Iron Deficiency—Know Its Causes, Symptoms & Treatments

This article written for and published in Consumer Health Digest (10/07/17)

Iron Deficiency

Editor’s Note: This article has been recently updated with latest information and research studies.
Did you know that iron deficiency anemia affects more people than any other condition?[1] For some of you that may be surprising, given the fact that many people aren’t aware of the health concern and what it involves.

I was one of these people, until I was diagnosed with it myself a few years ago. The symptoms can be mild to severe and they usually develop over a period of time.

Unfortunately, many people don’t realize they have an iron deficiency and may attribute their troubles to something else (such as stress, a hormonal imbalance, another malady or just daily living).

With an estimated 1.6 billion people globally suffering from iron deficiency anemia, it is important to be aware of the problem, the cause, the symptoms and treatment.[2]

What Is Iron Deficiency Anemia?

Iron Deficiency Anemia

Iron deficiency anemia is a condition where your blood lacks adequate healthy red blood cells. It typically is caused by an insufficient amount of iron in the body. This can result from numerous causes including lack of iron in your diet, iron absorption issues, or blood loss in the body from an ulcer, polyp, cancer or some other illness.

It can also be caused by heavy periods in women, especially during perimenopause. Without enough iron, the body can’t produce* hemoglobin, which helps carry oxygen throughout the body and a multitude of symptoms can occur.[3]

Iron stores in the body, measured by your ferritin level (a protein in your blood) can also become depleted; leaving you feeling tired all of the time and operating at a low energy level. In addition, it may cause problems that affect your thinking and could affect your personality.

Common Symptoms Of Iron Deficiency Anemia Include:

Fatigue, Disorientation, Memory issues, Moodiness, Irritability, Depression, Hair loss, Anxiety, Sleepiness And More

Iron Deficiency Anemia Info

How Is Iron Deficiency Anemia Diagnosed?

If you are concerned about iron deficiency anemia, schedule a visit with your doctor. Your physician should ask you various questions about your health and symptoms. Most likely they will run a blood test to see if your hemoglobin level is low.

Keep in mind that hemoglobin levels vary for men, women and children and there is a set normal range for each. If your hemoglobin levels are normal however, but your symptoms still match those of iron deficiency, make sure your doctor also tests your ferritin levels, which shows the iron stores in your body.

It is possible to have a normal hemoglobin level and still be iron deficient. This was the case for me. Having an iron-binding test is also a good idea to observe the iron saturation level in your blood.

How Is Iron Deficiency Anemia Treated?

If your doctor determines you have an iron deficiency, don’t worry, it is treatable. Your doctor will feasibly prescribe taking iron supplements, which will help build your iron levels back up. They may recommend a certain dosage and particular brand, depending on your situation.

Most iron supplements contain around 25 mg of iron and should be taken with food and some sort of a vitamin C supplement (to help avoid stomach upset and aid* in absorption).

I found a vegetable-based iron supplement worked best for me, after trying several brands. Some iron supplements cause bloating, nausea or dark stools. Play around to find one that works best for you.

Additionally, your doctor will very likely suggest eating an iron-rich diet. This is important, as it takes time to bring your iron levels back to a normal range. Remember your iron level typically doesn’t get depleted overnight, so eating a healthy diet, including plenty of whole foods, will help boost* your body’s ability to build iron and function properly.

Your body needs a variety of nutrients to produce* skin, muscle, hair, fingernails, bone and more. Moreover, it needs nutrients for your blood to carry oxygen to all parts of the body and to carry out hosts of other bodily functions.
Most nutrients you need come from fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds and meat. Processed foods may contain some nutrients your body needs, but definitely not the same amount or the quality you get when you eat whole foods.

If you do choose to eat some processed foods, make sure you look for products fortified with iron, such as breads and cereal. Make sure you also read the packaging labels to determine the amount of iron contained in the product, as well as the other ingredients.

It is always best to avoid packaged items with a long list of ingredients, those with hard to pronounce names, additives and ones with sugar at the top of the list.

What Foods Will Help Build Iron?

There many foods available that contain iron to boost* your energy. Although not everyone eats meat, it is a good choice if you are iron deficient. Meat contains heme iron, which is found in animals and typically attached to proteins, called heme proteins.

Heme is the best source of iron for people who are iron deficient. Non-heme iron food choices are beneficial too. They can be found in vegetables, fruit, grains, nuts, some processed foods and iron supplements.[4]

Good Sources Of Heme Iron:

Beef, Chicken, Oysters, Turkey, Ham, Veal, Tuna, Liver, Salmon, Egg, Shrimp, Chicken Liver, Lamb and Pork Loin

Good Sources Of Non-Heme Iron:

  • Cereal
  • Beans – Bread
  • Potatoes
  • Noodles – Rice
  • Apricots
  • Raisins
  • Strawberries
  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Nuts (almonds, cashews, etc.)
  • Molasses
  • Broccoli[5]

Alternative Treatments To Try For Iron Deficiency Anemia

Acupuncture and Herbs

Besides taking iron supplements and eating an iron-rich diet, there are a number of other things you can try to build your iron including: acupuncture, herbs and essential oils.

Acupuncture has been used for centuries to treat* anemia and symptoms of tiredness, weakness and more.[6] Often times, it is used in conjunction with herbs to build and nourish the blood.

There are also a number of essential oils that can be beneficial to those suffering with iron deficiency. Lemon oil in particular helps stimulate the production of red and white blood cells.

I used to add a drop of lemon oil to my morning glass of water to help get my energy going for the day.

Other citrus oils such as grapefruit and orange can help promote iron absorption and alleviate* fatigue, as well. Make sure you choose a therapeutic grade and read up on application methods.

References

1 Wpadmin. “22 Shocking Iron Deficiency Anemia Statistics.” HRFnd. N.p., 23 Dec. 2014. Web. 01 Feb. 2017.
2 Wpadmin. “22 Shocking Iron Deficiency Anemia Statistics.” HRFnd. N.p., 23 Dec. 2014. Web. 01 Feb. 2017.
3 Mayo Clinic Staff Print. “Iron Deficiency Anemia.” Overview – Iron Deficiency Anemia – Mayo Clinic. N.p., 11 Nov. 2016. Web. 13 Feb. 2017.
4 “Iron We Consume.” Idi. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Dec. 2016. http://www.irondisorders.org/iron-weconsume/
5 “Top Iron-Rich Foods List.” WebMD. WebMD, n.d. Web. 13 Jan. 2017.
http://www.webmd.com/diet/iron-rich-foods#1
https://www.theacupunctureclinic.co.nz/acuncture-for-anemia/

Image Credits
Feature Image: Shutterstock.com
In-Post Image: www.medindia.net & Shutterstock.com

Fibrous Fruit—Spotlight On The Health Benefits Of The Pear

In this blog, I wanted to spotlight the health benefits of the pear.

Pear

Pears are a popular choice for many consumers, especially in the fall when they are abundant. Like the banana and apple, pears are convenient to eat and are quite tasty. They are sweet and have a soft, appealing texture. Pears are loaded with many nutrients that help your body function optimally too.

Some nutrients in pears include:

  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin K
  • Copper
  • Iron
  • Magnesium
  • Manganese
  • And more

Pears grow on trees that produce a high energy, nutrient dense fruit. While pears do contain some natural sugar, they are one of the lowest calorie fruits available. Pears contain right around 100 calories, making them a popular choice for many people, especially those looking to lose weight. Pears contain a healthy amount of fiber, which is beneficial for the digestion process. The high fiber content, which helps make you feel full, coupled with an assortment of vitamins and minerals, makes the pear a perfect food choice and delicious snack.

pear tree

There are other health benefits of the pear too. Pears are an anti-inflammatory food and can help boost your immune system, which is great, especially for those suffering from arthritis and autoimmune diseases. Pears also help lower blood pressure and cholesterol and are beneficial in the prevention of a number of different forms of cancers. In addition, pears help improve blood circulation and may help build your red blood cell count, making them a good choice for many, especially those dealing with iron deficiency anemia.

Pears come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors. In fact, there are approximately 3000 different species of pears available world-wide.  Wow—that’s quite an assortment. Some varieties look similar to the apple, where others have more of an elongated look and still others have several color tones, making them unique.

pear varieties

Pears can eaten for breakfast, enjoyed as a snack, or mixed in your favorite smoothie or bowl with other healthy ingredients. There are many possibilities.  Some people enjoy baking with pears too. Pears make a tasty pie, cobbler, crisp, muffins and more.

Make sure you reach for this nutrient dense fruit, while it is in season to enjoy its many health benefits.

Thanks for reading!

Barb

Source:

https://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/fruit/pears.html

Jolly, Rajan Singh. “The Nutritional And Health Benefits Of Pears.” HubPages, HubPages, 3 Jan. 2016, hubpages.com/health/The-Nutritional-And-Health-Benefits-Of-Pears.

10 Iron-Rich Foods To Sustain Your Energy…

Did you know that iron deficiency anemia affects more people than any other condition?¹

That’s right! For some of you that may be surprising or alarming, given the fact that many people aren’t aware of the symptoms or the condition. I was one of these people, that is until a few years ago, when I was diagnosed with it myself and had to deal with the ailment. In my new book, Wholey Cow A Simple Guide To Eating And Living, which is available on Amazon, I talk a little bit about the causes of iron deficiency and how it lead me on a path to learning more about nutrition. I also talk about how eating a healthy diet and living a healthy life-style can help with a host of health problems, including vitamin deficiencies. In this blog, I wanted to share some information on 10 iron-rich foods that can help sustain your energy, whether you are iron deficient, or not.

Let’s take a look…

  1. Spinach—

    Spinach is rich in many minerals and nutrients that are beneficial to your body. It contains non-heme iron, which is the type of iron found in plant-based foods. When I was diagnosed with iron deficiency anemia, I started eating a lot of this leafy green, as I needed to consume a certain amount of iron-rich foods. I also added spinach to my morning smoothies, as well as other main dishes I would cook. Many people enjoy spinach salad, but this powerhouse vegetable can be added to many entrees. Try adding it to your spaghetti sauce, chow mein, lasagna, stir-fries and more for added energy and nutrients.
  2. Kale—

    Kale is another green that is rich in iron. In fact, kale contains more iron than spinach. (Kale contains 6 % iron, where spinach contains 5%.) Kale is also rich in fiber and other vitamins including vitamin A, B6, C, folate, calcium, copper and more. Kale has a unique taste and a texture that is course and dense. Some people like kale salads, while others may mix it with other greens. Kale can also be added to smoothies and can be eaten raw or cooked. It can also be added to other main dishes for an added boost of vitamins and minerals. I enjoy kale, as well as spinach. Give it a try if want to add more nutrients to your diet.
  3. Black Beans—

    Black Beans are not only good for you, but taste great. It is no wonder they are a popular food in many cultures. They are rich both in iron and fiber and also contain plenty of protein. They also contain other valuable vitamins and minerals including calcium and manganese and have trace amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, which are good for you. Black beans have a dense texture and can be eaten alone, or added to other entrees or dishes such as rice or quinoa. I like to add black beans to taco meat and rice. I also like to eat black beans as a side dish. They are delicious heated with a little spinach, onions, tomatoes, and spices including tumeric and cajun. Give it a try if you like, or come up with your own favorite recipe.
  4. Beef—

    Beef is rich in heme iron, which is found in animals and attached to proteins. If you happen to be iron deficient, heme iron is the best source of iron for your body. That is why I eat beef several times a week. Growing up, I ate a lot of beef, but as I got older, I kind of got tired of it. Over time however, my body began to let me know I needed to add more of it back into my diet. If you enjoy beef, know that you are getting a healthy dose of iron, as well as other vitamins and minerals. Keep in mind that a serving of beef, or other meat should only be the size of your fist.
  5. Chicken—

    Chicken also contains heme iron and other vitamins. It is a popular choice for many consumers and can be prepared in a variety of ways. Many people enjoy it as a main entree, or use it in other dishes such as pasta, enchilada’s, stir fries, etc. Chicken is also a healthy addition to salads and various side dishes. Again—Keep in mind that a serving of chicken should also be the size of your fist.
  6. Eggs—

    Eggs have been a  staple in the diets of many consumers for years. It’s not surprising, as eggs contain protein, carbohydrates and fat. They are also a good source of choline and iron, which is found in the yolks. Eggs contain a healthy mix of both heme and non-heme iron, making them unique. Eggs can be prepared in a variety of ways and are a popular breakfast item. I like to add a variety of vegetables and meat to my eggs to enhance their flavor, as well as their nutritional value. Feel free to add whatever vegetables you enjoy with your eggs to help boost their nutritional value.
  7. Nuts—

    Nuts are a great snack food and are not only delicious, but nutritious. It is no wonder they are a  a popular snack choice for many consumers. Nuts are loaded with many healthful nutrients too including protein, vitamin E, magnesium, selenium and copper. They also contain healthy fats (MUFAS), which your body needs and craves. Many nuts are also rich in iron, which helps deliver oxygen to your cells. It is especially important for those with iron deficiency anemia and works to prevent it as well. I enjoy almonds, cashews and other varieties of nuts daily. Make sure you grab a handful of nuts to snack on to enjoy their health benefits.
  8. Strawberries—

    Strawberries are a popular fruit and enjoyed by many consumers. They are sweet, delicious and loaded with a variety of vitamins and minerals. They actually are considered a super food since they are nutrient dense and promote well-being. Strawberries contain vitamin C, which helps promote eye health and immunity. They are also rich in fiber, which helps aid digestion and contains some iron, which helps to carry oxygen throughout your body. Snack of this tasty fruit and enjoy its many healthy benefits.
  9. Apricots—

    While there are many varieties of fruits, the apricot is considered one of the healthiest in the world.² It is loaded with healthful nutrients and has many benefits. Apricots contain vitamin C, vitamin A, potassium and contain plenty of fiber. They also contain a healthy dose of iron, which is a vital element for muscle and brain health and also works to regulate body temperature. Although I like apricots, it wasn’t a fruit a bought a lot of. When I developed iron deficiency anemia however, I began buying dried apricots to snack on. They are sweet and make a healthy snack.
  10. Pumpkin Seeds—

    If you are looking for a crunchy, tasty snack, why not try some healthful seeds such as pumpkin seeds? They are good for you and packed with a bunch of feel-good nutrients. Pumpkin seeds contain a variety of nutrients including magnesium, manganese, zinc, protein, and copper. They are also high in fiber and are a good source of iron and omega 3 fats.  You can eat them alone, or add them to yogurt, smoothies and more.

Thanks for reading!

Barb

Source:

¹Wpadmin. “22 Shocking Iron Deficiency Anemia Statistics.” HRFnd. N.p., 23 Dec. 2014. Web. 15 May 2017.

²Nandy, Priyadarshini. “8 Amazing Apricot Benefits: The Nutritional Heavyweight Among Fruits.” Food.ndtv.com. N.p., 19 Apr. 2016. Web. 16 May 2017.

³”9 Amazing Health Benefits of Pumpkin Seeds.” Mercola.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 May 2017.