Family · Food · Health · Wellness

IRON

Today is the second installment of my exploration of Trace Mineral supplements and their benefits. Last week was our first installment (click here if you missed it). The next ingredient is iron. As you recall I am taking these trace minerals to help my muscles and ligaments.

 

Iron: The main function of iron is hemoglobin formation for transporting oxygen in your red blood cells throughout the body. It is a vital element for strengthening the immune system through oxygenation. Without iron, there would be no hemoglobin; without hemoglobin, there would be no oxygen. No oxygen, no healing! Iron is also important to muscle health. It is present in the muscle tissues and helps to provide the supply of oxygen required for contraction of muscles. Without it, muscles lose their tone and elasticity as well as their ability to heal from injuries or over use.

Our bodies cannot produce iron, therefore we must get all our iron from foods or supplements. However we are able to store some iron in our liver, spleen, and bone marrow or in myoglobin in muscle tissue. Since we are able to store extra iron in our bodies men are rarely iron deficient but 10% of women are (due to blood loss during menstruation). The RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) for iron (through food or supplementation) is 8mg for men aged 18-51 and for women it is 18mg (over age 51 the RDA is 8mg for both sexes). In childhood, boys and girls need the same amount of iron – 10mg daily from ages 4 to 8, and 8mg daily from ages 9 to 13. My supplement only contains 1.4g of iron so there’s no problem with getting too much iron from it.

Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) for Iron
Age Male Female Pregnancy Lactation
Birth to 6 months 0.27 mg* 0.27 mg*    
7–12 months 11 mg 11 mg    
1–3 years 7 mg 7 mg    
4–8 years 10 mg 10 mg    
9–13 years 8 mg 8 mg    
14–18 years 11 mg 15 mg 27 mg 10 mg
19–50 years 8 mg 18 mg 27 mg 9 mg
51+ years 8 mg 8 mg    

Good food sources of iron include: Liver (yuck), oysters, fortified cereals, cooked spinach (cooking increases the amount of iron our bodies can absorb from spinach), lentils, beans, pumpkin seeds, soybeans, chick peas, whole grains (like quinoa), and dark chocolate (another reason to eat chocolate, Yay!)

You might need more iron, either from dietary sources or from an iron supplement, if you:

  • Are pregnant or nursing
  • Have renal failure (especially if you are undergoing dialysis which can remove iron from the body)
  • Have an ulcer, which can cause blood loss
  • Have a gastrointestinal disorder that prevents your body from absorbing iron normally (such as celiac disease, Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis
  • Take too many antacids, which can prevent your body from absorbing iron
  • Have had bariatric surgery for weight loss
  • Work out a lot (intense exercise can destroy red blood cells)

If you are a vegetarian or vegan you may also need to take an iron supplement, because the body doesn’t absorb the type of iron found in plants as well as it absorbs the iron from meat.

An iron deficiency is known as Anemia (a condition marked by a deficiency of red blood cells or of hemoglobin in the blood).

Babies and small children who have anemia may:

  • Be fussy.
  • Have a short attention span.
  • Grow more slowly than normal.
  • Develop skills, such as walking and talking, later than normal.

Anemia in children must be treated so that mental and behavior problems do not last long.

An adult may not notice the onset of anemia because it develops slowly and the symptoms may be mild. In fact, you may not notice them until your anemia gets worse. As anemia gets worse, you may experience pale or “sallow” skin, fatigue, or have difficulty exercising, as well as:

  • Dizziness
  • Being grumpy or cranky
  • Headaches
  • Trouble concentrating
  • A fast heartbeat
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Crave strange substances such as dirt or clay
  • Have brittle and spoon shaped nails or hair loss
  • Sores at the corner of the mouth or a sore tongue
  • Severe iron deficiency can cause difficulty in swallowing

If you’re tired and dragging, see your doctor. It’s fairly easy to detect and diagnose the different stages of iron deficiency with a simple blood test; women should have their iron tested on a regular basis.

It’s difficult for adults to overdose on iron just from food and supplements, because an adult body has systems in place to regulate the amount of iron it absorbs. Children lack these systems and overdose can be deadly, so supplementation should be closely monitored and ALL iron containing vitamins should be kept out of the reach of children (to prevent accidental overdose).

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