November 12th, 2020
Last updated: November 12th, 2020
Whenever bloodwork is done, iron levels may be lower than what is considered a normal range and can lead to a condition called anemia. Even before an iron deficiency is classified as anemia, iron levels can be lower than a normal level and may cause several side effects including fatigue, weakness, dizziness and much more. It’s important to ensure adequate intake of all of our vitamins and minerals, including iron, to make sure that our body is functioning at its best each and every day.
What Iron Does in Our Body
Iron functions in several ways in our body to keep it working optimally. One of the main functions of iron in our body is to act in hemoglobin and myoglobin production in order to help the transport of oxygen to tissues in our body. Without this proper functioning, someone becomes anemic and can experience fatigue, weakness, and many other symptoms. Other functions of iron include synthesis of several compounds, acting as an antioxidant, helping synthesize DNA, and helping in the production of energy compounds. Without proper levels of iron, our bodies will not function properly and we will feel the side effects. Prioritizing foods that contain iron is important for everyone, but especially if bloodwork shows that your iron levels are low!
What Food Iron Is Found In
Iron is found in two forms: heme iron and nonheme iron. Heme iron is found in animal products like meat, fish, and poultry and is particularly high in red meat, oysters, and slams. Nonheme iron can be found in many other foods though like fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains, fortified foods, and in dairy products in small amounts.
Our bodies can absorb heme iron relatively well, but it’s naturally harder for us to absorb nonheme iron. But we can aid the lower absorption rate of nonheme iron by consuming foods containing vitamin C at the same time we are eating the nonheme iron food. Vitamin C helps increase absorption of the nonheme iron which can help individuals low in iron who don’t often eat meat, fish, or poultry.
What to Know About Iron Supplements
Supplements can be a confusing topic. There are so many different supplement brands on the market these days and it’s hard to choose which is best. When it comes to buying supplements, it’s important to buy a brand that is third party tested. Third party testing means that another company verifies the products they are creating and ensures that the supplements being made are what they say they are and are found in the correct dosages that are listed on the product. Without this verification, there is no way to know that what you are buying is actually correct because there’s no regulation around the supplement industry in the U.S. Check your supplement’s label for an “NSF”, “USP”, or “CL” image of the third party verification organizations OR check the company’s website to see if they disclose that they are having their supplements tested. This ensures safety for you and makes sure you are getting what you pay for.
In addition to verifying the supplement, it’s important to know that a normal daily value for iron intake would be 8 mg/day for adult males and 18 mg/day for premenopausal adult females. Find a supplement that has roughly the same amount that’s recommended for you and not one with too high of a dose of iron in it. Be sure that you’re only taking the recommended amount for supplements because too much iron can act as a free radical in your body and cause damage.
Lastly, it’s important to know that iron supplements may cause constipation as a side effect to taking them. This is very normal, but you can combat this side effect by increasing your intake of fiber through fruits, vegetables, and whole grains while you continue to take the supplement to help return your levels to a normal range. In addition, taking an iron supplement on an empty stomach may cause nausea or even vomiting so it is important to take it with food.