Friday, October 16, 2009

Are you Iron deficient?

Many of my clients feel low in energy, and think they have anemia (lack of iron in the blood). Although being tired can be due to many other reasons such as lack of sleep, high fat or large meals, it is important to eliminate anemia as the cause.

Here are some of the facts:
· Iron deficiency is more common with women than men. It occurs in approximately 15% of women due to increased requirements for menstruation and pregnancy. Women are also inclined to eat less meat, either for “diet” or ethical reasons. Of course if they are athletes as well, they need sufficient iron to achieve peak performance. The result of an insufficient iron intake is weakness and shortness of breath, which may impair their work and activity performance. These people are frequently pale, have a poor appetite and an increased risk of infection.

Sources of Iron:
· Animal products (meat, liver, sausages and the dark meat of turkey) are better absorbed than the iron from plant products (dried fruits, cereals, pasta, dark green vegetables and legumes).
· If you want to limit your meat intake, small portions of meat, poultry or fish, as well as foods rich in vitamin C (fruits and vegetables) increase the absorption of iron from plant foods. When eating a plant food containing iron, e.g. iron enriched pasta, bean soup or fortified cereals, be sure to include fruits and vegetables.
· Examples of sufficient iron intake: 1 cup bran flakes plus 2 slices bread plus 3 oz. beef plus 1 cup pasta. That’s all you will need in one day.
· Certain foods decrease the absorption of iron, such as oxalates in spinach, phytates in whole grains and ingredients in tea, coffee, bran and legumes. Even if tea is decaffeinated, it still contains tannin which decreases the absorption of iron. Don’t become nervous about eating these foods, only excessive intake can decrease absorption of iron - moderation in everything.
· Recommended Daily Allowance is 18 mg per day, less for seniors.

· Many of my clients are unaware of the fact that an iron supplement may cause constipation. Certainly, don’t prescribe it for yourself. If you have a blood test and discover that you have an iron deficiency, the physician will recommend the amount you need or, preferably, refer you to a dietitian who can be sure the amount you take is adjusted to suit you. The dietitian will recommend increasing the fiber in your diet, drinking more fluids and becoming more active. All these improvements may counteract the constipating effect.
· Among female teenagers it has become trendy to avoid beef, however they replace meat with doughnuts and muffins. This may create an iron deficiency. Teenage girls undergo a rapid growth phase, start menstruating and many go “on a diet” - three reasons that could lead to iron deficiency. If you decide to prescribe an iron supplement for your teenager, be aware that the toxic effects of excess iron intake include damage to the liver, pancreas, heart or immune system, hemorrhaging, decreased absorption of copper and even death. You’ll notice a warning on supplements, particularly high iron supplements, to keep from children. If they must take supplements, only a little is necessary.

Please find a registered dietitian near you on before taking supplements. Look for RD behind his or her name to know you have an expert