Written by the Smart Solutions Education Team
Imagine it: you wake up in the morning, immediately woozy and feeling weak. Getting through the day is more tiring than it should be. People might comment on your pale skin, saying that you need to get some sun. You might find that your hands and feet are cold at times, and headaches are frequent.
Sometimes you may feel inclined to crunch on some ice, you tend to bruise like a peach, and you may even notice your nails are looking brittle. When you speak to your doctor about your symptoms, he says that you have an iron deficiency. Since iron deficiencies are incredibly common, many of us have a high chance of having an iron deficiency. We’re going to give you the 411 on iron deficiencies — from the benefits of iron, deficiencies in women, choosing an iron supplement and how iron works in the body.
Why is iron important?
As one of the most vital parts of your blood, iron is an essential piece of hemoglobin in your red blood cells — the protein that moves oxygen from your lungs to your body tissues. Elemental iron is known under the molecular formula Fe and is found on the Periodic Table as heavy metal. When present in the blood, iron’s job helps to convert food into energy, keeping a healthy immune system, and keeping our brains functioning at top-notch.
When present in food as dietary iron, there are two types — heme iron, which is found in animal proteins, and non-heme iron, which is found in plant-based proteins. When you have an iron deficiency and aren’t taking in the correct amount of iron, your red blood cells are not nearly as efficient with transporting oxygen around the body.
What are the benefits of iron?
Since iron is one of the most important aspects of your day-to-day bodily functions, the benefits of iron run far and wide. Iron helps your body run at its peak form and keeps oxygen levels in the body high and healthy. With iron supplements, you can experience less fatigue, increased energy levels, stronger hair and nails, better sleep, higher immunity levels and improved focus.
When your iron levels are properly supplemented, it helps put an end to racing heart rates, weakness and excessive sleepiness. We all need at least 20 mg of iron from food daily to replenish and maintain our iron stores, but most of us barely get enough. It’s important to focus on adding iron-rich food to your diet to add to your daily recommended iron intake. From eating lean proteins and fortified breakfast cereals to increase your daily intake of leafy greens and even eating more dark chocolate can increase your iron levels.
Signs + symptoms of iron deficiency
About 57 percent of women are affected by an iron deficiency, making iron deficiency a significantly bigger problem for the female population. During menstrual cycles, many women are prone to heavy periods that cause significant blood loss and, in turn, lower iron levels. In addition to the female period, women also can struggle with anemia during pregnancy due to higher iron requirements.
While iron supplementation is important for men, it’s even more important for women to focus on getting enough iron in their bodies and diets.
Some symptoms of iron deficiency are easier to spot, such as dark circles under the eyes or being quick to bruise. However, some are a little trickier. Here are some of the main signs and symptoms of iron deficiency:
- Increased weakness or fatigue
- Racing heart rate or heart palpitations
- Dark circles under eyes
- Increased bruising
- Hands and feet cool to the touch
- Abnormally pale skin
- Shortness of breath
How to know which iron supplement is right for you?
When looking for an oral iron supplement, it’s important to remember that some iron supplements cause poor iron absorption, running the risk of an upset stomach and even black stool.
Iron supplements can have side effects, such as an upset stomach and constipation, but the side effects can be avoided with the proper additional nutritional supplements. Iron supplementation is often even more important during pregnancy, due to an increased need for iron stores, but your doctor can tell you for sure.
Get the most out of your iron supplement
Iron absorbs best into the body on an empty stomach; you may also want to avoid taking an iron supplement alongside caffeine and high-fibre foods.
It’s vital to ensure that you’re supplementing with iron and getting enough of it. Being iron deficient can cause a myriad of issues, from weakness and fatigue or headaches and bruising, so avoiding iron deficiency by incorporating iron into your diet and with a supplement.
With an iron supplement like IRONsmart, you’ll raise your hemoglobin and ferritin levels quickly, and you can rest assured that it works. In fact, a recent study showed that after 2 hours, IRONsmart had been absorbed five times greater than ferrous fumarate and, after 12 hours, the absorption of IRONsmart was much higher than other forms of iron.