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How to Avoid Low Iron and Its Health Risks

Iron is key to our health and our day-to-day functioning. Our alternative health expert Bryce Wylde has information and natural solutions to keep our iron levels where they should be.

Woman with low iron holds her head.

Iron is required by the body to produce hemoglobin which is the red blood cell factor that transports oxygen around the body. Without ideal levels of oxygen, you are weak, tired, irritable and unable to think clearly.


Video explaining the role of red blood cells in anemia.

Pale or translucent red blood cells are anemic ones which carry little-to-no oxygen. Iron is key to the core and function of hemoglobin so oxygen can bind to it and disperse out of the red blood cells into tissues of the body. One thing that happens when there is anemia is the heart has to pump harder to be able to deliver adequate oxygen supply out of depleted blood. That's why with iron depletion and anemia you feel tired and can even have heart palpitations.

Can the Natural Daily Loss of Iron Put Me at Risk of Iron Deficiency?

Normally, a small amount of iron is lost each day, so if too little iron is taken in, a deficiency will eventually develop. Unless a person has a poor diet, there is usually enough iron to prevent iron deficiency and anemia in healthy people. In certain situations, there is an increased need for iron.

However, people with chronic bleeding from the gut (usually from ulcers or tumors) or women with heavy menstrual periods will lose more iron than normal and can develop iron deficiency. Women who are pregnant or breast feeding lose iron to their baby and can develop iron deficiency if not enough extra iron is taken in. Children, especially during times of rapid growth, may need extra iron and can develop iron deficiency. Menstruating women, especially those with heavy periods, are most at risk for low iron.

How to Know if You’re Iron Deficient

Some typical signs of low iron:

  • You feel fatigued for over a month.
  • You always feel cold.
  • Your skin looks more pale than it normally does
  • You can't focus.
  • You have obvious hair loss and brittle nails.

To diagnose it, a blood test must measure ferritin levels — the iron storage protein in your blood. Even if you are checked for anemia, you're not given a ferritin blood test that could show low iron levels indicating a mild to moderate deficiency. Serum ferritin reflects the amount of stored iron in the body.

Natural Solutions to Correct Low Iron

1. Eat Iron Rich Foods

There are two types of dietary iron — heme iron and non-heme iron.

Heme iron is derived from hemoglobin and is found in meat-based protein. This iron absorbs two to three times faster than non-heme iron. Lean ground beef, chicken livers, oysters and clams are potent sources of iron in this category.

Non-heme iron is found in plant-based foods. Beans, spinach, broccoli, dried fruits — such as apricot — and fortified cereals are among the best sources.

2. Combine Iron Rich and Vitamin C Rich Foods

Vitamin C helps speed the absorption of iron traveling from your digestive system into your bloodstream up to five times faster for a major energy boost.

Vitamin C Rich Foods:

  • Red bell peppers with spinach
  • Tomatoes with broccoli
  • Citrus fruits with edamame

3. Cook Acidic Foods in an Iron Skillet

Acidic foods with high moisture content — such as tomato sauce — will absorb the most iron from these cooking pans. Sauté vegetables and other foods this way as often as you can to rev up iron intake.

4. Avoid Tea and Coffee

The tannins found in tea and coffee interferes with iron absorption. Try to avoid drinking these beverages for a few hours before a meal that's high in iron.

5. Natural Supplements

Preventing and treating anemia with supplemental iron, vitamin B12, and folic acid is highly effective. Vitamin C may further increase iron absorption. Interesting research suggests that the blue-green algae classed as spirulina may help reduce the risk of anemia and increase haemoglobin, especially in the elderly. Also, consuming tofu may help prevent the low red blood cell counts associated with weakness, fatigue and bruising by having a positive effect on iron status, independent of supplemental iron intake.

It may take many months before you see iron levels increase to normal on blood tests, especially if you’re menstruating.

Health Risks Involving Low Iron

Iron deficiency can become a serious medical condition. If it goes on for too long, it could become a health concern and cause problems such as:

  • Heart problems. Iron deficiency anemia may lead to a rapid or irregular heartbeat. Your heart must pump more blood to compensate for the lack of oxygen carried in your blood when you're anemic. This can lead to an enlarged heart or heart failure.
  • Serious problems during pregnancy. In pregnant women, severe iron deficiency anemia has been linked to premature births and low birth weight in babies. But the condition is preventable in pregnant women who receive iron supplements as part of their prenatal care.
  • Growth problems. In infants and children, severe iron deficiency can lead to anemia as well as delayed growth and development. Additionally, iron deficiency anemia is associated with an increased susceptibility to infections.

Don't forget to get tested!

More alternative health tips from Bryce Wylde:

How to Get a Natural Energy Boost»
The Power of Antioxidants»
Natural Immune-Boosting Remedies»

 

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