It is estimated that 1.1 million Australians are iron deficient. Dr Angelica Logarta-Scott shares tips on how to boost iron levels in the body.
Iron deficiency is a common nutritional deficiency affecting an estimated 1.1 million Australians.
Dr Angelica Scott says iron is essental for the development of red cells which play a crucial role in delivering oxygen to the tissues of the body.
"Iron is a very important mineral that supports the development of red blood cells and hemoglobin in our blood. Hemoglobin is the protein in our blood that is responsible in carrying oxygen throughout our body. Iron deficiency anemia is the most common anemia in the world."
- Iron deficiency is a common nutritional deficiency affecting an estimated 1.1 million Australians
- Iron deficiency anemia is a loss of iron in the blood
- Pica is a compulsive eating disorder in which people eat nonfood items
Causes of iron deficiency
Dr Scott says that the most common cause of iron deficiency anemia is a loss of iron in the blood due to heavy menstruation. Certain intestinal diseases such as internal bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract caused by gastric ulcer, colonic or gatsric cancer or a poor diet may also cause iron deficiency.
While iron deficiency anemia can be mild, Dr Scott says as the body becomes more deficient in iron, anemia may worsen thus symptoms intensify.
"If it is mild, there are no symptoms but if its moderate to severe, some may experience general fatigue, tiredness, weakness, pale skin, shortness of breath and dizziness."
She adds that for severe cases, there are some who experience strange cravings for non edible items.
"In severe cases, they have this what we call strange cravings to eat items that are not edible such as clay or dirt. We call this pica symptoms."
Pica is a compulsive eating disorder related to an iron and zinc deficiency in which people eat nonfood items. Dirt, clay, and flaking paint are the most common items eaten.
Some may also experience tingling or crawling sensation on the legs, headache, brittle nails and palpitation or fast heart rate.
Ways to boost iron levels in the body
Dr Scott says its vital to consume adequate amounts of iron-rich food in one's daily diet.
'In terms of diet, meat sources have high iron levels beacuse its easily absorbed by the bidy compared to vegetables but that doesn't mean that vegetable sources doesn't help."
She adds that fish, red meat, white meat are high in iron. But seafood such as shellfish has the highest level of iron. In vegetable sources, she recommends beans, dark leafy vegetables, dried fruits like raisins, apricot, peas. While for kids, fortified cerals.
"For others, they should avoid too much antacid and those potent pump inhibitor medication like nexium or zomax because they can impair absorption of iron."
Doctor Scott adds that for women who have heavy menstrual bleeding, its important to speak to the doctor to identify the causes so appropriate treatment can be given.
Taking iron supplement is safe
Dr Scott encourgaes women to drink a glass of orange juice or take vitamin C supplement in combination with their iron tablet.
"For those with heavier period, they should have regular iron tablets. Its good to take extra iron supplements. Its safe. Our body has a filling limit of how much iron it should absorb. Around 20 to 30 % of iron is absorbed and when combined with vitamin C its better absorbed by the body."
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