It might surprise you to know that Iron deficiency is now reported as the most common nutrient deficiency worldwide!
Affecting people in both developed and undeveloped countries, this issue is most commonly found in women and is often not even considered by those of us living a hectic lifestyle as the reason we suffer from fatigue.
Now, as someone who takes a proactive approach to health, I had an intense feeling of shock but also relief in finding out I was Anemic. I knew my diet was balanced, rest time had not been neglected and I wasn't pushing myself physically as I was aware of my body’s lack of drive to push further.
Thankfully this proactive approach led to me visiting a Functional Medicine Practitioner on a quarterly basis to check my ‘Nutrient Markers’ & this was what allowed me to take swift action on my iron deficiency.
What does Iron do in the body?
Iron is an essential nutrient that provides oxygen and energy to the body. It's the fundamental building block of our red blood cells. I like to refer to this as a ‘lifeforce’. A lack of iron leads to anaemia, a condition in which there is a deficiency of red cells or of haemoglobin in the blood, resulting in pallor and weariness. As a woman, you need approx 12 to 15 grams of iron per decilitre of blood in your body to maintain your health. For a man, this is higher, at 13 to 17 grams per decilitre.
Symptoms of a lack of iron include fatigue, disturbed sleep, restless legs, hair shedding, cravings for ice and impaired memory.
Iron deficiency is measured through both Ferritin & Transferrin that store and carry iron around the body.
The causes of Iron deficiency are most commonly thought to stem from a lack of absorption or loss of blood. So vegetarians without a varied diet can be at risk, those pursuing endurance sports with excessive perspiration, women with heavy menstrual cycles or following on from a pregnancy and those with poor gut health. 10% of women are iron deficient and anaemic at any one point in their lifetime.
Treating Iron deficiency should always be considered firstly from a preventative standpoint through a balanced diet, it’s also worth noting that drinking directly before & after meals actually reduces nutrient absorption, however Vitamin C can help Iron absorption.
Around 2-5mg a day can help to ‘top up’ iron stores but the dosage for Iron supplement is around 200mg three times a day, despite absorption being around 16mg which means it can take a while (around 4-6 weeks) to stabilise a deficiency, with side effects also including constipation.
I recently opted for an iron transfusion by intravenous injection, which was developed to provide a dose within 30 minutes and can replace your iron stores in one visit. The doctor will typically give 1000mg to 1600mg depending on where your iron levels are so within a few days you could be feeling much, much better.
With all the goodwill in the world if our body is lacking vital nutrients to function we will not be able to operate in our optimal state. This is why I always recommend to work closely with a functional medicine practitioner, you can read more about that in my previous blog here.
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