Do you know that Iron Supplements can help you to reverse iron deficiency?
It is a mineral that is found in hemoglobin, a protein that transports oxygen from the lungs to your tissues and myoglobin.
Myoglobin is another protein that carries and stores oxygen for your muscles.
This mineral is also important for brain cell development, physical growth, and hormone synthesis, and supports muscle metabolism.
Iron is a nutrient that plays a number of roles in your body.
These include keeping your healthy and full of energy.
However, it is important to note that low iron levels are common and they can cause unpleasant symptoms.
These symptoms are tiredness, poor concentration, and frequent bouts of illness.
One of the important things to consider is that iron deficiency is not always easy to spot, especially in the early stages.
Moreover, iron supplements can help to reverse a deficiency, particularly if you change your diet alone and it is unsuccessful.
Keep on reading to learn more about it in detail.
Symptoms of Low Iron Levels
Low iron levels are very common. This is particularly the case in certain subsets of the population.
If you do not get treatment, you may develop it into a more serious complication: Iron Deficiency Anemia, IDA.
IDA is a condition in which your blood does not contain enough healthy, oxygen-carrying red blood cells and you may experience the following symptoms:
Tiredness, lack of energy, shortness of breath, difficulty concentrating, bouts of illness, and pale skin.
Moreover, feeling cold to difficulty regulating your body temperature, headaches, itchiness, and heart palpitations are symptoms of IDA.
Other signs and symptoms are hearing ringing, hissing, or buzzing noises inside your head, a sore tongue or difficulty swallowing, changes in the way food tastes.
Hair loss, carving for non-food items like ice or dirt, known as pica.
Painful open sores in the corner of your mouth, spoon-shaped nails, and uncontrollable urge to move legs or restless leg syndrome are symptoms of IBD.
Thus, if you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, you need to consider getting diagnostic testing.
It can help your healthcare provider to identify or rule out low iron levels or IDA.
However, keep in mind that these symptoms are most noticeable when low iron levels progress with iron deficiency anemia.
Therefore, you may also experience any of these symptoms without low iron levels.
This is in the case of the early stages of iron depletion.
In order to identify and treat low iron levels, getting regular tests can help before this condition potentially develops in IDA.
In what Conditions are Iron Supplements Helpful?
Iron supplements can help to reverse low iron levels and treat iron deficiency anemia.
Moreover, they can produce quick results than dietary interventions.
They are often considered the treatment method of choice.
Iron supplements can be especially helpful if you are prone to low iron levels.
Especially, if you are unable to maintain a good iron status diet through diet alone then you need to get iron supplements.
Pregnant women, infants, and young children, individuals who experience heavy periods, and frequent blood donors, and heavy exercising.
Those who follow a vegetarian or vegan diet.
Individuals with blood disorders like thalassemia or sickle cell anemia and individuals with alcoholism,
Cancer patients, individuals with gastrointestinal disorders like celiac disease, ulcerative colitis, or Crohn’s disease.
Individuals who have undergone gastric surgery, heart failure patients, and people taking iron-depleting medications like medications to reduce stomach acid.
All of the above will need iron supplements to avoid developing low iron levels or IDA.
It is important to note that taking iron supplements when you do not need them can harm your health.
This is because they contain high doses of iron which can cause digestive issues and reduce the absorption of other nutrients in your gut.
Thus, unnecessarily taking iron supplements can cause cell damage, and in severe cases cause organ failure, coma, or death.
Moreover, negative side effects can occur in any individual, however, they are particularly fatal in children according to studies.
Therefore, it is important to consult your doctor or health care provider before getting your’s or your child’s status tested before taking supplements.
This will allow them to recommend the dosage levels.
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Tests for Low Iron
One of the best ways to diagnose an iron deficiency anemia or low levels of iron is to get blood tests.
It is important to get blood tests as on the basis of your symptoms, it is often difficult to diagnose this condition.
One complementary approach is to consider how your diet and intake of supplements are, as compared to the recommended iron intake.
To understand the importance of requesting a certain blood test over another, it can be useful to understand the 3 main stages of iron deficiency.
But first, let’s discuss the recommended intake of iron.
Infants and Children to age 13
Boys and girls who need iron from infancy and into late childhood are almost identical.
This is because menstruation does not begin before the age of 13.
Moreover, newborn babies need the least amount of iron from their diet as they are born with a store of it.
They absorb iron from the blood of their mothers while in the womb.
The Adequate Intake or Ai for infants from birth and up to the first 6 months is about 0.27 mg daily.
This is the average of what they normally consume through breastfeeding alone or from the formula.
On the other hand, babies who are premature need more iron than full-term babies, and is the same for low birth weight babies.
In the second 6 months of life from 7 to 12 months of age, they need about 11 mg daily according to the Recommended Dietary Allowance, RDA.
This change in amount is due to the rapid development of brains and blood supply needs as iron is crucial to proper brain development.
Moreover, as they age into toddlers, between the age of 1 and 3, they need about 7mg daily.
From ages 4 to 8, boys and girls should get 10 mg of iron from their diet each day.
In late periods i.e. from 9 to 13 years of age, they need 8 mg of iron daily.
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Teenagers, Adult Men, and Women
The following are the recommended amounts for teenagers, adult men, and women.
Teenagers, aged 14 to 18
Teenage boys between the age of 14 and 18 need 11 mg according to RDA.
This amount helps to support growth spurts that are common at this age.
On the other hand, teenage girls need more than boys as they are not only growing but also needs to compensate for iron lost through menstruation.
This accounts for 15 mg daily of iron.
By the age of 19, significant growth and brain development slow down.
Therefore, the amount of iron men needs stabilizes.
Whether 19 or 99, they need 8mg daily to maintain their health.
While highly active men like insurance athletes may need more as they lose iron through sweat.
About 1 to 3 grams of iron is usually stored by both men and women.
About 1 mg is lost simultaneously due to shedding of the skin and mucosal surfaces like the lining of your gut.
Women who menstruate need more iron.
This is because the blood contains about 70% of the iron in your body and you lose about 2 mg daily at the beginning of the cycle.
The blood comes from the shedding of the lining of the uterus.
Thus, between 19 and 50 years of age, women need 18 mg of iron, and those above 51 years of age need 8mg of iron.
Transgender Teens and Adults
Although official recommendations are not available, adult transgender men are advised to adhere to the iron recommendations of 8mg per day.
Adult transgender women, who have medically transitioned should also get the same amount, i.e. 8mg daily.
In the same way for teen transgenders, both who have medically transitioned and those who have not may differ from the needs.
Thus, it is important to discuss the iron needs with the healthcare provider.
They can help determine the correct dosage.
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During Pregnancy and Lactation
While conceiving, your iron needs rise to about 27 mg. This rise helps to support the needs of the growing fetus.
However, if you are breastfeeding, your iron needs drop from the levels you’re needed during pregnancy.
In such a case, you will need 9 to 20 mg of iron depending on your age.
These levels are enough for your own needs and your child’s.
Moreover, lactating produces a hormone, Prolactin which inhibits menstruation.
Therefore, such lower recommendations assume that iron is not lost through menstruation.
Now let’s discuss stages of Iron Deficiency.
Stages of Iron Deficiency
Low levels of iron can lead to IDA through the following stages:
Mild Iron Deficiency: This condition consists of low iron stores with ferritin levels between 10 to 30 mcg/L, as well as a normal red blood cell count, RBC.
It is along with the levels of hemoglobin about 12 g/dL and Hematocrit about 36% for women and 41% for men.
Mild Functional Iron Deficiency: In this condition, there are depleted stores of iron.
Along with the ferritin levels lower than 10 mcg/L.
However, a normal RBC count with hemoglobin above 12 g/dL and hematocrit above 36% for women and 41% for men.
Iron Deficiency Anemia, IDA: In this condition, the depleted iron stores with ferritin levels are lower than 10 mcg/L.
The RBC counts fall below the normal range with hemoglobin below 12 g/dL and hematocrit below 36% for women and 41% for men.
Best Tests to Diagnoses Iron Status
To determine iron deficiency, hemoglobin and hematocrit are the best tests.
However, they are not sensitive nor specific and tend to identify IDA.
While it does not diagnose IDA in the early stages.
Thus, identifying the earlier stages of depletion is beneficial as it allows you to address the issue immediately.
You can do it either through diet modifications or supplements rather than letting it progress to IDA.
One of the most cost-effective and efficient tests is Serum Ferritin.
However, very few professionals routinely test for ferritin levels.
Thus, you can request this test specifically in addition to hemoglobin and hematocrit tests.
If you have no history of low iron levels, you can get tests to check the levels once a year.
It will help to detect potential iron deficiency in the early stages.
While taking supplements, you will notice improvements in 4 weeks of usage.
However, it takes about 3 months to completely relate hemoglobin and in some cases even longer to replete ferritin levels.
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The Bottom Line
Iron supplements can help to reverse an iron deficiency when changes in your diet do not help.
However, certain individuals like pregnant women, infants, younger children, heavy exercisers, etc are more prone to low levels of iron and should get their tests regularly.
If you are getting tests for ion levels, make sure to also request for hemoglobin and hematocrit tests with a ferritin test as they are effective in identifying an iron deficiency.