Anemia

The "red flag" of anemia; what to do when you're low on iron

So you’re feeling a wee-bit tired, somewhat disconnected, a little dizzy and you’re wondering what’s going on? While those symptoms could reflect a myriad of conditions, it could just be “anemia” (low iron). The symptoms can be a combination of things:
*Dizziness
*Fatigue
*Headaches
*Confusion
*Chest pains
*Cold hands/feet
*Pale skin (differing from the color your skin is naturally)
*Fast/irregular heartbeat
If you are anemic, it’s important that you understand why iron is vital to our overall wellness. First, iron is part of our body’s “team” that supports protein and enzymes to our cells, assisting in our overall wellness. There two types of iron; heme (derived from hemoglobin) and nonheme (obtained through animal protein). About two-thirds of our iron is found in our hemoglobin (red blood cells) which carries the oxygen to our tissues. The “myoglobin” (protein that supplies oxygen to our muscles) and enzymes continue to spread iron throughout our body, allowing it to store for future use and regulation. Most of us obtain iron through our diet (see below chart for daily iron requirements as set forth through the National Institute on Health) (http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/iron).
The remedy for anemia may require medical intervention, but home remedies and diet are worth trying if you suspect you’re anemic. Low hemoglobin caused by unusual blood loss (i.e. blood loss from a women’s menstrual cycle, bleeding from fibroid tumors) or a lack of iron in your diet will usually signal symptoms of anemia. Your doctor can perform the necessary blood work required to determine if your symptoms are related to low iron. Having suffered from anemia during pregnancy (many years ago) I learned that doing a few simple things helped me tremendously:

*Iron supplements along with Vitamin C and or/meat proteins helps absorb nonheme iron.
*Iron enriched animal foods – Dark meat chicken/turkey, oysters, claims, etc., are a delicious way to obtain iron. If you’re a “chicken liver lover” than you’ll love knowing that it rates at the top of the chart for providing us with the most iron enriched animal food product available. Most people think of “beef” as being at the top of list, but notice how it only contains about ¼ of the amount found in chicken liver. If you do choose beef as your main supply/source for iron then make sure it’s lean and organic. Unfortunately, too much of our beef (especially ground beef, aka hamburgers) are polluted with additives we don’t know about because the USDA doesn’t require those contents to be listed on the label.
*Iron enriched natural foods - From lentils to beans, especially soy beans, you can find a bounty of iron.
The NIH recommendation for daily iron:
*18 mg (milligrams per day) for adults; various amounts from infancy to adulthood are listed further in this blog.
*Foods providing 10-19% per serving are considered an excellent source for iron, while anything below 5% is considered too low. So what happens when we consume too much iron? Good question. Our bodies will stop storing excess iron in order to keep us from becoming “toxic”. When we’re iron deficient, our body gladly receives the iron we intake. When we’re iron “rich” our body starts resisting the absorption. Certain food contents found in food products (i.e., coffee, tannins found in tea, polyphenols found in legumes, apples, honey, etc.) can actually decrease absorption of nonheme. So, if you’re a vegetarian it’s vital that you “increase” the your intake of Vitamin C (assuming you do not eat any animal food products).    Below are the top ten sources for heme and nonheme iron.  Further information can be found at the NIH website
 (http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/iron/)

Table 1: Selected Food Sources of Heme Iron [10]
Chicken liver, cooked, 3½ ounces, 12.8mg.,  70% value
Oysters, breaded and fried, 6 pieces, 4.5mg, 25% value
Beef, chuck, lean only, braised, 3 ounces,  3.2mg,  20% value
Clams, breaded, fried, ¾ cup,  3.0mg,  15% value
Beef, tenderloin, roasted, 3 ounces, 3.0 mg,  15% value
Turkey, dark meat, roasted, 3½ ounces, 2.3mg, 10% value
Beef, eye of round, roasted, 3 ounces, 2.2mg,  10% value
Turkey, light meat, roasted, 3½ ounces, 1.6mg,  8% value
Chicken, leg, meat only, roasted, 3½ ounces, 1.3mg, 6% value
Tuna, fresh bluefin, cooked, dry heat, 3 ounces, 1.1mg, 6% value

Table 2: Selected Food Sources of Nonheme Iron [10]
Ready-to-eat cereal, 100% iron fortified, ¾ cup,  18.0mg, 100% value
Oatmeal, instant, fortified, prepared with water, 1 cup,  10.0mg,  60% value
Soybeans, mature, boiled, 1 cup, 8.8mg,  50% value
Lentils, boiled, 1 cup,  6.6mg,  35% value
Beans, kidney, mature, boiled, 1 cup, 5.2 mg, 25% value
Beans, lima, large, mature, boiled, 1 cup, 4.5mg, 25% value
Beans, navy, mature, boiled, 1 cup, 4.5mg, 25% value
Ready-to-eat cereal, 25% iron fortified, ¾ cup, 4.5mg, 25% value
Beans, black, mature, boiled, 1 cup, 3.6mg,  20% value
Beans, pinto, mature, boiled, 1 cup, 3.6mg, 20% value
Molasses, blackstrap, 1 tablespoon, 3.5mg, 20% value

*DV = Daily Value. DVs are reference numbers developed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to help consumers determine if a food contains a lot or a little of a specific nutrient. The FDA requires all food labels to include the percent DV (%DV) for iron. The percent DV tells you what percent of the DV is provided in one serving. The DV for iron is 18 milligrams (mg). A food providing 5% of the DV or less is a low source while a food that provides 10-19% of the DV is a good source. A food that provides 20% or more of the DV is high in that nutrient. It is important to remember that foods that provide lower percentages of the DV also contribute to a healthful diet. For foods not listed in this table, please refer to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Nutrient Database Web site: http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/cgi-bin/nut_search.pl.

How much “C” do I need daily?
Most infants receive adequate amounts of “C” from milk/breast feeding. Children require varying amounts from 15 mg – 45 mg daily. Usually, their pediatrician will recommend their daily requirements based upon their current health condition. Adult women need 75mg per day; adult men need about 90 mg daily. Pregnant women need 85-120 mg per day (from pregnancy to breast feeding). The best way to obtain “C” is through consuming five servings of fruits and vegetables daily (about 1 cup per serving). If you suspect (at all) that you are iron deficient, certainly put into practice what nature provides but also see your primary care physician who can provide you with a complete perspective of your current health condition.
Quick tip: Annual physicals are worth their weight in gold; don’t ignore getting one….it’s the best investment of time you can make, today!

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