#healthinsider: DO YOU NEED MORE IRON?

iron-lady

IRON IS ONE OF THE MOST COMMON NUTRITIONAL DEFICIENCIES IN WOMEN. IT”S ESTIMATED THAT ONE IN THREE WOMEN IN AUSTRALIA ARE NOT GETTING ENOUGH IRON IN THEIR DIET.

Combine this lack of iron with inhibitory factors such as poor gut function, low vitamin C intake, high stress levels and menstruation problems and there is little wonder why so many women are tired and feel on the brink of exhaustion.

by bM contributor and Nutritional Medicine Expert, Fiona Tuck


Iron is a nutrient that is required for many important functions within our bodies but its main role is the production of haemoglobin, a protein that transports oxygen in our blood. If we are not getting enough oxygen being transported in our blood we can feel tired, lethargic, breathless and even despondent or depressed. Iron is mainly absorbed from our food and drink in the small intestines. We absorb less than 10% of the iron that we eat from our diet; haem iron, found in meat and animal products is more readily absorbed than non-haem iron which is from vegetable sources such as spinach and legumes. This is the reason why many vegans, vegetarians and non-red meat eaters are prone to iron deficiency.

factors that can inhibit iron absorption

* High iron levels (Regulation of iron levels occurs at the site of absorption. The more iron we have in our body, the less we absorb. Too much iron can be toxic to the system and can only be excreted from the body via blood loss)
* Milk and dairy products
* Calcium
* Zinc
* Phytic acid found in wheat, nuts and grains
* Oxalic acid found in coffee, tea, spinach, rhubarb
* Polyphenols and tannins found in tea and coffee
* Digestive disorders – IBS, Chrons, Celiac disease
* Blood loss from the digestive tract
* Low stomach acid or over use of anti-acid medications

how to increase your iron intake

A breakfast that consists of museli with milk, yoghurt and berries and a cup of tea or coffee for example is not the best way to be getting your iron levels up. A spinach and tomato omelette with fresh parsley and a fresh orange would be a better option and avoid drinking tea or coffee with meals.

Vitamin C is important for iron absorption so it is beneficial to include vitamin C when eating iron rich foods such as greens, tomatoes and capsicum with steak, lemon juice on salad dressings or vitamin C rich fruit such as citrus, strawberries, kiwi and cherries.

Once iron has been absorbed, it is carried by the blood to the bone marrow, where new blood cells are produced. Iron is combined with proteins to make haemoglobin in the bone marrow. Extra iron is stored in the liver as ferritin. Our bodies are also pretty clever as they can recycle iron from old and worn out red blood cells to make new ones.

If iron levels build up in the body, excess ferritin can be deposited in organs such as the liver, heart and brain leading to serious organ damage. Haemochromatosis is a genetic condition whereby the body accumulates too much iron and haemochromatosis sufferers require regular bloodletting to avoid iron toxicity issues. It is therefore extremely important to always get your iron levels checked by a blood test prior to taking iron supplements as symptoms of low iron can present in a very similar way to dangerously high levels. Caution: Never take iron supplements without first having a professional blood test and prescription.

signs & symptoms of low iron

Fatigue
Depressed mood
Regular infections or colds
Lowered immune system
Increased heavy metal toxicity
Decreased selenium and glutathione (antioxidants) levels
Pale face, dark circles under the eyes
Pale colour inside the lower eyelid
Pale or blue tinged coloured nail bed
Dry, brittle hair
Breathlessness
Palpitations
Lack of mental alertness
Sensitivity to cold temperatures
Poor thyroid function

foods that are high in iron include –

Red meat
Liver
Oysters
Mussels
Chickpeas
Lentils
Kidney beans
Spinach

If you think that you may be low in iron, the best way to have your iron levels checked is by a blood test. G.P’s, naturopaths and nutritional medicine practitioners can refer you for a pathology test. Some people such as vegans, vegetarians, IBS sufferers, pregnant women, women that suffer with heavy periods, may require supplementation or in some cases an iron transfusion may be required. Supplementation combined with an iron rich, well-balanced diet can significantly improve low iron levels and get you back to feeling fit and fabulous again.

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{Top pic: Madame Figuro France}


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