Iron deficiency- More than just fatigue.
Most of us know about the importance of iron in energy production. The role of iron in red blood cell oxygenation is well known but did you also know that iron plays a VITAL role in mitochondrial function, liver detoxification, DNA synthesis and steroid hormone production?
Iron deficiency is increasingly common- even in such a 'well fed' nation as ours. Almost 3/4's of a million women are iron deficient; the groups most at risk for iron deficiency are pregnant women, athletes, vegetarians, vegans, teenagers, infants from 6 months and children form 4 years of age. Basically, a lot of us.
Could you have low iron?
Do you feel tired or weak?
Do your skin, nails or gums look pale or feel cold?
Is your menstrual cycle irregular?
Is your period heavy?
Do you experience Restless Legs Syndrome?
Are you sad, depressed or irritable?
Do you get recurring colds or infections?
Do you have a history of anaemia?
If you've answered yes to a few of these questions you could be iron deficient.
How can I improve my iron status?
If you're an omnivore regularly consume beef, poultry, pork, lamb, liver, oysters, sardines and salmon.
Add Vitamin C rich foods to aid absorption- capsicum, broccoli, kiwi, oranges, lemon & lime.
Plant sources of iron include kelp, molasses, Brewer's yeast, pumpkin seeds, cashews, silverbeet, dandelion greens, prunes and dates.
Drink strong infusions of raspberry leaf and nettle tea.
Cooking in cast iron cookware- especially useful for vegetarians and vegans.
Compounds that block iron uptake
Phytates & phytic acids- Brazil nuts, linseed, flaxseed, almonds, tofu ,corn, oats & wheat.
Tannins- Tea, red wine, pomegranates, berries, apples, cocoa & coffee.
Oxalates- Spinach, kale, beets, nuts, wheat bran, nuts, tea and chocolate.
Calcium- Antacids, milk, yogurt, cheese, sardines, tinned salmon, tofu, broccoli, calcium supplements (less so than dairy sources of calcium)
Did you know...
1 egg can reduce iron absorption by 28%
Cooking or 'activating' the above foods can somewhat offset the inhibition of iron absorption.
What Key Lifestyle factors affect iron levels?
Antacids and proton pump inhibitors (too) commonly used for reflux.
Aspirin- binds to iron.
High intensity physical activity- causes increased losses of iron.
Consider all of the above, throw in a bit of heavy metal exposure (not the musical kind), add a vegetarian or no red meat diet, take an aspirin or two; combine it with poor gut function and excessive exercise; it's no wonder that iron deficiency is so common.
But iron makes me constipated!
Not all iron is created equal. Some forms of iron commonly prescribed contain ferrous sulphate, or iron sulphate. This form of iron 'seperates' in the gut and can cause constipation, dark/green stools and abdominal discomfort. There are different forms of iron available, usually prescribed by Naturopaths, that are better absorbed and do not cause gastrointestinal discomfort.
Concerned about your iron supplements? Talk to an expert in health, not an expert in disease!