Wouldn’t we all like a little (or a lot) of superhero power now and then to help us scale life’s various mountains? If you’re nodding “yes” right about now, think Iron, a mineral critical to the circulatory system and life-sustaining functions. Iron is a component of hemoglobin, which carries oxygen through the blood and is essential to powering the energy levels required for all physiological processes in the body.
Most people acquire sufficient iron from their diet, but a supplement may be needed by those who have strenuous physical regimens or who experience frequent blood loss (e.g. from heavy periods or inflammatory bowel disease). Foods containing the highest sources of iron are liver, organ meats, red meat, dark turkey meat, and shellfish. Legumes, certain seeds, and dark leafy greens, such as spinach and kale, do provide iron but you’d have to eat quite a bit, nearly every day, to obtain sufficient amounts.
If you’re experiencing extreme fatigue, weakness, cold hands and feet, headache, rapid heart rate, or unusual non-food cravings, you may be anemic and require an iron supplement. It’s important to have your iron levels tested before starting a supplement because iron can build up in the body (a condition called hemochromatosis). This can lead to life-threatening health problems involving the liver, heart or pancreas. A simple nutrient analysis done by blood test indicates if you are deficient; other tests can determine if you have difficulty absorbing iron provided by a healthy diet.
Because there are many ways to increase iron levels, consult with a holistic health physician who can recommend the right method, and if a supplement is needed, the correct form and dose for your needs.
- HarvardHealth.edu “Iron and your Health.” Posted May 2015; Accessed 17 June 2018: https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/iron-and-your-health
- Healthline.com “11 Healthy Foods that are very high in Iron.” Accessed 17 June 2018: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/11-healthy-iron-rich-foods
- MayoClinic.com “Iron Deficiency, Anemia.” Accessed 17 June 2018: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/iron-deficiency-anemia/symptoms-causes/syc-20355034
- MedicalNewsToday.com “Iron Overload Disorder: All you need to know.” Accessed 17 June 2018: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/166455.php