One of the most common things I see in my practice is iron deficiency. Iron is critical due to it’s role in the transport of oxygen from the lungs to body tissues and the return of carbon dioxide from tissues to lungs. It also plays a big role in energy production and metabolism. This amazing mineral also has significant roles in neurotransmitter synthesis, meaning it helps to regulate our moods through brain chemicals serotonin, dopamine and noradrenaline. Anaemia or iron deficiency is most commonly caused by a lack of ingredients necessary for good red blood cell production.
Iron is found in both animal and plant foods and it is a common misconception that those who adopt a plant based diet are destined to a life of anemia. The richest source of iron is actually kelp followed closely by some red meats, beans, lentils and peas. Iron is also found in many nuts, green leafy vegetables, molasses, egg yolk and whole grains.
Iron is absorbed into the body via the intestinal wall and the amount we absorb is dictated by the food source and, most importantly, by the other foods we consume at the same time. It is essential to have adequate vitamin C which can increase the amount of iron you absorb by up to 30%. Other vitamins and minerals which are helpful to iron absorption include vitamin A and B vitamins ( particularly B12 and folate) , calcium, manganese and copper.
A good way to ensure that you are getting the most from your diet is to include a good quality multivitamin and mineral supplement daily.
Some things which inhibit the availability of iron and reduce stores are alcohol consumption, antacid medications, phosphates in meat products and soft drinks as well as some conditions such as Coeliac Disease, IBS and rhematoid arthritis.
Women are particularly vulnerable to iron deficiency or anaemia through menstrual blood loss and during pregnancy when the babies’ needs often place a heavy strain on the mothers iron stores. Children, especially those going through growths spurts are likely to be iron deficient. Children with behavioural issues or learning disorders are also commonly found to be low in iron.
Signs of iron deficiency include : fatigue, headache, low mood, constipation, pallor, ridges in nails which run lengthwise, brittle nails, shortness of breath, brain fog, immune depression and menstrual problems.