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Christine Dreher, Nutritionist, Herbalist, & author of "The Cleanse Cookbook" founder of TransformyourHealth.com
Christine Dreher, Nutritionist, Herbalist, and author of
 "The Cleanse Cookbook"

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Are You Running Low on Iron?
Identifying Symptoms, Causes, Potential Health Risks, & Support
By Extraordinary Health Writers & Comments by Christine Dreher, CCN, CCH

 

Iron deficiency affects millions of people worldwide, and women—particularly women of childbearing age—are among those at highest risk for not getting enough iron. Iron deficiency anemia can occur as a result, and it’s the most common form of anemia affecting people. Anemia is a blanket term referring to inadequate number of red blood cells, affects approximately 3.5 million Americans, and can result from iron, folate or vitamin B-12 deficiencies.

Anemia can cause your bodily cells to not get enough oxygen and can lead to many symptoms, including fatigue. But it goes beyond just being tired. The reason for feeling exhausted is that your bodily organs aren’t getting what they need to function properly. Why? Red blood cells deliver oxygen to every cell in the body, and if there are inadequate amounts of red blood cells due to anemia, then cells are not oxygenated adequately—and cells make up everything that we are.

The truth is that your body requires sufficient amounts of folate, vitamin B-12 and iron to form healthy red blood cells. But let’s talk about iron, since iron deficiency anemia is the most common form of anemia.

Mild symptoms of iron deficiency can include feeling irritable, tired, having a headache or having difficulty focusing. Symptoms can become more pronounced as anemia progresses and can also include dizziness; a sore tongue; brittle nails and hair; a pale, sickly look; and a blue tinge to the whites of your eyes. And note this: if your skin color is normally light or pale, then check the inside of your lips, your gums and the inside of the bottom of your eyelids. If they are less red than usual, then low iron levels may be in play.

The most dangerous symptom of moderate to advanced anemia is being short of breath, since it is symptomatic of the body literally being starved of oxygen. Prolonged anemia can lead to organ failure, irregular heartbeat and heart failure.

But let’s back up the train a bit on one common symptom of an iron deficiency, for which women of childbearing age are most at risk—feeling tired—which, ironically, may be the most difficult one to notice. Why? Nancy Berliner, M.D., deputy editor of Blood, the journal of the American Society of Hematology, explains, “Women are so used to having frenetic lives and feeling tired. They often just dismiss being tired as part of life."

Heads up, ladies. If your typical being tired from life is coupled with feeling weak, irritable, an inability to focus, a racing heart, trouble catching your breath and other hallmark iron deficiency anemia symptoms, then you need to have it checked out. For women, the number one cause of iron deficiency is having heavy periods, causing the body to lose too much blood. *See Christine’s comments below regarding why hormonal imbalances can cause heavy menstrual cycles.

Other symptoms of iron deficiency anemia can include irregular heartbeat, heart murmur, heart enlargement and heart failure, mentioned earlier. Likewise, restless leg syndrome can also be part of having iron deficiency. Why? When iron levels are low, the body will prioritize which organs get oxygen, and your brain wins, although it gets less than it should. The other organs and tissues have to wait their turn, and most likely will not receive much after the brain gets first dibs. Other symptoms of iron deficiency include anxious feelings; anxiety attacks; craving odd things such as dirt, clay, paper or chalk; hair loss; hypothyroidism; a sore, inflamed, smooth tongue; weight gain; lower body temperature; and more.

Almost two-thirds of the body’s iron is found in hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen to cells. A necessary trace element, iron is vital for producing ATP, the body’s primary energy source and providing extra fuel to muscles during exertion. Iron is an integral part of many proteins and several enzymes in the human physiology and is essential for the regulation of cell growth. Playing an important role in the production of DNA, energy and cognitive function, iron is required for the health of the immune system.

Iron requirements vary, depending on your sex, age and health state. Typically, women ages 19 through 50 need approximately 18mg per day. Women who are pregnant can require up to 27mg. Women with heavy periods can require more as well. If you’re a woman 50+ and have stopped having periods, then you need approximately 8mg per day. Those with digestive issues or on certain medications may require more iron, too. Just be sure your iron levels are where they need to be.

Iron-filled foods to consume regularly include dark green leafy veggies (spinach, kale, etc.); chickpeas; lentils and other legumes; beef and some nuts. For better absorption of iron, be sure to pair these foods with vitamin C-rich foods such as berries, citrus fruits, bell peppers and broccoli. Additionally, you may have to opt for an iron supplement, but you can discuss that with your healthcare professional.

* Note from Christine: Whole food sources of iron and iron supplements are absorbed and utilized better in the body and do not cause constipation like the isolated form of iron called ferrous sulfate. Christine suggests a whole-food form of iron supplement such as Garden of Life’s Vitamin Code Raw Iron or Vitamin Code Raw Healthy Blood.

               

Garden of Life’s Vitamin Code RAW Iron is a comprehensive, whole-food, multi-nutrient formula made with RAW Food-Created Nutrients for targeted delivery of vitamins and minerals, particularly iron, vitamin B12, vitamin C and folic acid. Individually cultivated with their unique Code Factors intact, the RAW Food-Created Nutrients in Vitamin Code formulas enable natural recognition of nutrients by your body, just as nature intended. Supporting mental and physical energy; heart, blood, eye, skin and reproductive health, Vitamin Code RAW Iron also provides immune system support.

Garden of Life's Vitamin Code Raw Healthy Blood is a comprehensive RAW whole food formula that provides the building blocks your body needs for healthy blood, including 28 mg of whole food iron (156% Daily Value). High potency Healthy Blood provides RAW, whole food iron that has been clinically shown to be gentle on the stomach and non-binding, along with RAW vitamins B6, B12 and folate, plus RAW vitamin C to help support cellular transport, absorption and metabolism of these essential nutrients. Healthy Blood also features a RAW Veggie Mineral Blend of 17 RAW, organically grown vegetables, 75 ancient soil-based alkalizing trace minerals and a RAW Probiotic and Enzyme Blend for optimal digestion.

Vitamin Code Healthy Blood differs from other iron supplements on the market in that Healthy Blood contains RAW Food–Created Nutrients with Vitamin Code Factors. It also follows all Vitamin Code quality standards including RAW – Uncooked, untreated, unadulterated, with no binders or fillers, chemical isolates or synthetic nutrients and whole foods – living nutrients as nature intended, live probiotics and enzymes, and 17 RAW and organically grown vegetables.

*Note from Christine: Women of child-bearing age and those that are premenopausal are at the highest risk of low iron levels and iron deficiency anemia. Heavy menstrual cycles can occur when estrogen levels are too high and progesterone levels are too low. Unfortunately, more women are estrogen dominant today than ever before due to all the hormones added to meats and dairy, to xeno-estrogens that come from chemicals and toxins ingested from body and home care products, and from food and water sources. Also, progesterone levels start dropping for women about 10 years before estrogen levels, so this means that many women in their 30’s, 40’s and 50’s can experience heavy menstrual cycles.

Women can naturally replenish progesterone levels naturally to ensure that they are not estrogen dominant. I suggest that women use a natural, chemical free, topical Progesterone cream such as Life Flo’s natural Progesterone cream to prevent estrogen dominance. Progesterone cream has been shown to continue to be helpful for menopausal women to support bone health, cardiovascular and much more.

For menopausal women, I suggest using the Progestacare Plus Phytoestrogens or the ProgestaCare with Estriol to help maintain a healthy balance. In addition, New Chapter’s Estrotone herbal hormonal balance formula is naturally supportive for menopausal hormone balance.

Also, I suggest the Brevail Breast and Hormonal natural plant lignan extract formula is supportive for a healthy estrogen balance and healthy breast tissue, along with support for PMS, Mood, and menopause.

I also suggest women read the book “What your Doctor Will Not Tell You About Pre-Menopause” by Dr. John Lee and Virginia Hopkins to understand the dangers of estrogen dominance (including iron related anemia from heavy cycles, fibroids, gall bladder disease, breast health issues and much more). Of course menopausal women will benefit from reading “What your Doctor Will Not Tell You About Menopause” by Dr. John Lee and Virginia Hopkins.

Additional Hormone Balance Resources:

Top 10 Natural Steps in Promoting Breast Health
Where an Ounce of Prevention Truly is Worth a Pound of Cure
By Christine Dreher, CCN, CCH

Brevail Plant Lignan Articles on Anti-aging, Breast Health, Fibroids, Hormones, PMS, Menopause and Peri-Menopause

Take good care of your health, including healthy and balanced iron levels and healthy hormonal balance.

 

Note: The content provided in this article is intended for informational and educational purposes only and is not intended to take the place of professional medical advice. You are encouraged to consult with your medical health care provider regarding any health concern or health-related condition you may have.
 

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