Iron is indispensable for hematopoiesis, which is the process of producing white and red blood cells. More specifically, hemoglobin needs iron to bind oxygen, which will be transported to various organs and tissues.
Low levels of iron inside the body lead to devastating consequences, including iron deficiency anemia.
In this article, we will cover the most common complication of iron deficiency, then switch gears to how much iron you should be getting.
Iron deficiency anemia
Iron deficiency anemia is the most common condition that results from deficient iron levels.
Women often develop this condition because of heavy blood loss during menstruation. This is made worse by poor diet choices and certain digestive diseases (e.g., Crohn’s disease).
Your doctor will order a complete blood count (CBC) to confirm that you actually have anemia. The next step will be confirming the type of anemia. Iron deficiency anemia requires an iron panel, which reveals the amount of this mineral in your blood.
The signs and symptoms of iron deficiency anemia
Patients with iron deficiency anemia may experience the following signs and symptoms:
- Asthenia (i.e., general fatigue)
- Pale skin
- Dyspnea (i.e., shortness of breath)
- Weak muscles
- Heart palpitations
- Brittle nails
Once the diagnosis of anemia gets clinically and biologically confirmed, your doctor will order iron panel tests to objectively identify iron deficiency as the underlying cause.
When all the evidence points to iron deficiency anemia, the doctor will prescribe iron supplements along with other vitamins (e.g., vitamin B12, B9, C) to correct the deficiency.
Before binge-eating on iron-rich foods, remember to get sufficient amounts of vitamin C. Without the latter, iron cannot be absorbed through the intestinal walls. The acidity of the stomach is crucial for transforming iron into an absorbable form.
Foods rich in iron include:
- Meat (e.g., lamb, pork, chicken, beef)
- Seafood (e.g.; sardines, shrimp, clams, and oysters)
- Pumpkin and squash seeds
- Leafy greens
- Raisins and dried fruit
- Iron-fortified dry and instant cereals
Foods rich in vitamin C include:
- Fruits (e.g., oranges, kiwis, papayas, melons)
- Brussels sprouts
- Leafy greens
The daily requirement for iron is dependent on your gender and age.
Here are a few recommendations: (I)
|4–8 years||10 mg/day||10 mg/day|
|9–13 years||8 mg/day||8 mg/day|
|14–18 years||11 mg/day||15 mg/day (27 mg/day if pregnant)|
|19–50 years||8 mg/day||18 mg/day (27 mg/day if pregnant)|
|+51 years||8 mg/day||8 mg/day|
Iron is a crucial element that helps with blood cell production, immune function, and brain activity.
We hope that this article managed to convey the importance of this mineral. Before taking iron supplements, make sure to speak with your primary care physician to avoid intoxication. High levels of iron lead to severe consequences as well.
Here’s to your health!
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Dr. Kevin Crawford