As I remember, I came across this word ‘iron’ during my childhood. I had heard it first from my parents saying ‘this is an iron rod’. The next time in school days, my teacher explained to me the concept of metals and the first metal she quoted as an example was ‘iron’. As I grew up, I had this mind-state that the definition of iron will not change. But all of a sudden I came to know that iron is present in our body too and its deficiency can cause anemia. I took some time to figure out that we need iron essentially and it helps in proper functioning of blood. It is good to get your iron levels checked on a regular basis to escape from iron deficiency.
- Today around 30% of the world’s population is affected by this disorder as iron deficiency is one of the widely prevalent problems.
- It is majorly seen in developing or under-developed countries.
- It can still be prevalent in developed countries if proper care to food and diet is absent.
- The female population should be more careful towards their iron-based nutrition.
- It has been seen in human that their energetic efficiency gets greatly affected due to iron deficiency. (1)
- Iron deficiency is common in adolescent girls, kids and pregnant women. (2)
Some Biological facts about Iron
Hemoglobin is an inherent protein found in red blood cells. It has a responsibility to bind oxygen efficiently and supply this oxygen to different cells of the body. Hemoglobin is constituted of two parts, heme and globin. This heme or iron is a centrally located part surrounded by globin, which is a protein complex. So without iron, everything suffers leading to iron deficiency or anemia.
How individuals suffer from an iron deficiency anemia?
There is a normal range of haemoglobin, which must be present in a healthy state in an individual. It is measured in a recommended quantity of blood. So this makes up for the standard measurement. It is 13.5-17.5 grams of haemoglobin in a normal male and it is 12.0 -15.5 grams in a normal female. A state of anemia occurs when there is a decrease in the level of haemoglobin. It occurs when a person doesn’t have enough supply of the mineral iron into the blood system.Your body gets its iron from the food that we eat and it synthesizes the haemoglobin in assistance with the same. Thus, it is necessary that iron is supplied through your diet consistently.
Why are women the main sufferers of iron deficiency?
Childbearing women usually suffer from an iron deficiency anemia, as they suffer from blood loss during menstruation or pregnancy period. In such cases, the physician will immediately treat you with iron tablets or a suggested iron rich diet.
Female athletes are at a higher risk due to an insufficient diet. They might also suffer from increased losses of blood due to gastrointestinal bleeding, and a lack of iron in the body. This loss cannot be regained by normal food habits. (3)
Apart from women, low-nutritional people and AIDS patient may also suffer from an iron deficiency.
What are the symptoms of iron deficiency in an individual?
An individual may feel many symptoms due to an iron deficiency. These symptoms are feeling sluggish, lack of concentration, fatigue and even loss of hair sometimes. A lack of energy, pale white skin due to insufficient blood circulation can act as sure-shot symptoms.
1Cravings for non-food items:
It happens at times that we get a feeling to eat more of earthly or rocky substances. These substances can be soil, chalk, stones, ice, paper etc. There is no wonder that a pregnant woman can also have such feeling, which is termed to be ‘Pica’. It can be seen in young or adolescent kids too. Research works have proved that it may happen due to iron deficiency or any other essential mineral that the body is lacking in.
2A feeling of exhaustion or Weariness:
It’s totally natural to feel exhausted after your office schedules or towards the end of the day. But how to feel when you have a feeling of tiredness or weariness in the morning, as and when you reach your office. It might indicate you of iron deficiency. Weakness happens on the grounds that the body doesn’t have enough red platelets to convey oxygen to the different cells of the body. It might happen to have such feeling due to certain other hidden causes. But as you feel it constantly from a stretch of 4-5 weeks, it is one of the biggest sign of the lack of iron in your food.
3Skin and Eye Problems:
Skin problems may be caused basically due to three reasons; exposure to UV rays of sunlight, a microbial infection or a low level of iron in your blood. Weakness is a standout amongst the most widely recognized reasons for skin color. It can be seen in particular in the hands, nails and eyelids. Another severe condition may lead to prompts breaking of the skin close to the edges of the mouth. By an observational study, the whiteness of the eyes is a standout amongst the most solid indications of sickness. Sickle cell anaemia is caused due to abnormally shaped hemoglobin in the affected person’s blood.
4Pain in leg joints:
You start feeling some unpleasant sensations in the leg, which may include throbbing, or crawling like symptoms. You then have a wild desire to move them or shake your legs. This is termed to be restless leg syndrome or RLS. As per a research conducted at John Hopkins Institute on RLS, there is a possibility that RLS is caused by low level of iron in the blood. (4) It further found out that when these patients are subjected with 1000 mg of iron intravenously, there was the moderate effect of RLS.
5Depression and Nervousness:
A far connection of an iron deficiency with depression was also established by one of the Japanese studies. It also explained that due to lack of vitamin B6 and iron in the patient he had higher chances to suffer from depression and stress. (5) It resulted in frenzies and hyperventilation assaults like symptoms.
Having an iron deficiency can significantly impact your quality of life and your well-being. But once you know what to look out for, you can easily address this common nutritional deficiency. Natural food sources serve the best purpose to control this problem before it’s taking a serious issue.
List of food sources rich in iron are:
These kinds of seafood are quite high in their nutritional content. They also contain iron in a generous amount to fulfil your daily needs. There are some other sea foods like clams, squid, and mussels that can provide your iron needs. There are 3-5 milligrams of iron in a medium sized oyster.
Vitamin C rich foods
It is a must to add a source of vitamin C to your daily diet. It acts as a cleanser, antioxidant, nutrient supplement, coenzyme for metabolic processes. It helps in boosting up the absorption of iron from the intestine. Try squeezing some lemon juice over your plate of salad. There you have it ready breakfast or a side-dish delivered to get rid of iron deficiency.
These are easily available food item in a household. It is considered to be a power supplier of proteins. It is also known to boost your iron by 5 milligrams per cup of servings. These can be eaten in a variety of ways like boiled, fried or as a salad. It is also easy to prepare its iron-rich hummus based mayonnaise.
You must be starting your day with a bowl of fortified cereals but do not forget to know the nutrient supply of these cereals. They contain a high amount of proteins, vitamins and minerals like iron, zinc and calcium. There are many varieties of cereals available in the market now, you can choose as per your taste.
Soybeans and pumpkin seed
They are again a good source of iron and likewise of proteins. Soybeans actually contain some rare minerals like copper, manganese etc.
These are honoured to be a good source of proteins and minerals. They are loaded with fibres too. A bowl of cooked lentils can serve you with 6 milligrams of iron for the day. You can add it to your soups or prepare a side dish with it.
These are green and each leaf has been packed with nutrient, especially with iron. Cooked or boiled iron is considered to be the highest source of iron for vegetarian foodies. Overcooking may lose its nutritional value. It’s boiled state can provide with 6 milligrams of iron along with other minerals and vitamins.
Iron is a crucial mineral needed for a proper functioning of your body. There are many ways by which you can assume that a person is suffering from the iron deficiency only. Due to a disturbance caused by our internal body environment, it gets easily reflected in your physical and mental well-being. A complete knowledge of symptoms to an accurate diet will help in health improvement.