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Tired all the time? Check your iron levels.

Updated: Oct 14, 2022

Tired all the time? This is one of the most common reasons for visiting our GP…Have you checked you iron levels?

Iron is the most abundant element on earth, and the most commonly deficient mineral worldwide especially in women! A recent study suggests that over 20 % of women will experience iron deficiency anaemia at some point during their reproductive lives.

Women are at increased risk of low iron levels due to blood loss during our monthly period, this is especially true if you have a heavy bleed. We also have an increased requirements for iron during pregnancy and after childbirth.

Anyone who follows a vegetarian or vegan diet will need to make sure they are getting enough iron, as the plant form of iron (called non-haem iron) is more difficult for our body to absorb compared to the type of iron found in animal foods (called haem-iron).

A few signs and symptoms that you may have low iron status include:

· Feeling tired all of the time. This is because iron is needed to make haemoglobin a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen around the body.

· Shortness of breath. Is this new and after tasks you previously managed easily, such as climbing the stairs?

· Heart palpitations.

· Pale skin.

· Depression or feelings of apathy.

A less common but interesting symptom of iron deficiency is a craving for non-food items, such as paper or ice, this is called Pica.

If any of these symptoms resonate with you then the first step is to get a blood test to check your levels. Your GP should be able to do this, alternatively you can pay privately for a full iron panel with a company such as Medi checks.

It is important not to self-prescribe iron supplements without first measuring your levels with a blood test. Some people have a genetic condition called haemochromatosis which can cause dangerously high levels of iron to accumulate in the body overtime.

Some top tips to boost iron levels include:

· Eat more vitamin C rich foods such as kiwis, peppers, berries and citrus fruits. Vitamin C enhances the absorption of iron.

· Build meals around iron rich foods. These include dark green vegetables, beans and whole grains.

· Avoid drinking tea or coffee at mealtimes. A compound called Tannic acid, found in tea and coffee, inhibits the absorption of iron from food.

· If you eat meat, organ meats such as liver are a rich source of iron (although this can be an acquired taste.)

See a Nutritional Therapist for some more personalised advice if you are concerned that you may have low iron levels. This is just one cause of fatigue and further investigation is often needed to rule out other causes of your symptoms.

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