Iron is the ancient remedy for “anemia,” as it is essential for the hemoglobin carried in the blood to carry oxygen to every cell in the body. Many of the first health tonics of this century may have worked because they contained iron, and the mineral may also explain the occasional effectiveness of two other outdated treatments: bleeding and the application of leeches.
Iron is a two-edged weapon in nutrition, and one of the edges is toxic and rusty. In the nutritional aspect, it is considered one of the most important essential minerals for the organism, since it intervenes in the transport of oxygen, cellular respiration, the synthesis of nucleic acids and the metabolism of neurotransmitters and catecholamines.
However, when you have too much iron in your body, you can see the negative side of this mineral, as it is thought to be a possible contributor to hardening of the arteries, heart disease, and cancer. Therefore we must handle the sword with precision.
What happens in the body when there is an iron deficiency? How can we overcome it?
Iron deficiency and its signs and symptoms
Iron deficiency is widespread in the world, affecting both poor and rich countries. The main cause is that this element has a difficult absorption in the intestine (with the exception of a type of iron present in meat and fish that is known as heme iron).
Due to its characteristics, there are some sectors of the population that are more exposed to suffering a deficit of this mineral. This is the case of children, due to the high needs linked to growth, they may suffer from anemia due to lack of iron, and women in their fertile stage, from menarche (the first occurrence of menstruation) to menopause, due to menstrual losses (for example During a typical menstrual period, a woman can lose up to 30 mg of iron) and pregnancy. Stomach cancer is also associated with low iron stores.
It is also important to note that taking aspirin or other anti-inflammatory drugs not made with spheroids can cause or worsen iron loss by promoting internal bleeding that is often undiagnosed. Up to 52% of people with rheumatoid arthritis, one study found, has low iron stores.
- Iron is obtained mainly from various foods and is eliminated daily through urine, faeces, peeling of the skin, etc.
- Every day a certain amount of this mineral is lost (around 1 mg), which must be replaced by regular diet.
- If the diet does not provide enough, iron deficiency anemia can occur, with fatigue, headache, insomnia , pale skin and mucosa. Currently, anemia is known to be a late phase of iron deficiency.
Before its appearance, different alterations may occur, such as disorders of brain function, which is especially noticeable in the case of children. The adult human body has 3 to 5 g of iron. Most (65%) is found in hemoglobin, the main component of red blood cells ; 10% is found in myoglobin, and the rest in the liver, spleen, kidneys, bone marrow, and other organs.
Discover the risks of consuming iron supplements
The earliest marker that announces an iron deficiency is serum ferritin. Values ??below 12 mcg / 1 are considered indicators that iron reserves have been depleted. Heme iron represents between 40 and 50% of the iron contained in meat and fish , and is only found in these foods; it is absorbed between 20 and 25%. The rest is non-heme iron, which represents 80 to 95% of the total contribution of iron, according to food models, and whose absorption percentage is usually less than 5%; There are factors that activate or inhibit its absorption.
Iron is the only nutrient whose recommendations are higher in adult women (18 mg / d) than in men. In addition, this figure doubles during pregnancy. Although most of the iron in the body is found in hemoglobin (around 70%), less than 1% is linked to different enzyme systems that are essential.
It is known of the presence of some of them in the brain, involved in obtaining energy and in the synthesis of neurotransmitters. Thus, although much remains to be known about the neurochemical functions of iron, it is obvious that low levels of this nutrient negatively influence brain function.
Diet is key to better absorb iron
While vitamin C , copper, or the combination of the two types of iron favor it, a high-carbohydrate or high-fiber meatless diet contributes to an iron deficiency.
Drinking tea (due to tannin) or coffee with food also reduces its absorption, as does eating foods high in calcium and rich in iron during the same meal. Women absorb about 30-50% more iron from a meal if the calcium content is low.
This article is informational purpose only. Please consult your doctor before taking any step for iron deficiency.