Turn The Tables On The Emerging Iron Deficiency Epidemic
There is an epidemic underway that is affecting energy, mood, sex drive, HAIR and ambition - unfortunately, more so in women than in men: the iron deficiency epidemic.
Lack of iron is a huge issue for so many women, not only because of menstruation, but also due to the lack of nutrients in our food, medication interactions, and absorption issues. Iron supplementation with something like SISU Gentle Iron could very well be beneficial in today’s age of trending diets. With an explosion of vegan instagrammers and the spreading of meat-free, or eating less meat diets, it suddenly seems ‘on trend’ but experts are warning that misleading advice on red meat or the one-size-fits-all dietary guidelines are putting millions of people at risk for nutritional deficiencies which can result on constant tiredness, hair loss and mood swings. Sound familiar?
Iron deficiency anaemia (IDA) is the most common nutritional disorder in the world according to the World Health Organisation.
What is iron deficiency anemia?
Iron plays important roles in our health. We need iron to make hemoglobin, the part of red blood cells which carries oxygen throughout the body. When you have iron deficiency anemia, you don’t have enough iron to make hemoglobin, so the body starts to make smaller and fewer red blood cells. Less hemoglobin and fewer red blood cells also means your cells can’t get the oxygen they need.
Let’s start with some background information - What causes an iron deficiency?
- Iron is an essential element for blood production.
- About 70% of your body’s iron is found in the red blood cells of your blood called hemoglobin and in muscle cells called myoglobin.
- Hemoglobin is essential for transferring oxygen in your blood from the lungs to the tissues.
- Myoglobin, in muscle cells, accepts, stores, transports and releases oxygen.
- About 6% of iron is a component of various proteins, essential for respiration and energy metabolism, and as a component of enzymes involved in the synthesis of collagen and some neurotransmitters, brain chemicals.
- Iron also is needed for proper immune function.
Exhaustion takes over, pale complexion, brittle nails, muscles that are consistently sore, recurring infections and always feeling cold - the effects of low iron. This, in turn, then triggers the intake of medications such as Ibuprofen or Acetaminophen, which then further impact and drop iron levels.
Roughly 25% of the iron in our bodies is stored as ferritin, which is found in cells and circulates in the blood. The average adult male has about 1,000 mg of stored iron (enough for about three years), women on the other hand, on average have only about 300 mg (enough for about six months). When our iron intake is low, stores can and do become depleted, this decreases hemoglobin levels, which means that our oxygen carrying capacity is going to be low. When the body does not get enough iron, it cannot produce the number of normal red blood cells needed to keep us in optimal functioning form.
What are symptoms of iron deficiency?
Initially, iron deficiency can be so mild that it goes unnoticed. But as the body becomes more deficient in iron and anemia worsens, the signs and symptoms intensify.
Iron deficiency signs and symptoms may include:
- Extreme fatigue
- Pale skin
- Chest pain, fast heartbeat or shortness of breath
- Headache, dizziness or lightheadedness
- Cold hands and feet
- Inflammation or soreness of your tongue
- Brittle nails
- Unusual cravings for non-nutritive substances, such as ice, dirt or starch
- Poor appetite, especially in infants and children
What is the best diet for iron deficiency anemia?
So, why can’t we just eat more iron-rich greens? The type of iron found in meat is called heme iron, which is more easily absorbed than the type of iron you get from nuts/seeds/grains and vegetables. Growing up watching the old Popeye cartoons with the classic ‘spinach is good for you’ message, is all very well, but in reality we would have to eat about a wheelbarrow full of spinach to get our iron requirements each week. (Sorry Popeye, still love you!)
Iron is absorbed in the small intestine and only about 10% of dietary iron is absorbed. This is why supplementation with the likes of SISU vitamins and supplements could be very beneficial.
There are two food sources of iron, Heme (animal) or Non-heme (vegetarian). The best dietary source of heme iron are:
• Lean red meat.
• Fish are also sources of iron, but they contain less than red meat.
Non-heme food sources are:
• Some vegetables contain poorly absorbed (non-heme) iron
• Foods rich in vitamin C (e.g., citrus fruits and fresh vegetables), eaten with small amounts of heme iron-containing foods, such as meat, may increase the amount of non-heme iron absorbed from beans, and other vegetables.
That being said, it is possible to get too much iron and it is always important to work with your healthcare provider to determine if you need to supplement and or to find the best form of iron that does not cause digestive upset or constipation.
- Sesame seeds*
- Black beans*
- Cooked spinach
- Dark chocolate
- Garbanzo beans*
- Sun dried tomatoes
- Kidney beans*
- Swiss chard
- Sunflower seeds*
- Lima beans*
- Black-eyed peas
- Lean red meats*
*do not consume these foods if you suffer with PKU (Phenylketonuria - a metabolic disorder preventing the proper absorption of high protein foods)
Top 5 Health Benefits of Iron
If you’re experiencing any or all of these symptoms and think you may be iron deficient, speak to your healthcare provider. He or she can help you get to the root cause of your iron deficiency, find ways to include more iron-rich foods in your diet, and determine whether you need to take supplemental iron.
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