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Iron Deficiency and Sources of Iron

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Iron Deficiency and Sources of Iron

Iron is an essential mineral for the human body. It is necessary for the production of haemoglobin (red blood corpuscles) and myoglobin (present in muscles) as well as for certain enzymes.

On average each adult has about 4g of iron in his or her body and, as most of this is accounted for by haemoglobin and blood cells are replaced every 120 days or so, a continual intake of iron is required for optimum health.

During the course of a month women lose almost twice as much iron as men. This helps to explain the fact that iron, along with calcium, are the two major dietary deficiencies seen in women.

For iron to be assimilated by the body other minerals and vitamins are also required. Copper, cobalt, manganese and vitamin C are all necessary for this to happen and, in turn, iron itself is required for proper metabolism of the B vitamins.

Lethargy and headaches

Symptoms of iron deficiency

A lack of sufficient iron can lead to iron-deficiency anaemia. This is the most common cause of anaemia in the UK. Many people suffering from anaemia do not show any symptoms for quite some time. However, when symptoms do appear they often include lethargy, weakness, feeling faint and dizzy spells. These symptoms can then progress and become more severe leading to shortage of breath, palpitations, headaches, sore gums and mouth. Sufferers from iron-deficiency anaemia may begin to look pale and generally less healthy.

How can we ensure a sufficient intake of iron?

For those who are concerned about their iron levels there are a number of options:

Firstly, if you have any of the symptoms of iron deficiency mentioned above, or you are at all concerned, you should, of course, consult your doctor. He or she will be able to test your iron levels as well as checking that any symptoms are not connected to any other conditions

However, many people do not exhibit any symptoms, but do choose to take an iron supplement to boost their iron levels as they recognise that many lifestyle factors can affect the amount of iron that is available and absorbed by the body. As has been mentioned, women in particular can be prone to iron deficiency, but other factors that can inhibit absorption include high consumption of tea or coffee, Antacid drugs such as Prilosec and high intake of calcium.

When choosing an iron supplement it is worth looking for a formulation that contains organic iron such as ferrous gluconate, ferrous fumerate, ferrous peptonate or ferrous citrate as these, unlike ferrous sulphate, do not destroy vitamin E. In addition, a gentle, non-constipating formula might be preferred as well as one that has the iron in a chelated form to help to ensure maximum effective absorption of the iron by the body. Such formulations can be found in products like Vega Iron Bisglycinate and Veganicity Chelated Iron.

Vega Iron Bisglycinate

Veganicity Chelated Iron

It is also possible to increase your dietary intake of iron by including more iron-rich foods in your diet. Some good natural sources of iron for vegetarians and vegans are:

Sources of Iron
Sources of iron

Food
Dried peaches
Sesame seeds
Pumpkin seeds
Pine nuts
Kidney beans
Quinoa
Asparagus
Sun-dried tomatoes
Molasses
Flaxseed
Oatmeal
Cashew nuts
Seaweed

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