• Elianni Gaio

Understanding Iron Imbalances - Part 1 Iron Deficiency Anemia - Causes, Symp

Approximately fifty percent of individuals worldwide have a health concern triggered or exacerbated by iron imbalance.

The severity of symptoms caused by iron imbalances vary from imperceptible or mild to severe and even fatal.

Iron-deficiency anemia is the most commonly recognized iron imbalance condition that affects one third of the global population.

On the other hand, iron overload affects 35 million people worldwide. So, it is less common but, a lot misdiagnosed because iron overload is not usually tested by conventional doctors.

A balance of vital micronutrients is needed for optimal health consequently, either deficiency or overexposure to essential nutrients has evident consequences on health and disease states.

Iron is a vital micronutrient needed to support essential biological process such as:

. production of red blood cells and to make hemoglobin (transport oxygen to the tissues and cells in the body), and myoglobin (stores oxygen in the muscles, which allows them to work)

. essential component of hundreds of other proteins and enzymes

. dna synthesis

. cell division

. conversion of blood sugar to energy (allows muscles to work at their optimum during exercise)

. immune system efficient functioning

. normal neurological function

. neurotransmitters

. physical and mental growthIron is a vital micronutrient needed to support essential biological process such as:

. hormones

However, as you read below iron deficiency is one of the most common nutritional condition worldwide.

These are the two common causes of iron deficiency:

1 - Increased demand by:

. heavy periods

. pregnancy

. medications

. supplementation

. increased blood loss or surgeries

. gastrointestinal bleeding

. excessive donations

. alcohol abuse

. heavy metal poisoning

2 - Decreased intake by:

. vegetarian and vegan diets

. foods that prevents iron absorption (proper preparation of seeds and grains)

. use of PPIs (proton prompt inhibitors) or antacids

. low stomach acid

. celiac disease

. gastrointestinal bleeding

. autoimmune disease

. hormonal imbalances

. maternal iron status around and during pregnancy

. inadequate intake of iron

. infections

. blood loss

. impairment of mucosal absorption

The most at risk population for developing iron deficiency include:

. women

. pregnancy

. multiple pregnancies

. children

. the elderly

. vegetarian and vegan diet

. endurance athletes – or those who performs intense exercise

. heavy periods

. increased blood loss, as in the case of surgery

. people with IBD (inflammatory bowel disease)

. celiac

. long term PPIs users

. alcoholics

. atrophic gastritis

. African American and Hispanic women

Iron deficiency symptoms vary from mild to severe, and may include:

. fatigue

. rapid heart rate

. palpitations, and rapid breathing on exertion

. restless legs

. infections

. poor mental function

. brain fog

. reduced exercise tolerance

. inability to maintain proper body temperature

. brittle and spoon-shaped nails

. sores at the corner of the mouth

. poor thyroid function and impaired thyroid hormone synthesis

. difficult of swallowing

. impairment psychomotor development in children inducing short and long-term behavior and cognitive alterations

. pica (is an eating disorder that involves eating items that are not typically thought of as food such as hair, dirt, and paint chips)

Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for Iron: (remember that the RDA is the amount required to avoid acute deficiencies symptoms and not the amount required for optimal health) you need to be thinking about it at a much deeper level and considering all of your individual patients’ circumstances.

It is really important to understand that dietary iron is present in two specific forms (heme iron and non-heme iron). Thus, because they have different forms, they are absorbed by the intestinal mucosa completely different from each other.

Heme iron is the iron form that is easily absorbed by the intestine and is the key source of dietary iron that is primarily found in animal products such as meat, fish and seafood and poultry.

Non-heme iron is the iron form found in both plants and animal products (animal products contain a combination of the two types of iron: heme and non-heme).

Whereas, non-heme iron has its bioavailability inhibited by other substances commonly consumed in our diets such as coffee, tea, dairy products, supplementary fiber and calcium. Also, by the consumption of unproperly prepared grains and seeds.

Non-heme iron is the form of iron found in our diet in seeds, grains, legumes (properly prepared), salads, vegetables, fruits, and also, found in animal products, eggs and dairy products

The highest sources of heme iron are:

. clam

. chicken liver

. oyster

. octopus

. beef liver

. venison

. mussel

. beef chuck

. bison

. crab

, duck breast

. lamb shoulder

. pork shoulder

The highest sources of non-heme iron are:

. spices (thyme, parsley)

. pumpkin seeds

. sesame seeds

. tomatoes

. natto

. baked potatoes

. sunflower seeds

. hazelnuts

. spinach (boiled)

. beet greens (cooked)

. swiss chard (raw)

Also, there are substances that decrease iron absorption that are:

. calcium – inhibits absorption of heme and non-heme iron

. eggs – contain phosvtin, which inhibits iron absorption

. oxalates – spinach, kale, beets, nuts, chocolate, tea, berries, some spices/herbs

. polyphenols – cocoa, coffee, teas, spices, berries, walnuts, some spices

. phytate – walnuts, almonds, sesame, dried beans, lentils and peas, cereals and whole grains

. high doses of zinc – limit to 20 mg per dose, taken between meals

. medications – PPIs (proton pump inhibitors and other antacids

Then, there are substances that increase iron absorption that are:

. c vitamin

. beta-carotene – apricots, beets, carrots, collard, red grapes, red peppers, spinach, tomatoes, etc.

. hydrochloric acid – HCL supplements

. red meat – clams and seafood, liver, etc

. sugar – fruits, honey, etc.

. alcohol (in moderation with meals)

To be effectively treating iron deficiency we need to be:

1 - addressing underlying causes of the problem such as:

. gastrointestinal bleeding

. malabsorption

. infections

. intense exercise

. PPIs use

2 - changing the diet such as:

. increasing intake of foods high in iron

. avoiding substances that decrease iron absorption

3 - improving iron absorption:

. consuming substances that increase iron absorption

. supplementing with HCL (hydrochloric acid)

. taking vitamin C with meals

I hope this article can help you improve your health, and I would love to hear your comment below.


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