Suffering from dizziness, poor concentration, cold hands and feet, headaches, or even brittle flattened spoon shaped fingernails. Any of the above symptoms may mean you are suffering from an iron deficiency.
So why does an iron deficiency make me tired you might ask. Anaemia or iron deficiency develops when the body lacks enough iron to make adequate haemoglobin. The haemoglobin enables our red blood cells to carry oxygen from our lungs to the rest of our body. So, when we are iron deficient every cell in our body is suffering from lack of oxygen, which then causes us to feel weak and tired and experience headaches, dizziness etc.
So, the next question is why does one become iron deficient? The obvious answer may be excessive blood loss by women with heavy menstrual periods. Someone suffering from chronic long term blood loss due to gastric ulcers, haemorrhoids or uterine fibroids or even gastrointestinal bleeding from regular use of aspirin can experience iron deficiency. Disorders such as celiac disease, Crohn’s disease and general malabsorption disorders can affect our intestine’s ability to absorb nutrients from digested food leading to iron deficiency. If we have a high intake of tea, coffee, calcium and even antacids this can cause a problem. Our body needs stomach acid to convert dietary iron into a form which can be absorbed into the small intestine. Antacids may interfere with this absorption.
Obviously when we are pregnant it is suggested we should take an iron supplement. A mum-to-be needs enough iron stores to meet the needs of her own increased blood volume as well as that of the growing foetus. A foetus needs iron to develop red blood cells, blood vessels and muscle.
Vegetarians can often be low in iron. Often vegetarians may source their iron from grains and vegetables which are poorly absorbed by the body compared to iron which is sourced from meat. Iron is available in two forms – ‘haem’ and ‘non-haem’. Haem iron is found in meat, fish, and chicken while non-haem is found in these foods plus vegetables, fruit, grains and legumes. Haem iron is better absorbed than non-haem however taking vitamin C improves the absorption of non-haem iron as well as if we are taking an iron supplement.
Some of the best dietary sources of iron would therefore be beef, liver, oysters, soybeans, wheatgerm, prune juice, kidney beans, apricots, parsley, and spinach. Once we develop anaemia, increased intake of iron-rich food is beneficial, however it is also necessary to take iron supplements to build up our low iron stores. We often suggest taking a liquid iron supplement. Liquid iron supplements are generally more easily absorbed and believe it or not, have quite a pleasant taste. Always look for an iron supplement containing Vitamin C to assist with absorption. You may need to take an iron supplement for several months or longer to replenish your iron stores.
Blackstrap Molasses is also a good food source of iron. See my article and recipes below.
For more information on anaemia or any other health problem call into see Bev and the girls at Go Vita, Your Health Shop at 5 North St, Batemans Bay or phone on 44729737. Don’t forget to tune in to Bev on 2EC every Wednesday at 12.30pm.