Do you feel fatigued, have coarse hair, dizziness, hair loss, cracked lips, nervousness, slowed mental response? It could be iron deficiency. The standard recommended dietary allowance says 15-25mg for men and 18-30mg for women are needed for optimal function of this mineral. Many people have low iron and are not aware of it. It may be caused by too little iron in the diet, inadequate absorption of iron, or excessive blood loss. The type of iron also influences how well you absorb iron. Heme iron comes from meat and is absorbed efficiently. Non-heme iron found in rice, corn, black beans, and wheat is not absorbed as completely and is affected by other foods in the diet.
What is iron and why is it so important?
Iron is used to help the blood carry oxygen throughout the body. Oxygen is needed for respiration. It creates hemoglobin. Along with B12 and folate it creates red blood cells. It is important for physical and brain development.
Who are prone to deficiencies?
Iron deficiency is usually a problem in women who have not gone through menopause. But, it is common for anyone who are vegans and those who eat fortified foods like breads and cereals.Nonheme iron from rice, corn beans, and wheat is not absorbed as well which is why vegans need to watch their iron levels. Fortified foods are foods that are processed with synthetic or “rock” iron enriched. Grains containphytic acid which binds iron. Nuts also can inhibit iron absorption. Low iron may be due to not eating enough iron foods. Heme iron comes from meat and is efficiently absorbed. Yet dairy impedes absorption. Caffiene, soda, fatty foods also impedes absorption. Those who take aspirin daily also risk iron deficiency due to microscopic bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract, as well as those who don’t get enough vitamin A.
Another reason for low iron is due to microbial or parasitic infection. These pathogens compete with iron.
How do you know if you have deficiencies?
Since it develops gradually, it is difficult to know. Most routine standard blood tests do not test for iron. If you are having any of the above symptoms I would encourage you to ask your doctor to order an iron panel blood test. If insurance will not pay for this, then ask us at Center for Holistic Health and Nutrition about blood testing labs.
What are some remedies for low iron?
The best source is grass-fed meat and wild caught fish. Add some grilled chicken to a salad. Try kale or beet greens tossed with raisins, or combine dried apricots and nuts for a snack. Add molasses to oatmeal. Combining iron-rich foods with oranges and other vitamin C rich foods also boosts absorption. Eating raw liver with beets is also another combination that will absorb iron. Try Beet Kvasse juice with an ounce of chopped up raw liver and you will have a power punch of iron and other minerals.
Pair with vitamin C foods. Vitamin A helps the body used stored iron.
Combine kale and raisins, apricots and nuts, cereals and molasses.
Vitamin A helps the body use stored iron and is found in carrots, pumpkin, yams, tuna, mangoes, beet greens, butternut squash, eggs, fish, and grass-fed butter.
I do not recommend iron medication as these can cause constipation. Before taking on too much extra iron, be sure to have a blood test to validate the need for more iron and then let food be your medicine.