Are You Running Low on Iron?
Identifying Symptoms, Causes, Potential Health Risks,
By Extraordinary Health Writers & Comments by Christine
Dreher, CCN, CCH
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
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."
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
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
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
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
Phytoestrogens or the
ProgestaCare with Estriol to help maintain a healthy
balance. In addition,
Chapter’s Estrotone herbal hormonal balance formula is naturally
supportive for menopausal hormone balance.
Also, I suggest the
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
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.
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.