Iron – are you getting enough?
Signs you may have a deficiency and the golden rules for maximising your absorption.
Low iron levels are commonly seen in clinical practice – especially in pre-menopausal women. If you experience fatigue and tiredness, brain fog, anxiety and a low immune system, read on as this may apply to you.
Iron plays an important role in the production of red blood cells which transport oxygen around the body. Having oxygen-rich blood is essential for energy maintenance, mental clarity, immune and digestive function and cellular health. Poor skin, hair and nails is a sign your levels may be low.
Getting enough dietary iron is essential as our body cannot make it itself. The people at greatest risk of deficiency are pre-menopausal women (due to menstruation), those with poor nutritional intake, digestive absorption and gut issues and women who are pregnant or lactating. If you are vegetarian or vegan, you are at increased risk because we absorb less from plant-based iron sources (dark leafy greens, legumes, grains, nuts and seeds).
Phytates found in some plant foods have been found to interfere with iron absorption, especially if you’re eating them raw. The best way to maximise your absorption is double your consumption of iron-rich plant foods, lightly cook them or combine with a source of vitamin C to ensure you’re meeting your daily nutritional requirements. Veggies such as broccoli and bok choy are both Vitamin C and iron rich, or combine your greens & lentils with citrus fruits or berries. Keep your caffeinated drinks well away from your meals too to further prevent impaired absorption.
If you would like to supplement, first get full iron studies done via blood pathology as this provides the complete picture. And, this is where I come in. It’s always best to consult with your health practitioner before supplementing to ensure firstly that you need it, and secondly that the dosage is correct for your current levels and won’t compete or contraindicate with anything else you’re taking. Most off the shelf supplements cause constipation, so taking a practitioner- only dispensed product is the best way to go.