Are you aware of the fact that lack of iron in the body is one of the most frequent deficiencies when it comes to nutrients? At the same time, iron deficiency is the main cause of anemia among Americans.
In case you didn’t know, iron is an essential mineral that helps people receive sufficient oxygen in every body part. This nutrient is required to create hemoglobin and this compound is one of the elements of red blood cells that supply oxygen to organs and cells.
In case you don’t take sufficient amounts of iron, the body won’t be able to get sufficient amounts of oxygen and as a result of that you will witness the emergence of anemia.
This health issue can appear as a consequence of shortage of two basic nutrients found in human body – iron and/or vitamin B12 also known as folic acid. Iron is also one of the key elements of several enzymes found in the body and it is needed for many cell activities.
In this article we will talk about anemia symptoms and we will recommend several ways to boost levels of iron with the help of certain supplements and healthy nutrition. In addition, you will find out how to enhance absorption of this nutrient and which are the best supplements.
Iron Deficiency – Causes
- Improper iron absorption as a result of the presence of health issues like celiac disease or in case some part of the small intestine is surgically removed.
- Not taking sufficient amount of iron via food. Individuals who avoid meat have greater chances of developing iron efficiency in case they don’t consume other foods rich in iron.
- Intense bleeding through prolonged and severe periods or bleeding caused by colorectal cancer or peptic ulcers.
- There are a huge number of individuals suffering from CKD or chronic kidney disease who experience iron deficiency.
- Finally, a huge number of pregnant women are dealing with iron deficiency because the iron they have in their body is used by the fetus too.
Anemia – Symptoms
As anemia makes progress, people may experience certain symptoms like:
- Poor concentration
- Pale skin
- Breathing difficulties
- Proneness to infections
- Disrupt proper development and growth in kids
- Brittle and fragile nails
- Early births and babies with very low birth weight
- Irregular or fast heartbeat which sometimes results in heart issues.
What is The Necessary Amount of Iron That We Need to Take on a Daily Basis?
The RDA (recommended daily amount) is 18 mg of this nutrient per day for women between 18 and 50, 26 grams for women during pregnancy and 8 mg a day for men of all ages. Breastfeeding mums can take 9 mg per day because they won’t experience menstrual cycles at this time. Finally, girls between 14 and 18 should take 15 mg of this nutrient a day.
What are Some of The Foods That are Rich in Iron?
Foods loaded with iron can be separated into two categories:
- Vegetable source – some of the best foods in this category are tahini, almonds, nuts, legumes, green leafy veggies (parsley) and dried fruit.
- Animal source – poultry, red meat, egg yolks and seafood.
In addition, you can use iron-fortified products like bread or cereals.
How to Enhance Absorption of Iron?
In order to improve the absorption of this nutrient that comes from vegetable source, you will have to take it with some vitamin C. Fresh veggies are a perfect example of that. For instance, you can consume lentil-based soup enriched with red pepper and parsley – foods packed with vitamin C. Use some almonds and walnuts as a natural snack.
We must point out that plant foods are not the same as animal foods in terms of iron content. When we talk about animal foods, the iron they contain is linked to proteins known as heme proteins and this iron is known as heme iron. On the other hand, in plant foods, the iron content is not related to proteins and it is known as non-heme iron. Heme iron is absorbed much easier and more efficiently by our body compared to non-heme iron.
A Few Things You Should Know About Iron Supplements
In case you are suffering from anemia, once you find the cause, you should think about using iron supplements because in many cases changes in your diet are not sufficient. In case you use dietary supplements and especially those based on iron you must talk to your doctor.
Generally speaking, iron supplements are available in different forms including intravenous infusion (this form is used for people suffering from indigestion and inability for proper absorption of iron and in cancer and intestinal disease sufferers), syrup and capsule.
Which Supplement to Use?
Obviously, the best idea is to use a supplement that will allow you to absorb most of the iron you consume and protect you from side effects. Even though side effects related to taking iron supplements are rare, we must mention some of them:
- Discoloration of stool
- Discomfort and pain in the abdominal area.
If you use liquid supplements these side effects are even milder. This form of supplements is simpler for digestion and that’s why it leads to fewer and milder side effects. Additionally, it is always a smart move to use supplements that provide coordination between body needs and iron absorption – in case you take more iron than needed, iron molecules can oxidize and turn into free radicals which are very bad to human health.
What Causes Disruption in Iron Absorption?
It turns out that oxalic acid which is part of many green veggies may postpone iron absorption. For instance, spinach is a vegetable packed with oxalic acid and this acid connects with iron and disrupts the absorption of iron in our intestines.
There is evidence that phytic acid, commonly found in whole grains, has the ability to disrupt the process of absorption too. Even though whole grains are packed with iron the phytic acid content can disrupt the proper absorption of this nutrient obtained from other sources.
In addition, consumption of chocolate, coffee and tea can reduce iron absorption because of the fact that these foods are packed with polyphenols. The same goes for dairy products and their calcium content.
The ideal solution is to consume iron supplement combined with consumption of fruits and veggies loaded with vitamin C like orange, kiwi, strawberry, guava, apple and red pepper.
Finally, berries are a great source of vitamin C and it is very easy to find some nutritious and simple recipes based on berries. We hope that this article will help you understand the importance of iron.