If you are feeling sluggish and tired, it is common to wonder if your iron levels are ideal and although not the only cause of fatigue, deficiency is prevalent and needs more than a steak dinner to remedy. Iron is used in the body for energy, immunity, mental and muscle function. Imbalance can occur if dietary iron is lacking, absorption is poor or we lose too much.
When iron levels become low, you may experience:
- Shortness of breath
- Decreased physical or mental performance
- Risk of infections
- Pale skin
If these symptoms describe how you’re feeling, it’s time to ask your Doctor to check your levels. If you are low in iron, you may need to use a supplement until haemoglobin levels return to normal and then for 3-6 months to build up your stores.
Alongside the supplement, take a look at where you can increase the iron in your diet. Iron sources can either be animal or plant based including liver, red meat, seafood and poultry. Unfortunately for vegetarians, plant based sources aren’t absorbed as well but include beans, dark green leafy vegetables, dried fruits and iron fortified cereals, breads, pasta. To get the most from your foods, each them with vitamin C or acidic foods (lemon juice or vinegar); cook plant foods and combine plant and animal sources on your plate. Try to avoid tea, coffee, antacids, calcium or high fibre foods at the same time and talk to your Pharmacist if you are also using medicines for gut acidity.
You may notice when taking the supplements, that your stools become darker. That is nothing to worry about, but you may also experience cramping, constipation or diarrhoea. Try taking them with food or before bed. Liquid or injected forms may be easier to tolerate and are available on prescription.