are two types of iron found in food: heme iron and non-heme iron. Heme iron is the most absorbable form of iron and is found in meats, poultry and fish.  Non-heme iron foods include dried fruits, dark green leafy vegetables, legumes, and whole grains. To boost absorption of non-heme iron in foods, combine these foods with vitamin C-rich foods, such as citrus fruit, berries, melons, peppers and tomatoes. Cooking with cast-iron cookware can also increase the amount of non-heme iron in foods. Although diet is important, if you have an iron deficiency, you may have to use a supplement to correct it.

Before taking an iron supplement talk to your practitioner about what would be best. There are many forms from liquid to tablets, and each has its pros. Keep in mind that it generally takes about 3 months to correct an iron deficiency.

Photo from here, with thanks.

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May 2016
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