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Have you been diagnosed as having low iron? The blood test is very simple and commonly includes a complete blood count, and ferritin if you’re looking to see your iron storage. Symptoms of low iron include fatigue, hair loss, heavy periods, breaking/splitting nails, pale skin, cold hands and feet, easy bruising, cravings to chew ice, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, lightheadedness and dizziness.
Many women discover they are low in iron (or ferritin) and are subsequently put on iron supplements. Unfortunately, many irons aren’t well absorbed and can cause constipation and GI upset so it’s important you determine the cause of your low levels.
The five most common reasons for developing anemia are:
1) Bleeding issues – iron is found in red blood cells and if you are bleeding for any reason, you lose your iron. For women, the most common cause is menstrual blood. Unfortunately, bleeding causes low iron but low iron causes heavy bleeding. Bleeding can also happen in the GI tract from the stomach (in the form of an ulcer) and from the colon in the form of hemorrhoids (most commonly). Make sure you get a thorough work-up.
2) Dietary – if you don’t eat foods that are rich in iron, how are you going to get it in? The most absorbable forms are heme-irons found in red meat, clams, oysters, and liver, however you can get iron from cooked beans and lentils, pumpkin seeds, canned beans, and enriched cereals.
3) Absorption issues – If you have problems digesting your foods or are prone to bowel problems then you probably don’t absorb your iron very well. Do you have celiac? Irritable bowel? Crohn’s? Leaky gut? Food intolerances? All of these can cause low iron levels.
4) Critters – the most common reason for iron deficiency worldwide is worms. I would suggest GI testing for worms, candida (yeast), bacteria, amoebas and other GI bugs that absorb iron before you can.
5) Other supplements – do you take your iron at the same time you sip your tea and eat your cereal with milk? Wrong! Iron does not play well with thyroid medication, tannins in tea and coffee, calcium, and soy. Plan carefully when you take your supplements.