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Tags: iron deficiency | anemia | enzymes

Tools to Combat Iron Deficiency

Friday, 11 May 2018 04:08 PM Current | Bio | Archive

I’ve written in the past about the dangers of excess iron, and how it has been linked to a number of health risks, including strokes, atherosclerosis, heart attacks, cancer, and neurodegenerative conditions.

However, for some people, the problem is not enough iron.

In fact, iron deficiency affects tens of millions worldwide. But because so many of our processed foods have iron added to them by law, iron deficiency is less common in the United States than other parts of the world.

Iron deficiency can be caused by a number of problems including blood loss (heavy periods, gastric erosion from aspirin or NSAIDs, or hidden cancers). It can also arise from chronic infections and inflammation in general.

Bacteria need iron for growth and reproduction. In an effort to inhibit bacterial or viral reproduction, the body will sequester iron so that it is not available to microorganisms.

Over time, this can result in very low iron levels, as iron is slowly lost from the body.

Low iron levels can cause a number of problems besides anemia. In fact, most of these signs and symptoms are exhibited before anemia presents itself.

Symptoms include easy fatigability, weakness, headaches, abnormal heart rate (arrhythmias), shortness of breath with exertion, frequent infections, pale complexion, dizziness or vertigo, hypothyroidism, restless leg syndrome, development of sore or smooth tongue, sudden increased hair loss, insomnia, and in some cases even chest pains.

One unusual symptom, called pica, presents as a sudden craving for eating ice or clay.

One of the greatest dangers presented by low iron levels is an associated increased production of free radicals.

Interestingly, high iron levels and low iron levels both cause increased production of free radicals.

Iron also plays a critical role in energy production and as a co-factor for a number of important cell molecules and enzymes.

The optimal level for free iron is somewhere around 100 mcg/dL for women and 120 mcg/dL for men.

Iron deficiency mainly occurs with a poor diet or a pure vegetarian diet, as well as in young women who are menstruating.

The main dietary source of iron is heme iron from meats, which is well-absorbed in the body (about 25 percent). Iron found in vegetables is poorly absorbed — only about 1 percent.

Vitamin C significantly increases iron absorption, even from vegetables.

The goal of iron replacement is to not only raise levels of iron in the blood and tissues, but also to restore iron stores.

To fix the problem, a person must first have a blood test that measures all of the iron-related blood factors. This test should include iron level, total iron-binding capacity (TIBC), transferrin level, iron saturation, and ferritin.

If this battery of tests demonstrates iron deficiency, you should begin iron replacement. But that can be tricky.

Young women — especially pregnant women — should undergo thorough iron-related testing.

Iron is absolutely essential for brain development, and should be included in infant vitamins, but only in low dosages. Milk supplies very little absorbable iron.

Increased consumption of red meats will significantly increase iron intake and absorption, but red meat does come with some drawbacks.

Iron from vegetables, especially broccoli and spinach, is beneficial if a person takes 500 mg of vitamin C with the vegetables. In most cases, iron supplements will be necessary.

There are a number of iron supplements available. Unfortunately, most cause stomach cramping and constipation.

The best-absorbed forms include:

• Ferrous fumarate, which supplies 106 mg of elemental iron per tablet

• Ferrous gluconate, which contains 28 to 36 mg of elemental iron

Ferrous sulfate, the least expensive of the three, is poorly absorbed and has a high incidence of side effects, especially cramping and constipation.

The average daily dose for replacement of iron is 150 to 200 mg per day. However, studies have shown that people over 80 do better taking no more than 50 mg a day.

I prefer carbonyl iron, as it improves bowel movements, causes no cramping, and is well-absorbed. The iron supplement should be taken one hour to 30 minutes before eating.

It can be taken with orange juice, which increases absorption, or you can take the 500 mg of vitamin C along with the iron supplement.

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Low iron levels can cause a number of problems besides anemia. In fact, most of these signs and symptoms are exhibited before anemia presents itself.
iron deficiency, anemia, enzymes
Friday, 11 May 2018 04:08 PM
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