To some people an iron deficiency means they haven’t been playing enough golf (a sport I should take up with the spare time I have on my hands being a student again).
However I’m sure all of you at some time, or at least my female readers, have wondered – do I need to take Iron tablets?
Iron deficiency is the most common nutrient deficiency in the world and affects most of us right? We have all heard of anaemia and know that if we are a bit pale and exhausted that is probably the reason isn’t it?
Iron is a micro-mineral – meaning we don’t actually need that much daily to stay within the RDI and whilst doctors LOVE to prescribe it to anyone that presents with symptoms of fatigue or shortness of breath there are other nutrients you should look to first such as Vitamin B and Co Enzyme Q10 for their energy pathway amazingness. If they fail, and you get a blood test that indicates low iron then what should you do? Lets explore..
Firstly I need to tell you that Iron is a pro-oxidant.. that is the opposite of anti-oxidant. So instead of reducing damage to our cells, it produces inflammation. And, whilst we need healthy amounts of inflammation (in case we hurt ourselves) we don’t need heaps of it, thus the small RDI. It is the only nutrient that does this and thus should not be the taken lightly and without confirmation that this is the cause of any fatigue you are experiencing..
So what does Iron do? Without going into too much detail it is involved in producing our wonderful neurotransmitters seratonin, melatonin, dopamine, noradrenaline as well as thyroid hormones, is essential for oxygen transportation in the blood and also has strong immune responses. The latter is very cool – when bacteria invades the body, the white blood cells that arrive first to attack it contain iron which due to its pro-oxidant actions coats the bacteria and kills it!
We do recycle almost 97% of the iron in our body and the 3% lost is mainly through blood loss and dead cells. Women are more susceptible to anaemia as they ‘lose blood’ once a month, and somehow the more anaemic you are – the more you lose, which makes no sense..
There are 2 types of iron found naturally – haem and non haem. Haem iron is found only in animals and is the preferred form for the human body. It is absorbed directly from the stomach and used immediately. Non-haem iron however is from plant sources and needs to travel through the gastrointestinal tract, be broken down correctly and then absorbed through the intestines and transported through the blood to the liver.. phew.. so if that all works vegetarians will be ok :) but they should take 1.8 times the RDI to be on the safe side.
If you think you are low it is easy to test for with a simple blood test and you will come back with one of the following stages:
1: Storage depleted. This means that the iron stored in your liver has run out and some supplements, or foods high in iron would be a good option.
2 Early functional iron deficient: This means that not only the iron stored in your liver has run out, but the iron being transported in your blood is also getting low and you should get some supplementation..
3: Iron deficiency anaemia: Your liver and blood stores have run out.
How would you feel at this time? Well – you’d experience shortness of breath when exercising due to not enough oxygen being transported around the body, as well as fatigue, and increased chance of getting sick as your immunity would be low..
You will have a sore red tip on your tongue and the inside of you eyelids will be pale. Nails will start to peel and hairloss is also seen.
Another interesting symptom is Pica – the urge to eat things that aren’t actually food.. things like chalk and glass and dirt and paper. In pregnancy this is common however it can also be seen in children – with kids it manifest as always wanting to eat ice.
What foods is it in? Well red meat of course, oysters, legumes, green leafy veg, and dried fruit. Parsley is very high and a great way to get some through diet – add it to pasta, rice dishes, scrambled eggs and anything else you can think of.
S0 what supplements should you take if thats not enough? Not Ferrograd and not Fefol!
The therapeutic range for supplementation is between 15 – 50mg (of elemental iron) and when you look at the above they either contain far too much and/or the inorganic form that the body can’t absorb.
Look for something in the ‘amino acid chelate’ form which is natural and well absorbed, and you will also hopefully avoid the dreaded side effects such as nausea, diarrhea, constipation and heartburn. I have avoided iron supplements for so long as they always make me feel ill – have you had a similar experience?
What about Floradix you say? As a day to day boost its ok, but if you are anaemic you would need to drink the entire bottle at once to get the dose required!
It is possible to have too much iron thus the reason it only comes in small bottles/number of capsules – so don’t take them all at once, and make sure kids can’t get into the child proof lids..
Speaking of kids – it is a very important nutrient in their development so make sure their diet is full of the above foods.
The other thing with Iron is that it should never be taken with other nutrients, drugs, antacids, antibiotics, or food – it will decrease their absorption as it is a very ‘sticky’ substance and binds to these things rendering them useless, or at least less effective.
The one exception to this rule is Vitamin C – taken together Vitamin C will increase iron absorption 3-4 times.
So, if you are having some of the symptoms of iron deficiency, make sure you’re B Vitamin intake is adequate, try some Co Q10 for energy and then get a blood test. Taking a pro-oxidant straight away is something to be wary of.
Have you been told you’re anaemic?
Does this info help?