Are you feeling exhausted?
Is it possible you may be iron deficient?
I am finding recently that many people are low in iron. Surprisingly, iron deficiency remains the most common deficiency in the developed world. A blood test called “iron studies” looks at the levels of iron that are stored in the body (in the liver) and it also looks at the different transcription factors that ensure iron absorption and transport in the blood. It is also important to look at haemoglobin levels which show up on a full blood count test. Haemoglobin carries oxygen for our cell’s energy supply. It is made up of iron and protein. The normal healthy levels vary between male and female, age, and pregnancy. It is important to remember that the numbers in brackets are not a recommended healthy level but are the average of all blood test taken in a certain period. The paradox is that these are the average of people who are not well and could probably be iron deficient anyway! This paradox applies to the proper analysis of most blood tests. This is why it is important to look at nutritional levels in blood from a functional point of view. Another problem with reading blood test results is that if only the ferritin level is tested. It can be deceiving because ferritin can be high if there’s any gut inflammation or any inflammation elsewhere in the body. This is why it is important to do a comprehensive overview of all the whole body when assessing nutrient levels. Some of the symptoms of iron deficiency are:
· brain fog
· lack of concentration
· lack of motivation and depression
· shortness of breath
· drops in blood pressure
· changes in the menstrual cycle.
The causes of low iron are also many and varied, ranging from a lack of iron in the diet, lack of absorption of iron from the gut, heavy bleeding as in heavy periods or undiagnosed bleeding within the bowel or elsewhere. Poor iron absorption can be caused by many factors including poor gut function, low vitamin B12, low stomach acid, and in certain medications.
Iron absorption can be reduced by certain dietary factors such as:
· Caffeine as well as some tannins found in tea and coffee, so it is best to have these drinks with your meals.
· Oxalates, found in kale, spinach, and chocolate.
· Phytates, found in wholegrains
· A lack of other nutrients in the diet such as Zinc, B12 and folate.
These are just a few of the dietary considerations around maintaining good iron levels. I will talk about the pros and cons of vegetarian verses meat diets in another article.
In the meantime, if you think you may be low in iron, or are experiencing unexplained tiredness, come in for a check-up. I can organise the relevant tests for you and guide onto a program to help maintain healthy iron levels.
Best regards, Deirdre Parkinson Registered Naturopath