Am I too old for iron deficiency? Why this is a myth and what to do about it.

Iron is a crucial mineral that promotes a wide variety of functions within the body, but its deficiency can often be misdiagnosed.

Optimal levels depend on your age and gender; however, medical knowledge focuses more on some specific demographics’ susceptibility to deficiency. Doctors are keenly aware that women of reproductive age lose iron as a result of their menstrual cycle, and even more so if they are pregnant or breastfeeding – but what about the rest of us?

Iron requirements decrease as a result of the menopause, but a base level is still needed – you’re never too old to be deficient. And, because many of the symptoms of iron deficiency match those of the menopause, doctors can often mislabel symptoms. So, if you’re feeling listless, here’s how to make sure that your iron levels are in balance, to promote top health and rediscover your spark.

What role does iron perform within the body?

We generally have 3 – 4g of iron in our body at any given time, with a large portion stored as haemoglobin and the remainder spread between the liver, spleen, your bone marrow and muscle tissue.

Iron is a wonder-nutrient, helping us to perform a whole host of daily functions. Most crucially, it helps generate the red blood cells that carry oxygen around your body, and it also plays an important role in metabolising proteins.

Why do we get deficient?

A low level of iron is the most common nutritional deficiency in the US, with over 10% of women falling below recommended levels.

Women are the more likely sufferers of iron deficiency as they lose the mineral as part of the reproductive cycle – but anyone can be affected, through excessive blood loss, poor diet, or conditions that prevent iron absorption.

Research shows that the following groups are especially at risk of an iron deficiency:

Vegetarians/vegans Fitness fanatics
Pregnant or breastfeeding women People who have lost or given blood
People undergoing dialysis Sufferers of GTI disorders, such as Crohn’s
Regular takers of antacids People with ulcers

What are the warning signs?

The number one symptom of an iron deficiency is anaemia, which means that your body isn’t creating enough red blood cells to carry oxygen round the body.

If you can’t carry enough oxygen, your brain and muscles will be denied the nutrients that they need, and you’ll start to feel weak and lethargic. Iron promotes general wellbeing and helps to boost energy levels, and is also involved in the enzymatic functions that control your metabolism and help you digest foods properly. Optimising your levels will improve brain and heart health, boost energy levels, and make your skin, hair, nails and waistline look better.

Many signs of an iron deficiency match up to the symptoms of a hormone deficiency. Here are the main warning signs to look out for:

Anaemia or increased blood sugar Changes to appetite or weight
Chronic fatigue Decreased immune function
Pale or yellowing of the skin Cough
Shortness of breath Low concentration or memory
Abnormal heartbeats or increased body tension Sores on your mouth or tongue
Muscle weakness or restless leg syndrome Mood changes

How to use supplements to naturally restore your iron levels

Fortunately, iron deficiency can be identified by a simple blood test and treated easily with the right diet and supplements.

In terms of diet, look out for whole-foods with high iron levels, such as

  • organic/grass-fed meat,
  • poultry,
  • eggs,
  • dairy products,
  • fruit,
  • veg (dark greens particularly)
  • whole grains.

And, iron is more easily absorbed when eaten with certain other foods, so, for example,  try pairing foods rich in vitamin C (leafy salads and citrus fruits) with pulses for a better iron hit. Other substances that increase iron absorption are: cysteine, folic acid, Vitamin b6, and zinc.

Here’s some iron-rich foods to consider on your next shop:

iron food sources table

The number one symptom of an iron deficiency is anaemia, which means that your body isn’t creating enough red blood cells to carry oxygen round the body. Iron requirements decrease as a result of the menopause, but a base level is still needed – you’re never too old to be deficient.

 

Iron supplements are also a great fix for deficiency, especially if you’re in one of the ‘at risk’ groups. However, side-effects of an iron overload (more than 45mg per day) include nausea and constipation, and intake can be altered by calcium supplements or medication for conditions such as Parkinson’s or cancer. All in all, it’s best to speak to an expert in restorative medicine to make sure your levels stay perfectly balanced.

Could an iron boost be the key to rediscovering your natural vivacity? Follow our simple suggestions and find out.

Should we take vitamin supplements?

Some of the many questions women ask me are, should we take vitamins and other nutrients or not? In what amounts should we take them, which supplements are the most effective and which vitamins or nutrients should we take for a specific illness or chronic disease?

Yes, admittedly, it can be very confusing, especially as there are so many on the marketplace… some pure and some not so pure, but that is for another discussion!

The guidelines

Answering this question is important to our health and longevity – but as we know, there are so many differing viewpoints regarding nutrition and nutritional supplements, it is difficult to know in which direction to move. The RDA, recommended daily allowance, and the RDI, reference daily intake, were developed so they could be used as a guideline for our daily intake of vitamins and nutrients. However, these dietary recommendations are only suggestions, which are often rigidly followed by well-intentioned people.

Unfortunately, these guidelines are way below the levels that restorative medicine would call sufficient (optimal) to help people achieve optimal health – which is its goal. Also, the RDA and RDI recommendations do not consider that every individual is different and therefore their requirements for vitamins, mineral, and other nutrients will be different. T0 enable them to gain full health benefits, nutritional intake needs to be considered.

Of course, stress, age, lifestyle, genetics, medications, soil depletion, vitamin interaction, and whether there is a need for more antioxidants, also all need to be considered. Just because your healthy neighbour or friend is following a certain nutritional plan doesn’t mean that it will work for you.

What does your body need?

It is imperative to understand what the body needs. Only 20 per cent of disease is inherited and 80 per cent is the environment in which we place our body. It is what we personally do to our body that counts. Our health and lifestyle is basically based on lifestyle, environment and nutrition. It is these factors that have a huge influence on the number of years spent in good health. Many studies demonstrate that people with better health habits and nutritional diet survive much longer and with a lesser degree of disability at the end of life.

The Journal of the American Medical Association stated,

“Sub optimal vitamin states are associated with many chronic diseases including cardiovascular disease, cancer and osteoporosis. It is important for physicians to identify patients with poor nutrition or other reasons for increased vitamin needs.” Going onto say, “Most people do not consume optimal amounts of all vitamins by diet alone… it appears prudent for all adults to take vitamin supplements.”

What about nutrients from healthy eating?

There are various reasons why it is almost impossible to get all nutrients we need from food:

  • most soil is now depleted of many important minerals, such as magnesium and zinc.
  • selenium, a trace mineral, is also deplete in some areas but can be found in overabundance in other areas. Selenium is good for health in small amounts but is toxic in large amounts – watch out!
  • when fruit and vegetables are not consumed after they are picked, they immediately lose their nutritional value.
  • cold storage continues to destroy nutritional value – grapes lose up to 30 percent of their B vitamins, by the time they arrive at the supermarket. Tangerines that are stored for eight weeks lose more than half their vitamin C.
  • over cooking – the longer you cook fruits and vegetables, the less nutrients there will be left. It is always better to lightly steam them or eat them raw, and if possible as soon as they are picked.
  • processing foods (the foods that most of us eat today) destroy any nutritional value it may have after it has been picked. Food can be processed, blanched, canned, sterilized and frozen – all these mechanisms decrease nutritional value. The milling of grains removes much of its fiber and twenty-six essential nutrients.

In today’s modern society the intake of supplements is fundamental to good health – but make sure you get the right supplements in the right amounts, and clean, pure supplements (no chalk, etc!)

Restorative medicine can design a nutritional programme just for you! Right amounts, clean, pure just for you!