Iron is one mineral that is important to keep at the optimum level. On one hand iron is often described as the most common nutritional deficiency; on the other, excess iron can be a serious problem for many people.
Iron’s main function in the body is as a component of the oxygen-carrying protein hemoglobin found in red blood cells. Severe iron deficiency results in anemia which impairs the blood’s ability to carry oxygen to the cells of the body. Symptoms include: fatigue, pale skin, poor appetite and low resistance to infection. Three groups most affected by iron deficiency are: growing children, pregnant and breastfeeding women, and pre-menopausal and elderly women. Anemia can also be caused by hidden internal bleeding so should be investigated.
A common genetic condition called hemochromatosis increases absorption of iron which then builds up in the body affecting the liver, pancreas and heart. Men aged 50 or more are most commonly affected. The best treatment is frequent blood donation (although the donated blood cannot be used). A simple blood test can tell you if you have enough, too much, or insufficient iron.
If you are deficient, you can increase consumption of iron rich foods like liver, red meat, egg yolk, legumes and leafy green vegetables like spinach. Spinach by the way is not the iron super power that Popeye thought – a transcribing error in 1870 showed it having 35mg/100g instead of 3.5, an error that wasn’t caught until 1937. Cooking in a cast iron pan is another easy way to add iron to your diet.
There is a variety of iron supplements available, should they be necessary. Inorganic iron salts are not recommended as they are poorly absorbed and tend to be constipating. Ferrous fumarate is a better, organic form. For people with a sensitive digestive system, ferrous bisglycinate chelate is a form that doesn’t cause constipation or diarrhea. The best iron supplements, in my opinion, are the organic herbal iron tonics with a small amount of a highly bio-available form of iron.
For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.