Do I Need Iron Supplements?
Iron is one of those tricky things. When you are low in iron, it can masquerade in all sorts of ways, making you think that you are coming down with some rare sort of illness.
Our bodies need iron to thrive and have to replenish the stores every day with iron from food and other sources.
How can you tell if you are low in iron? And would taking iron supplements help?
What does Iron do for us?
Iron is one of the most essential and vital minerals in the human body, and is contained in all human cells. Most important in our red blood cells, iron gives us the energy and health we need to be able to function.
If you are low in iron, then you will feel tired and fatigued and your immune system won’t work properly. You will be more run down, find it harder to concentrate, and you will be more at risk of catching viruses like stomach bugs, colds, and flu.
A healthy thriving body needs iron to face every day, and a surprisingly high number of adults are low in iron. It is estimated that up to 20% of women of childbearing age may suffer from iron deficiency.
Your body gains strength and health from iron stores in a number of different ways:
- Iron boosts hemoglobin in the blood which helps to transport oxygen around your body. Women who suffer from heavy periods, people with anemia and anyone who has lost blood through injury feel much better by replenishing their iron levels.
- Iron reduces fatigue and gives your body more energy to function
- Iron boosts your immune system and helps you to fight illness and infection
- Iron boosts your muscle strength and can help athletes repair from injury
- Iron helps people to sleep better and can successfully treat sleep apnoea and insomnia among other sleep disorders
- Improves cognition and concentration by helping to improve focus and attention levels
- Iron also reduces the appearance of bruising
How to tell if you are low in Iron
You can have all sorts of health concerns which are a result of being low in iron. If you are always feeling tired and foggy and unable to sleep and run down and if you are continually getting sick, these can all be symptoms of being low in iron.
Other signs that your body may be low in iron include pale skin, shortness of breath, dizziness, headaches, fast heartbeat, brittle nails, cold hands, and feet, tingling in your legs or even a sore or swollen tongue.
The only way to tell for certain if you are low in iron is to get a blood test from your doctor.
But if you suspect that you might be low in iron, you can start to eat more foods that contain iron and this won’t really hurt. You can’t really overdose on iron from food sources.
It is possible to have too much iron through supplements, with no one recommended to have over around 40mg of iron daily. Talk to your doctor before adding an iron supplement to your diet.
We need to eat enough of the right foods to keep our iron levels high, and for most people, food alone should be enough of a source. But many people suffer from a condition or illness that means their iron levels are depleted, and they may need an extra source.
Some people who might be low in iron include:
- Pregnant women
- People on vegan or vegetarian diets
- People who suffered from anemia
- Women with heavy menstruation or suffering from endometriosis
- People with kidney disease
- People undergoing chemotherapy treatment
- People with heart disease
- People with Chron’s disease
- People suffering from celiac disease
Many people are low in iron, while some have a deficiency which is at dangerous levels.
Food Sources of Iron
Adults in general need at least 8mg of iron daily to thrive, with women regularly menstruating needing 18mg, and pregnant women and people suffering from anemia needing up 27mg daily.
While supplements are an excellent way to make sure you reach these levels, your body processes iron better if you get your iron from food. It is also easier for your system to absorb the benefits of the iron if it comes from animal-based sources.
Foods that are high in iron content:
- Red meat and offal
- Poultry including chicken, duck and turkey
- Green leafy vegetables including spinach, kale, silverbeet, and broccoli
- Beans, lentils and peas
- Nuts, dried fruit, and seeds
- Some fortified grains and cereals
Foods and supplements that are high in Vitamin C can help your body to absorb more iron if eaten at the same time, which is often why iron supplements contain vitamin C as well.
It is worth noting that coffee, tea, and wine can get in the way of your body absorbing iron from food, as can dairy foods and those that are high in calcium.
Side Effects of Iron
Some people suffer from side effects of taking iron supplements including an upset stomach, constipation, and changes in your stools and bowel movements.
Iron supplements can interact with some medications including antacids and antibiotics, which is why you should discuss taking a supplement with your doctor before starting.
Iron supplements and products
This iron supplement is readily available and helps to improve your iron levels, including the extra boost of vitamin C to make the iron more effective.
This is a supplement especially designed for women to help them increase their iron levels during child-bearing years.
This natural liver and iron supplement is high in B12 to help with energy and thyroid support. It is also rich in vitamins and amino acids including A, folate, zinc, riboflavin, copper, and choline.
Sourced from grass-fed New Zealand cows.
This a natural iron supplement that comes in sachets and is gently and easily absorbed.