Dr. Megan Johnson McCullough – Iron is found in every single cell in our body. This essential mineral’s primary role is to create hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is a protein that carries oxygen from our lungs to the rest of our body. Our muscles need hemoglobin in order to store and use oxygen. Iron is also an enzyme in our body that helps us digests food. We get iron from meat, poultry, and fish. Iron from these meats is absorbed 2-3 more than from a plant-based protein. This can be of concern to vegetarians. Vitamin C helps with iron absorption while taking antacids can impede absorption.
LOW IRON — If your body is low in iron, you might develop anemia. Causes of iron deficiency include poor diet, or not being able to absorb iron from nutrients, or having experienced an adequate amount of blood loss. Having too little iron is actually the most common type of nutrient deficiency. Symptoms of having low iron includes low body temperature, fatigue, low immunity, a swollen tongue, slow cognitive functioning, and difficulty performing tasks. A blood test would determine the low status. Sometimes the body just needs extra iron. This is especially true for children who are growing and might need more iron than they are able to get from their diet. Losing a lot of blood from donating or having a heavy menstrual cycle means that this blood needs to be replenished.
TOO MUCH IRON– Taking far too many iron supplements can lead to iron poisoning. Having to much iron also causes fatigue. Skin might become discolored with a gray or brown tone. Abdominal pain might occur. Joint aches, low sex drive, mood swings, hair loss, and irregular heart rhythm might also be symptoms. Iron supplements can be misleading because toxicity doesn’t always match the milligrams. For example, a pill with 200 mg actually contains 65 mg of iron, not 200 mg. An excess of 20 mg in the body can cause toxicity. It is important to stay within the healthy range of 8-18 mg of iron per day.
Treatment -If a hemoglobin or hematocrit (red blood cell count) test determines you are iron deficient, a doctor might prescribe supplements or adjust your diet.
How much iron do you need??
1. Infants 0-6 months: 0.27 mg per day
2. 7-12 months: 11 mg per day
3. 1 – 3 years: 7 mg per day
4. 4-8 years: 10 mg per day
5. Males: 8 mg per day except during puberty years ages 14-18 they need 11 mg per day
6. Females: need 8 mg per day, ages 14-18 need 15 mg per day, and ages 19-50 need 18 mg per day
7. Pregnant women: need about 27 mg per day
Food sources – Clams actually contain the highest amount of iron found in food, having 23.8 mg per ounce. Cereals, beef, lentils, and spinach have about 3 mg per serving. Food rich in vitamin C help with absorption.
We need iron in our body. We need protein to thrive for our blood health. When any of the symptoms pertaining to iron deficiency might surface, be sure to contact your doctor. When we eat the proper nutrient, our body absorbs and uses what it needs. However, sometimes we need a little assistance with supplementation. Be iron strong and keep your blood oxygenated for your health.