Do You Really Know About *r**?
My guess is a lot of you wonder why I write about people's nutritional deficiencies all the time.
Honestly, the reason I'm always e-mailing you about yet another deficiency is because of what I see in my office on a daily basis.
Think about it - people don't usually come into my office unless they're feeling pretty crappy. Otherwise, people who feel great avoid coming to see me, except for yearly exams.
I'm OK with healthy people avoiding me.
However, the fact that healthy people stay far away from me for most of the year means I'm mostly working with sick people and trying to make them better.
When patients visit me, one of the first things I ask myself is, "Could their illness/condition be brought on because they're missing a component to good health?"
I find in numerous instances this is the case. It's not always true - some people are genuinely sick and we have to treat them in other ways - yet I can't tell you how many illnesses and conditions have been reversed or improved because of adding missing nutrients.
That's why I want to talk to you about iron deficiencies today.
How Important Is Iron? How Can You Tell If You're Missing It In Your Life?
Iron is absolutely essential to life; without it, you'll die.
Many of you probably remember learning about iron in biology class. Your teacher probably informed you iron's the mineral responsible for helping move oxygen through the body via the blood.
The reason this is true is because iron helps form hemoglobin, which is the substance in red blood cells that binds to oxygen and then is carried all over the body.
Since you need oxygen to live, you need iron to shuttle it throughout the body; thus, you can plainly see why being low in iron is so harmful to your health.
We believe 2/3 of our bodies' iron is locked up in hemoglobin. That means if you're lacking in iron, your body is going to have a really tough time getting oxygen to your cells.
If your body isn't making enough hemoglobin, almost all cellular processes requiring oxygen are impeded.
This results in a handful of issues.
Man, sounds pretty messy doesn't it?
Truth be told it really is a mess; most people who are low in iron really feel it.
Low iron levels manifest in a multitude of ways; however, I've got to admit some of the biggest indicators of low iron are exhaustion and an inability to catch your breath (even if you're athletic).
In addition to these signs, the following might indicate low iron levels as well:
- Consistently rapid heartbeat
- Extremities (like the hands and feet) being always cold
- Finding yourself wanting to eat dirt or clay
- Your nails are brittle or are spoon-shaped
- Your hair falls out constantly
- You develop sores at the corners of your mouth that don't heal
- Your tongue is frequently sore
- You find it difficult to swallow
However, these aren't the only clues pointing to an iron deficiency.
In fact, if you can put a check mark next to any of the following, you could be at risk for low iron:
- You are a woman who is pregnant (because pregnant men aren't at risk): The process of creating a child in utero requires women to bring in extra iron.
- You are on your period: Menstruation causes blood loss, which can deplete iron stores. It's believed 9% of women from the ages of 12-49 have low iron levels for this reason.
- You have an infant: Babies in utero pull iron from their mothers so they have stores reserved for the first 6 months of life.
- You exercise: Those who exercise consistently need up to 30% more iron due to the demands physical activity places on iron stores.
- You are on medications/treatments that lower iron: Things like kidney dialysis, ACE inhibitors, and even the regular use of ibuprofen can contribute to a loss of iron.
You experience regular blood loss: Ulcers, gastric bleeding, blood donation, and any other kind of consistent blood loss can contribute to iron stores being depleted.
- You have ADHD: "Research has shown that children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may benefit from taking iron supplements. In one study, 89 percent of children who had ADHD were low on iron, compared to just 18 percent of children who didn’t have the disorder."
By taking iron supplements, you can help to reverse things like chronic fatigue; this can also boost the function of your immune system, as well as help prevent iron-deficient anemia.
However, just because you're tired or want to boost immune function doesn't mean you should take iron without a proven need for it.
That's why I want to talk to you about the very important specifics of iron supplementation.
Important Things To Know about Supplementing With Iron
While iron is absolutely essential for life, it doesn't mean you should be cavalier and just start taking it on a whim.
Scarily, too much iron in the body can produce some pretty serious consequences.
Iron toxicity has been linked to conditions I definitely don't want you developing; these include: Parkinson's disease, diabetes, neurological disorders, atherosclerosis, sped up aging, and much more.
In addition, consider what the University of California Berkley wrote about during just a few studies regarding too much iron:
A review paper published in Diabetes Care a few years ago noted a link between higher iron and diabetes, as well as improvements in blood sugar control when iron stores are reduced, such as through blood donation. Another paper, from Indiana University in 2007, noted that excess iron has been linked to many conditions, including colorectal cancer, hypertension and stroke."
"As a 2007 review from the University of Michigan Medical School hypothesized, iron fuels the generation of cell-damaging free radicals, which “takes its toll in the later years of life.” That is, an iron level that is desirable earlier in life during growth and reproduction may not be beneficial later in life. The body has natural antioxidantprotective mechanisms that help fend off free radicals, but they are not 100 percent effective, especially during times of stress. Over the course of normal aging, the damage accumulates.
The best way to ensure you don't develop iron toxicity? Taking a blood test to see what your iron levels are and supplement from there.
This is mostly advised for women, as men are much less likely to suffer from iron deficiency (unless they're anemic, taking certain meds, or lose blood often).
Your doctor will then be able to inform you if your iron levels are low.
In regards to what healthy iron levels look like, consider this:
- Healthy men should get 10 mg of iron a day
- Women who are on their period should get 15mg a day
- Pregnant women should get 30 mg a day
If you start taking more than these amounts, you're headed into the danger zone.
That's because it's hard for your body to expel iron, and it ends up storing it in vital organs as well as in the blood.
That being said, if you are sure you're low on iron and have talked to your doctor about it, I'd recommend you get the one I advise patients use.
It's made by NOW brands and you can get it by clicking this link or on the picture below.