Know more about Anemia
Feeling tired? You could be anemic.
Some times we go about life happily so. Some days are as we would rather stay in bed. Somehow we continue doing things without putting much thought to it. Until…something stops us! It could be a cold, a pain, a migraine, thinks floating in our eyesight, inflammation, dizziness, depression, low libido, etc. These symptoms are classic for a number of ailments and it is worth checking what is going on.
If you visit your doctor, ask for a blood test to be done to check your iron levels and you might discover you are anemic.
Read on for dietary guidance on how to boost your iron intake with food.
Causes iron deficiency
Iron deficiency can be the result of numerous and multiple causes. These fall into two broad categories: an increased need for iron and/or decreased intake or absorption of iron.
Iron deficiency can occur during rapid periods of growth. For this reason nature makes certain that developing fetuses, newborns and infants up until the age of about six months have an ample supply of iron. Conditions that result in iron deficiency include blood loss from heavy menstruation, pregnancy, frequent or excessive blood donation, fibroids, digestive tract disease (including infections), as well as surgeries and accidents. Iron deficiency can also be caused by IUDs, certain medications, some dietary supplements or substances that cause bleeding such as pain relievers with aspirin, and also as a result of poisoning from lead, toxic chemicals or alcohol abuse.
Decreased intake or absorption
Decreased intake or absorption can occur in diets that do not include heme iron, the iron in meat and shellfish. Heme iron is absorbed more efficiently than non-heme iron found in plants and dietary supplements. Other nutrients, however, such as vitamins C and B12, folate or zinc can facilitate sufficient non-heme iron absorption. Consuming certain foods and medications can interfere with the absorption of iron. These include dairy products, coffee, tea, chocolate, eggs, and fiber. Medication that inhibit iron absorption include antacids, proton pump inhibitors (to treat acid reflux) or calcium supplements. Diseases conditions can also limit iron absorption; this can happen as a result of insufficient stomach acid, lack of intrinsic factor (hormone needed to absorb vitamin B12), celiac disease, inflammatory conditions such as Crohn’s disease, and in autoimmune diseases and hormone imbalances.
Most at risk for iron deficiency
Women, children and the elderly are most at risk. African American and Hispanic women and their young children are prone to iron deficiency, possibly because of diet or perhaps different hemoglobin needs. Men are rarely iron deficient; but when they are, it is generally due to blood loss from the digestive tract (sometimes indicating disease), diseases that affect iron absorption, and in some cases, alcohol abuse. Except for those who are strict vegetarians, men rarely have dietary iron deficiency.
How iron deficiency is detected and diagnosed
The tests used most often to detect iron deficiency include hemoglobin (the iron-containing protein in the blood that carries iron and oxygen to cells), hematocrit which provides the percentage measures of red blood cells in the blood, serum ferritin, which indicates the amount of iron stored in the body, and serum iron and iron-binding capacity (IBC, UIBC or TIBC). The latter measures are used to calculate transferrin-iron saturation percentage (TS%), a measure of iron in transit in the serum. Serum ferritin is a very important test because it helps distinguish between iron deficiency anemia and anemia of chronic disease (also called anemia of inflammatory response). In cases of iron deficiency anemia, iron supplements can be helpful; but in cases of anemia of chronic disease, iron supplements could be harmful.
A diagnosis of iron deficiency can be made when a person has both low hemoglobin and hematocrit and low serum ferritin. Serum iron and, transferrin-iron saturation percentage will also be low in a person who is iron deficient. Iron deficiency without anemia can occur when a person has a normal hemoglobin, but below normal serum ferritin and/or transferrin saturation. Iron deficiency with anemia can occur when a person has low values of both serum ferritin and hemoglobin.
How to treat iron deficiency
Some approaches are as simple as dietary changes and others involve taking iron supplements, which are available in heme and non heme form. Some people with significant iron deficiency might require iron infusions or whole blood transfusions to restore iron sufficiency.
• Inadequate dietary intake. This is also a common cause of deficiency. It is good to remember that plant-based sources of iron are a little harder for the body to absorb and that vitamin C will aid in absorption of all forms of iron. Typical infant diets, which are high in milk and cereals, can also be low in iron. Try a cereal fortified with iron to up intake.
• Diminished iron absorption. This is often due to reduced gastric acid secretion in the stomach; such as atrophic gastritis (common in the elderly), chronic diarrhoea or prolonged use of antacids.
Dietary Changes and Supplements
You may need iron supplements to build up your iron levels as quickly as possible. Iron supplements can correct low iron levels within months. Supplements come in pill form or in drops for children.
Large amounts of iron can be harmful, so take iron supplements only as your doctor prescribes. Keep iron supplements out of reach from children. This will prevent them from taking an overdose of iron.
Iron supplements can cause side effects, such as dark stools, stomach irritation, and heartburn. Iron also can cause constipation, so your doctor may suggest that you use a stool softener.
Eat more foods that are rich in iron. The best source of iron is red meat, especially beef and liver. Chicken, turkey, pork, fish, and shellfish also are good sources of iron.
The body will absorb iron from meat (heme iron) better than vegetarian iron rich foods (non-heme plant iron), such as:
• Iron-fortified breads and cereals
• Peas; lentils; white, red, and baked beans; soybeans; and chickpeas
• Dried fruits, such as prunes, raisins, and apricots
• Spinach and other dark green leafy vegetables (kale, bok chou, collard greens, watercress)
• Sunflower seeds, nuts
The Nutrition Facts labels on packaged foods will show how much iron the items contain. The amount is given as a percentage of the total amount of iron you need every day. The current daily value (DV) for iron is 18 milligrams (mg).
Vitamin C helps the body absorb iron. Include good sources of vitamin C in your plate. Good sources are vegetables and fruits, especially citrus fruits. Citrus fruits include oranges, grapefruits, tangerines, kiwi fruit, strawberries, and cantaloupes.
Fresh and frozen fruits, vegetables, and juices usually have more vitamin C than canned ones. Vegetables rich in vitamin C include broccoli, peppers, Brussels sprouts, tomatoes, cabbage, potatoes, and leafy green vegetables like turnip greens and spinach.
Iron Rich Recipes