MEDICAL FACTS ABOUT IRON DEFICIENCIES
Did you know that although anyone can suffer from an iron deficiency, women in their 30s are particularly at risk? We all have our days where we feel tired and would rather take a nap, where that gym session feels near impossible or when getting out of bed feels like climbing Kilimanjaro. But when you’re feeling like that more often than not, it’s important to try to pinpoint whether there’s an underlying issue and, especially if you’re female, whether a lack of iron exists.
Iron is a very important mineral involved the transport of oxygen in the body. When your iron stores are low, less oxygen is circulated, which causes the associated fatigue. This condition is called anemia. Some of the other common symptoms of anemia include dizziness, trouble concentrating, shortness of breath, brittle nails and hair loss, and pale skin. Studies have also shown that iron deficiency is linked to ADHD in children.
A healthy, balanced diet that includes iron-rich foods such as lean meat, fish, fortified cereals, dark green vegetables, pulses and beans, eggs, and dried fruits (particularly raisins, prunes and apricots) will be sufficient to meet most people’s iron needs. However, in some cases an iron supplement is indicated, for instance in the case of women who experience heavy menstrual periods, long distance runners or as a result of other conditions that cause bleeding in the body, such as ulcers or hemorrhoids. Diseases, such as Coeliac disease which damages the small intestine, can also interfere with the absorption of iron, as can certain medications.
It’s important to note that our iron needs change throughout life: children, teens and pregnant women tend to have higher iron needs. Keep in mind that iron obtained from plant sources is not as easily absorbed as iron from animal sources, which implies that vegetarians and vegans may need to consider supplementation, especially if they are exhibiting symptoms of anemia. Avoid taking an iron supplement with tea, coffee or dairy as these can reduce the amount of iron that the body absorbs. Rather take it with a glass of orange juice – vitamin C has been shown to help the body better absorb iron.
While iron supplements are available over the counter, it is important to not just start buying a supplement when you are tired. It is important to discuss starting any new treatment with your doctor before you begin, since iron levels need to be tested beforehand in order to confirm the anemia diagnosis. The appropriate therapeutic dosage will be recommended, and progress can be tracked. Any possible drug interactions can also be determined.