April 2, 2016
Are You Getting These Nutrients? - Part 6
Iron is extremely important to our health, for without it our cells cannot get oxygen. And yet, especially for women of childbearing age, it's a fairly common mineral deficiency, and people on low-carb diets tend to eat less of it. Women of childbearing age need to get 18 mg per day in their diets, while others only need about 8 mg.
Low-Carb Sources of Iron
Chicken Liver, 3 oz - 11 mg iron
Beef Liver, 3 oz - 5.2 mg iron
Soybeans, cooked, 1/2 cup 4.4 mg iron, 3 gm net carb
Spinach, cooked, 1/2 cup - 3.2 mg iron, 2 gm net carb
Roast Beef, 3 oz 3.1 mg iron
Asparagus, 6 spears - 2 mg iron, 2 gm net carb
Iron is an essential mineral that is required for human life. Iron is found in the body's red blood cells, which carry oxygen-rich blood to every cell in the body. Iron is also involved in producing adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the body's energy source. Extra iron is stored in the liver, bone marrow, spleen, and muscles.
Not having enough iron can lead to anemia. The most common symptoms of anemia are weakness and fatigue. One reason people who are iron deficient get tired easily is because their cells do not get enough oxygen. Pregnant women, young women during their reproductive years, and children tend to be at highest risk of iron deficiency. Iron deficiency anemia in children is associated with poor neurodevelopment. Anemia may be mild, moderate, or severe. It can be caused by blood loss, such as that from a bleeding ulcer, menstruation, severe trauma, surgery, or a malignant tumor. It can also be caused by an iron-poor diet, not absorbing enough dietary iron, pregnancy, and the rapid growth that takes place during infancy, early childhood, and adolescence.
On the other hand, too much iron in the body can lead to a condition known as hemochromatosis, which can cause diabetes, liver damage, and discoloration of the skin. Unlike other nutrients, excess iron cannot be excreted by the human body. For that reason, you should not take iron supplements without asking your doctor if you need extra iron.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), iron deficiency is the number one nutritional disorder in the world. Up to 80% of the world's population may be iron deficient, and 30% may have iron deficiency anemia.
Ferrous sulfate is the most common type of iron supplement. Other available forms include ferrous fumarate, ferrous succinate, ferrous gluconate, ferrous lactate, ferrous glutamate, ferric ammonium citrate, and ferrous glycine.
In severe cases of anemia from low levels of iron, or if there is rapid blood loss leading to iron deficiency, iron and blood are administered intravenously (IV) in hospitals.
Recommendations for iron are provided in the Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs), developed by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences.
Eat a well-balanced diet, and only use iron supplements under the direction of a physician.
Because of the potential for side effects and interactions with medications, you should take dietary supplements only under the supervision of a doctor.
The most common side effect from iron supplements is stomach upset, including discomfort, nausea, diarrhea, constipation, and heartburn. Taking iron supplements will often darken stool color.
Although the evidence is not clear, there may be an association between high iron stores and the risks of heart disease, cancer (such as breast cancer), and Alzheimer disease. In people with inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis), the parts of the intestine that are inflamed appear to have higher amounts of iron.
Iron overload disease is usually due to an inherited condition called hemochromatosis. But it may occur in people who take large amounts of iron over a long period of time. Symptoms include skin discoloration, diabetes, and liver damage, among other potential complications. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), taking up to 45 mg of iron per day is safe. Whether taking more than that over a long period of time is safe is unknown. Severe iron overdose occurs with amounts of iron 50 to 100 times greater than the recommended dietary dose. Such iron toxicity can destroy cells in the gastrointestinal tract, which can cause vomiting, bloody diarrhea, and even death. Iron poisoning is the most common accidental poisoning in children. Keep iron supplements in childproof bottles and out of reach of children.
Intravenous (IV) iron, given in hospitals to treat severe anemia, can lead to headache, fever, swollen lymph nodes, painful joints, hives, and worsening of rheumatoid arthritis. In rare instances, it can cause anaphylaxis, a life-threatening allergic reaction.