Do You Get Enough Iron?

by Natalie on August 28, 2014

iron1Low iron is the most common micronutrient deficiency worldwide, mostly affecting pregnant and lactating women, and young children. 

It’s estimated that 17.4% of pregnant women in industrialized countries are iron deficient.

Who Else Is At Risk Of Iron Deficiency?

  • Infants and children, aged 6 mos to 4 years. Due to high iron requirements for growth. Plus, an infant’s iron stores run out at 6 months. That’s why it’s a great time for them to start eating solid foods!
  • Pre-teen and teen-aged girls due to rapid growth and onset of their period.
  • Pregnant women due to increased iron use and increased blood volume (iron requirements almost double during pregnancy!)
  • Vegans and Vegetarians. Iron from plant foods is not used as easily by the body.
  • Female athletes with intense training. The reason is not quite clear, but it’s commonly seen.

Why Is Iron Important?

  • Used to deliver oxygen to our body cells.
  • It helps to build new cells.
  • Critical for energy production.
  • Helps our bodies detoxify drugs and pollutants.
  • Helps our immune system work properly.
  • Iron deficiency in pregnancy increases the risk for pre-term labor, having a low birth weight baby, and even infant death.

Signs Of Iron Deficiency: 

  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Reduced immunity (catching every bug that comes around)
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Heart palpatations
  • Brittle and spoon shaped nails (center of the nail pushed in)
  • Sores at the corner of your mouth

Getting Tested for Iron Deficiency

Your doctor can run simple blood tests to see if you are iron deficient.

BUT A really important thing to know is that there are varying degrees of iron deficiency.

The basic tests for iron status (RBC’s, Hemoglobin, Hematocrit, Iron) may show up as normal, even if a mild to moderate iron deficiency in present.

So, yes, you may still have an iron deficiency happening before you start seeing changes in basic tests.

If you suspect you are iron deficient, I suggest urging your care provider to check for Ferritin.

Why Ferritin Is A Key Lab Test To Determine Iron Status

In simple terms, ferritin is the storage form of iron in your body. It will tell you how much stored iron you have.

If ferritin is low, it’s likely that you’re pulling from your stores because you’re not getting enough iron from your diet.

Low ferritin is the primary cause of hair loss among young women.

Normal ferritin levels are between 12-150 ng/mL. 40 ng/mL is required to stop hair loss and 70 ng/mL for hair re-growth, 90-110 for optimal thyroid function.

According to Dr. Mercola the general optimal range is between 40-60 ng/mL.

Last year I got my ferritin levels checked and I was at 30 ng/mL.. below the optimal range!

Since then, I have been working on increasing my levels to the optimal range.

And that’s exactly what I will be discussing in the next post of this 2-part series: How To Restore Low Iron Levels With Your Diet. In the upcoming post, I will be covering:

  • How much iron is needed daily.
  • Foods high in iron.
  • Why you may not be absorbing the iron you eat.
  • How to maximize iron absorption from your food.
  • Iron supplementation.

Have you ever had your ferritin levels tested? If yes, share your experience below by leaving a comment.

If you found this article helpful, don’t forget to “like it” and share it with other women who may need it.

References

  1. Wentz, I. (2013). Hashimoto’s thyroiditis: Lifestyle interventions for finding and treating the root cause. Izabella Wentz, PharmD.
  2. Linus Pauling Institute: Iron. Available at: http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/minerals/iron/. Accessed August 20, 2014.
  3. Position Paper: Nutrition and Lifestyle for a Healthy Pregnancy. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 114(7):1099-1103.

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