Iron!


I don't think it is incorrect to assume that you have heard that you need enough iron, or else you will develop anemia. Iron is necessary for health, not only to prevent anemia from occurring. What foods contain iron? When are supplements needed? What IS anemia?

Let's start with talking about iron itself. Iron is a micronutrient that is needed for many bodily processes. The most well-known and studied function of iron is its association with hemoglobin and myoglobin: these are proteins that are needed for blood. But, did you know that iron is also needed for an enzyme that detoxifies the body? Or that iron also has a role in immune functions? Probably not - neither did I at first. This is because iron's main function is that of hemoglobin synthesis.


Hemoglobin, made of iron, delivers oxygen to cells and body tissues. So, what happens when we don't have enough iron (Fe)? Less hemoglobin, meaning less oxygen to cells and tissues. This is problematic because we know that our cells need oxygen and blood to survive. A lack of iron may result in iron-deficiency anemia (IDA). Signs and symptoms may include pallor or a pale skin colour (especially on the face), feeling cold, weakness, fatigue, rapid heart rate (palpitations), and irritability.
Male adults need about 8 mg of iron a day, although this increases during pregnancy. Females also need more because of the loss of blood through mensuration, which puts their recommended iron intake at around 17 mg a day. After menopause, female iron needs drop to 8 mg, the same as men. Vegetarians may not take enough iron in the diet and may need supplements. However, it is important to remember that iron can be found in many foods. What is VERY important to know is that iron absorption is inhibited by many factors or nutrients, including calcium, fibre, and tea. However, iron absorption is INCREASED if consumed with acidic foods such as vitamin C or orange juice, as well as red meat (ex. beef). This means that while beef contains iron, it also enhances iron absorption. The picture contains some food sources of iron.
So, the question many people have is...should i take an iron supplement? Again, I am not in the place to give anyone medical advice. But what I CAN say is that if you have any concerns about your iron intake, it is a good idea to keep track of it in a journal. Also, if your family has a history of anemia, it may be a good idea to bring this to your medical team's attention. If you have symptoms of anemia such as tiredness, low blood pressure, weakness, paleness, etc., also be sure to bring this to your doctor's attention. Finally, if you do take iron supplements, remember not to take it with any diary products. Also, taking it with vitamin C will enhance absorption. I hope this post taught you something about iron!

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