No not that type of iron, silly.
How does it affect us and what can we do about it?
First, lets look which subgroups are most at risk:
Those of a childbearing age
People with poor diets
Vegetarians and Vegans
Those who donate blood regularly
If you are low in iron, the sure tell signs are:
Any of the above symptoms could be an effect of other conditions or deficiencies so to be sure it’s best to see your GP for a quick blood test to double check. You will likely go through a CBC test (complete blood cell) which measures the amount of all components in the blood which is a quick and easy process. If your levels do come back on the lower end of the scale, consuming foods high in iron will likely help BUT not all food high in iron will be absorbed easily by the body.
There are 2 types of iron:
Non-heme iron is not absorbed well by the body, so choosing haem iron sources will serve you much better in your quest to improve your levels.
You've probably heard that dark leafy greens, nuts and beans are high iron, and are also commonly suggested by GPs to their patients who are low in iron to help improve their levels. The problem with this is, these food sources are NON-HEME IRON sources so probably won't even make a dent in your iron levels.
Foods high in heme iron include:
Consuming vitamin C with iron can enhance absorption, while tea coffee and any cola can interfere with absorption, so its suggested these drinks are avoided with your high iron meal.
Unnecessary iron supplementation can interfere with your body’s absorption of other minerals, including zinc and copper. So if you have not been medically diagnosed with Iron deficiency anaemia, it is not suggested that you supplement. But rather if your levels are low we suggest you increase your dietary consumption of foods high in heme iron.
If you do decide to start supplementing with iron due to an extremely low iron count (anemia), it will be normal to experience some constipation and the blackening of your stools, so don’t be alarmed if this happens to you. To assist you in your trip to dropping the kids off at the pool, i suggest ensuring your fibre intake is adequate. This will vary from person to person but generally this is 20-40g per day for women, and 30-50g for men. Just like iron, there are two types of fibre with insoluble fibre being the type we want to increase. Think wheat bran, all bran, chickpeas, beetroot, apples, raspberries and peas.
One last note for the day on iron. Men, you may want to block your ears.
As iron is stored and transported in the blood, during times of blood loss like the menstrual cycle, iron levels may be even lower than usual especially for those who experience heavy periods. Eating sufficient iron is important for everyone, but especially so for women who have regular periods and also for those who have regular heavy periods.
Arming ourselves with the knowledge of what to look for, what tests to take and how to improve the problem of low iron will serve you well in reducing the nagging and looming symptoms of low iron. Heme iron for the win!
And as always, please consult your doctor before implementing any dietary changes.
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