Commonly found in meat, eggs, cereal and certain vegetables, iron is an essential mineral that’s used by our bodies to transport oxygen through the bloodstream. It allows for the production of new red blood cells, which in turn transport oxygen to organs and tissue. Unfortunately, millions of people don’t consume enough iron in their diet, placing them at risk for anemia and other related conditions. According to the American Family Physician (AFP), 2% of all adult men suffer from an iron deficiency, while millions of women also suffer from this condition.
What Is Iron Deficiency?
Iron deficiency is a medical condition in which a person’s body doesn’t have a sufficient amount of iron to meet its needs. The mineral iron is used for several bodily functions, including the facilitation of oxygen enzymes, transporting electrons and, most importantly, producing red blood cells. Statistics show that about two-thirds of all the iron in a person’s body is inside his or her blood cells. People who don’t consume enough iron will struggle to produce a sufficient supply of iron, resulting in iron deficiency.
According to the Office of Dietary Supplements, the recommended daily intake of iron for children aged 2 to 11 is 16.3 mg. For men, the recommended daily intake is 19.3 to 20.5 mg. For women, the recommended daily intake is 17 to 18.9 mg. But many people fell well short of achieving this much iron in their diet. While iron deficiency may not cause any immediate harm to your health, it’s still a troublesome condition that should be addressed.
Symptoms of Iron Deficiency
Symptoms of iron deficiency vary depending on whether or not it has progressed to anemia as well as the person’s own body chemistry. With that said, some of the most common symptoms include:
- Hair loss
- Muscle tremors
- Weak, brittle nails
- Restless leg syndrome
- Suppressed immune system
- Cold fingers or toes
- Bodily inflammation
- Hunger cravings
- Shortness of breath
Risk Factors of Iron Deficiency
Several risk factors play a role in iron deficiency, one of which is blood cells. The average person’s body contains about 1.2 to 1.5 gallons of blood in which three-quarters of their iron is stored. If you sustain a laceration or other physical injury that involves the breakage of your skin, you’ll probably lose some of this blood. Depending on how much blood you lose, it may cause a significant drop in your body’s iron levels.
Iron-Deficiency Anemia: What You Should Know
The biggest health concern of iron deficiency is anemia. Men and women who don’t consume enough iron typically have a lower red blood cell count than their counterparts who do consume a sufficient amount of iron. Also known anemia, a low red blood cell count can affect your body in many ways. At first, the symptoms are usually mild and may not even be noticeable. As iron-deficiency anemia increases, however, symptoms will become progressively worse.
Diagnosing Iron Deficiency
You can’t rely strictly on self-evaluation of symptoms to determine if you are suffering from iron deficiency. Rather, you should schedule an appointment with a practitioner to have your blood tested. A simple in-office blood test can reveal how much iron is in your body and whether or not you are deficient of this vital mineral.
Increase Your Iron Intake With the Right Foods
If a blood test reveals that you are suffering from iron deficiency, you should try to include more iron-rich foods in your diet. Iron is naturally found in a variety of foods, some of which include:
- Beef liver
- Ginger root
- Sesame seeds
- Pumpkin seeds
Consider Taking an Iron Supplement
In addition to eating the right foods, you can also increase your iron intake by taking an iron supplement. Also known as iron salts, iron supplements are pills that contain the mineral iron. According to Wikipedia, they’ve been around for hundreds of years, with some of the first reported uses of iron supplements dating all the way back to 1681. Since then, they’ve become increasingly popular, with health stores across the world selling them. Iron supplements are even listed on the World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) List of Essential Medicines. By including an iron supplement in your daily regimen, your body will produce more red blood cells, thereby lowering your risk of iron deficiency anemia.
Iron deficiency is a common problem from which millions of men and women in the United States suffer. The good news is that it’s usually a treatable condition that can be reversed with the right dietary and lifestyle changes. First, however, you should have your blood tested to analyze your body’s iron content. Only then can you make the appropriate changes to your diet and lifestyle to achieve adequate iron levels.
To learn more about Atlanta Chiro and Wellness’s integrative medicine and health services, contact us today.Share