“The blood is our river of joy, flowing through the body bringing strength and nourishment …
Three out of four women have chronically low iron intake.
I simply had to create a gentle herbal formula that could address this problem for my patients. “Sacred Sofia”, the blood strengthening tea blend deals with this important women’s health issue.”
Are you a woman who has been told that you are iron deficient or anaemic?
This is a common issue amongst many of us, however most of us are unaware of the root causes of iron deficiency or and just how important it really is!
Many women will have a diet which does not meet the daily requirements of iron or perhaps our body is unable to properly metabolise the mineral. It is not uncommon that women will just find themselves living in a perpetual state of diminishing iron levels and just ‘dealing’ with the symptoms which can be extremely debilitating to our health and wellbeing. It is time to educate ourselves on the extreme importance of this essential trace element, what are the symptoms of deficiency and how to naturally increase our levels.
Women are particularly at risk of iron deficiency and require one and a half times as much iron as men! The obvious reason for this requirement is due to a normal monthly blood loss which occurs during menstruation. On average, a woman can lose up to 80ml of blood during menstruation, which can lead to a loss between 2.5 to 40 mg of iron during a monthly period. In addition to this inevitable factor, women will often tend to make food choices which provide less iron than they require such as salads. Despite all of these factors, there are many women who eat a balanced diet (even vegetarians) and will be able to yield enough iron naturally. It is all about making the right food choices to suit your body and your personal needs. Those who experience a very heavy or prolonged bleed will be at an even higher risk of low levels and will need much more iron to make up for this increased loss. If you are very physically active, pregnant or breastfeeding, your iron needs are even greater than the average woman. Iron can be secreted in urine and sweat which is increased during exercise and the foetus and infants are reliant on the iron intake from their mother’s. Pregnant women should be consuming almost twice the amount of iron as women who are not pregnant.
What is the role of iron?
Most of the iron in our body is used to make our red blood cells and our haemoglobin, which is essential for oxygen transport in our body. Our red blood cells have a life cycle of approximately 120 days, which means that we must produce new haemoglobin every 120 days and therefore iron is vital for this process alone.
Iron is utilised for regulating energy production in our cells, producing hormones and neurotransmitters in the brain such as dopamine, noradrenalin, adrenaline, synthesis of collagen and transportation of oxygen in our muscles. If our muscles are not receiving oxygen, our whole body will suffer as a consequence.
Symptoms of iron deficiency.
When you are suffering from iron deficiency, you will often feel very tired and lethargic without any explanation, despite getting enough sleep or not being apparently unwell. This can often be accompanied by feelings of weakness, poor concentration, breathlessness and heart palpitations from minimum physical exertion, headaches, cold extremities (hands and feet) and shivers. When iron deficiency is in its advanced stages, it will manifest into anaemia. Iron deficiency anaemia will develop when you aren’t consuming enough iron, losing too much iron and the body’s capability to healthily produce haemoglobin is impeded. This will show up in more noticeable physical symptoms such as grooved, brittle fingernails, hair loss and pale lips and face. One of the very unknown and unusual signs is cravings for non-nutritive substances, particularly ice cubes or starch.
If you are suffering from celiac disease, or your ability to absorb nutrients through your intestines is affected, you may be susceptible to iron deficiency anaemia. Because iron is absorbed into your blood stream through your small intestine, conditions which affect this metabolic process can lead to the deficiency.
How much iron do women need?
On average, women who are menstruating require approximately 15mg of iron per day. After menopause, women will require approximately 10mg of iron per day, which is roughly the amount required by men. Keeping in mind that these numbers are rough estimates, and will vary between each woman who is going through their own unique life stage and experience. Those who are iron deficient may need to pay extra attention to their iron intake and require levels which are slightly higher than the average woman.
How do we get more iron into our daily intake of food?
As many of you will know, animal products are rich in iron. However, this does not mean that there are not many other alternatively rich sources of iron available to us. Red meat contains high amounts of heme iron, which is the form which is most readily absorbed by the body and about 30% of the iron in this form is utilised. Liver is extraordinarily high in iron and when purchased organically, can be a great source for those who choose to include it in their diet. Lentils, legumes and tofu are also rich in iron and are the best alternative source for vegetarians and vegans. Grains such as rye, oats and millet are iron-rich choices as well as many vegetables including beetroot, leafy greens, mushrooms, pumpkin and beans. Nuts, seeds and dried fruits also contain high amounts of iron. Dried apricots, cashews, pine nuts, almonds, pumpkin seeds are just some of these sources. It is also important to note that excessive consumption of coffee, black tea and cows’ milk can contribute to impairment of optimal iron absorption.
Lastly, there are ways which we can enhance the natural absorption of our iron intake. When we consume foods rich in iron, it is a great idea to eat foods which are rich in vitamin C simultaneously. Alternatively, you can supplement with a good vitamin C powder or tablet to enrich your levels of this important vitamin.