What is iron-deficiency anaemia? This is when anaemia occurs as a result of iron deficiency causing a reduced concentration of haemoglobin.
SYMPTOMS OF IRON-DEFICIENCY ANAEMIA:
- Pale skin
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Dizziness or light-headedness
- Cold hands and feet
- Inflamed, sore tongue
- Brittle nails
- Fast heartbeat
- Unusual cravings
- Poor appetite
WHAT CAUSES IRON DEFICIENCY ANAEMIA?
Malabsorption is when you are unable to absorb nutrients during digestion. It is a disorder of the gastrointestinal tract which inhibits the absorption and transport of important nutrients through the permeable intestinal wall, this results in nutrient deficiencies.
If your body has defective digestion, you will be unable to absorb enough iron from foods to support the healthy and optimal functioning of your bodily systems. This then leads to a deficiency in iron stores and potentially, anaemia if the problem isn’t addressed.
So, malabsorption is the REASON you are iron deficient, but WHY is your digestion defective, resulting in malabsorption? You may have a condition that have damaged or impaired your absorption sites such as Crohn’s, Ulcerative Colitis or Celiac Disease. Do you have a parasite? A H. pylori infection? Have you undergone bariatric surgery?
DEFICIENT DIET INTAKE
Dietary iron has two main forms: heme and nonheme. Plants and iron-fortified foods contain nonheme iron only, whereas meat, seafood, and poultry contain both heme and nonheme iron.
As much as I would love to say otherwise, heme iron has higher bioavailability than nonheme iron. The bioavailability of iron is approximately 14% to 18% from mixed diets that include substantial amounts of meat, seafood, and vitamin C and 5% to 12% from vegetarian diets.
Believe it or not, the RDAs for vegetarians are 1.8 times higher than for people who eat meat. This is because heme iron from meat is more bioavailable than nonheme iron from plant-based foods, and meat, poultry, and seafood increase the absorption of nonheme iron
Don’t worry vegans! I am 90% vegan myself and it is still very possible to get a sufficient daily intake from plant-based foods! Vegans can still get their iron from citrus fruits, pumpkin seeds, green leafy vegetables, kidney beans, thyme, squash…
You don’t need to consume meat for iron, you really don’t. I’ve worked with loads of clients that ate plenty of meat but were still iron deficient. Why? Well, because dietary intake is not the full story. We need to consider the cofactors that are needed for proper iron absorption such as B6, folate, B12 and vitamin C! Looking at heavy metals, stress and different factors that can bind and not allow for proper iron utilisation is also essential!
Blood is made up of red blood cells, which contain iron. So, if you bleed excessively, you will lose a lot of iron. When this occurs over a period, iron deficiency can occur. This can lead to iron-deficiency anaemia.
I can’t even tell you the number of female clients I’ve worked with that had anaemia due to heavy periods. So, is it about supplementing with iron or perhaps a contraceptive pill to shut down ovulation? I don’t think so. It’s about addressing WHY the heavy periods in the first place. This is often due to estrogen dominance, and I’ve spoken about this in previous posts.
If your body requires more iron than usual, it can result in lower iron levels. This is why many pregnant women can experience iron deficiency, as their iron stores need to serve their own needs and the growing foetus.
Growth spurts in children is another example where their iron stores may not be able to keep up with the requirements of the growing child or teenager.
SUPPLEMENTING IRON & OVERCOMING YOUR DEFICIENCY
When doctors diagnose you with iron-deficiency, they are likely to prescribe iron supplements. Yes, I am fully on-board with supplementation and take multiple supplements a day, but with iron you do need to be a bit careful!
I recommend taking a plant-based iron, because a lot of the synthetic irons actually oxidise in the body, creating free radicals. For this reason, I am not an advocate of iron infusions.
Also, if you are supplementing, you need to be taking a vitamin C supplement alongside, so that it can be effectively transported to cells.
BUT, yes, there’s a ‘but’. Can you guess what I’m going to say? You need to get to the UNDERLYING ROOT CAUSE. When you work out WHY you are deficient in iron and address this at the source, you will no longer have to cover the symptoms at the surface.
WORKING OUT YOUR ROOT CAUSE
Looking at your diet, you may have a good idea on whether it is rich in iron or not, that is a good place to start. Next, you need to work out if there is a condition or malabsorption issue going on underneath. To work this out, I recommend functional lab tests, which you can do from the comfort of your own home.
Once you know why your body is iron deficient, you are then able to start healing from within with a targeted protocol.
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