Everything about dietary iron, deficiency symptoms and combat strategies
None of us can deny the importance of iron. It is the major building block of every structure on earth. Do you know, even the building of your body owes much to Iron? How? These two points will help you understand.
- Look at the colour of your blood. Has it any resemblance to the colour of a rusted piece of Iron? Exactly! The blood in your veins is red because it has iron. Blood contains a special protein called haemoglobin which carries oxygen from your lungs to the body tissues. Iron is an integral part of your haemoglobin. Conversely speaking, the absence or deficiency of iron in your body will make you deficient in Haemoglobin too. Can you imagine the consequences?
- Similarly, the flesh of animals you eat is also red. Is it? It also has an iron-containing protein called myoglobin. So, iron is required for your muscles too and iron deficiency can weaken the muscles of your body.
1. You need a proper diet to avoid iron deficiency
How one can avoid Iron deficiency? Iron is an essential part of your diet. Amazed? Of course, it would not be in the form of iron nails. Your diets have extremely minute quantities of iron. This iron is used for the synthesis of new molecules of haemoglobin which are regularly recycled. But, how much iron you should take daily to avoid deficiency symptoms? If you are not feeling any health problems, probably your daily iron intake is enough.
The dietary recommendations are;
- According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), an adult and healthy man needs 8 milligrams of iron in his diet daily.
- Adult women will need double this amount (18 milligrams) as long as their reproductive cycles (monthly periods) are active.
- After the end of this cycle, the daily need drops to the same level as men. The reason might be clear in your mind. An adult female has a more active blood regeneration system due to regular loss of blood during menstruation.
This amount may seem extremely small, but this is enough for your body. If all iron in your body is added up, it will amount to be 4 grams for an adult man. A female will have 3.5 grams and a child will have almost 3 grams. This is not more than the weight of a small-sized nail. Given that each haemoglobin molecule has only one atom of Iron in it, these 3-4 grams are sufficient for trillions of red blood cells present in your blood.
2. The iron deficiency would weigh heavily upon your body
The above explanation is enough for you to realize the possible consequences. Your body will not build enough haemoglobin. Your blood will become lesser red and its oxygen-carrying capacity will be reduced. A reduced supply of oxygen to the tissues will suppress the energy-producing reactions going on in your body. Your muscles will also be deprived of strength.
3. You might miss early symptoms of iron deficiency
Your body will try to manage the deficiency by improving the efficiency of iron usage. But, as the deficiency becomes prolonged, your start to note various symptoms of iron deficiency with increasing intensity e.g.,
- Severe fatigue
Your body becomes deficient in energy molecules due to decreased oxygen supply and you find it difficult to carry out regular activities.
- A lack of appetite
This symptom is particularly important for children.
- Unusual appetite and likeness for dust, ice or other non-nutritive substances.
- Sores on your tongue
- Cold extremities e.g., feet, hands and ears.
- Lightheadedness or dizziness
- Headache does not respond to any treatment.
- Increased heartbeat
This occurs because your body tries to cover the reduced oxygen in your blood by increasing the supply of blood.
- Chest pain
- This is due to the disturbance of blood flow to the lungs and increased respiration.
- Paleness of skin
- Yellow eyes
- Unintentional movement of the lower leg (restless leg syndrome)
- Abortion in pregnant females
- Death in infants
4. Take iron-rich foods to combat symptoms of iron deficiency is easy
So, you have realized the gravity of the consequences and did not want to be deficient in iron. What are you going to do? Off course, no one will advise you to eat nails or crushed iron powder. It is even useless for your body. Your body can’t absorb pure iron. Iron is absorbed from digested food from your small intestine. Your small intestine can absorb iron only if it is in an oxidized state (Fe2+- ferrous ions).
Only in this form, it can become a part of your body. Your doctor may advise you to take medications containing ferrous ions. But, do not in self judgemental. Follow the instructions of your physician if you feel you are feeling any symptoms of iron deficiency. Any excess use of iron can toxicate your body (iron toxicity).
Many food items are rich in iron and are recommended by dieticians for people complaining of iron deficiency symptoms. These are liver (factory of haemoglobin synthesis), red meat, kinds of seafood, dry fruits (particularly figs, apricots), fortified cereals, chicken, beans, spinach (and other dark green leafy vegetables), pumpkin seeds, eggs (each egg has 1.5-2 milligrams of iron), etc. Remember that milk has an almost negligible amount of iron. So, it is important to take a variety of foods.
The iron taken through natural things is useful because it is taken along with a host of other vitamins and minerals which help your body to properly absorb the iron.
5. Visit your doctor if symptoms of iron deficiency persist
So, you are feeling symptoms of iron deficiency and finding no help from your food? What should you do now? It is time to visit a doctor if you feel;
- Severe and prolonged weakness
- Water and heaviness in your belly
- Severe paleness of skin and yellowing of eyes
- Breathing problems.
These symptoms reflect that foods are not enough and that you need medical help to replenish the iron in your body.
Visiting a clinic may not be a good experience for many of you. So, it is important to have an eye on symptoms of iron deficiency and include iron-rich diets in your dieting plans. It is particularly important for pregnant and premenopausal females and kids. Stay safe and take care of your loved ones. Don’t forget to share this information with your friends and family members.
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