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Case Study: Title- Iron and your Health

With a multitude of roles in our bodies, Iron is a very critical factor to overall health and wellness.

Why is Iron important?

The most well-known role of Iron is as an important component of the protein hemoglobin found in red blood cells. Hemoglobin helps carry oxygen from your lungs to the remainder of your body providing all of your body tissues with what they need to be metabolically active. Iron also helps control cell growth and differentiation as well as supports energy production as well as supports the function of your brain, immune system, metabolism and your endocrine system.

As you can see, Iron is involved in a lot and therefore needs to be at adequate levels to support your body’s needs. Having too much or too little of this essential mineral can impact your health significantly. Excess Iron can be hereditary or due to other factors and can speed up the process of many major diseases including heart and liver disease. It is therefore important to screen for this with your doctor and determine if this is of concern.

Today, I want to discuss in more detail Iron deficiency as this is seen often at Integrative Health and is commonly a culprit for many of my patient’s chief concerns.

Iron deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency in the United States, and women are among those at greatest risk.

How would I feel if my Iron was low?

Some common signs and symptoms of iron begin low can include:

  • Extreme fatigue
  • Dry and/or pale skin
  • Brittle nails
  • Hair thinning or loss
  • Frequent infections
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Difficulty concentrating or focusing
  • Swollen puffy tongue
  • Muscle cramping and Restless leg syndrome

Some Health conditions associated with low iron levels

  • Hypothyroidism
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Depression/anxiety
  • Attention deficit or hyperactivity
  • Neurodegenerative disease
  • Celiac disease
  • Muscle weakness
  • Memory loss

What can cause Iron to be low?

There are many factors that can contribute to Iron level decline and this is why it is important to regularly screen for this with your doctor and discuss risk factors. A few main reasons contributing to low iron include:

  • Menstruation. In fact, 12-19% of women are iron deficient due to heavy menses.
  • Exercise. The exact mechanism is unknown but it is theorized that athletes need more RBCs (red blood cells) to carry oxygen to tissue and therefore this increased demand can affect Iron stores.
  • Iron depleting medications. Many antibiotics, digestive antacids, cholesterol lower agents and blood pressure meds can deplete your stores of iron over time.
  • Regular blood loss. Chronic conditions such as peptic ulcer disease or other digestive blood loss are serious concerns and need to be ruled out if a significant iron deficiency is of recurrence.
  • Other chronic conditions such a kidney disease. The kidneys are involved in the synthesis of RBCs (red blood cells) by producing the glycoprotein Erythropoietin.

What blood tests help to determine if this is a concern for me?

It is important to screen for both circulating Iron in your body as well as Iron stores. Recall – if the amount of iron needed is reached, iron can be stored in the body. Some tests to ask your doctor about include an Iron Panel as well as the storage indicator Ferritin.

As with any laboratory value, there are “normal” levels and “optimal” levels. Because of this, it is important to get these values checked regularly and discuss with your doctor if this may be contributing to some of your concerns.

How can I boost my Iron levels?

Diet is a huge source of our intake of iron. Though animal-based iron is more readily absorbed and therefore more bioavailable, plants also serve as a great source of iron. Foods containing high amounts of iron include: organ meats such as liver, red meat, dark poultry meat, clams, seaweed, dark green leafy vegetables (kale, chard, spinach, broccoli), peas, legumes, seeds, and quinoa.

2 FUN FACTS

**  Consuming iron-rich foods with vitamin C can help improve bioavailability of the iron in the food
**  Try to avoid “iron-fortified” foods, as these contain inorganic iron that is lesser quality and can lead to gastrointestinal upset as well as promote oxidative stress in the body.

  • Supplementation is an additional way to ensure you are getting adequate amounts of Iron in daily, dependent upon your need. The amount of supplemented iron varies from individual to individual and therefore it is important to discuss this with your doctor. There are also many different forms of Iron available in supplement form and some are more absorbable and bioavailable than others.
  • Iron IVs – When vitamin and mineral status is very low in the body, it is often difficult and can take a significant amount of time to build these levels up. Intravenous Iron is a great tool to help provide a loading dose of Iron directly into the bloodstream that is then readily utilized by the body. I often accompany an oral supplementation regimen with a series of Iron IVs to helps support my patients and have received reports of rapid improvements in energy, stamina, mental clarity as well as reversal or hair loss.
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