WHAT IS IRON?
Iron is a major component of hemoglobin, a type of protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen from your lungs to all parts of the body. Without enough iron, there aren’t enough red blood cells to transport oxygen, which leads to fatigue. Iron is an important mineral that helps maintain healthy blood. A lack of iron is called iron-deficiency anemia, which affects about 4-5 million Americans yearly.  It is the most common nutritional deficiency worldwide, causing extreme fatigue and lightheadedness. It affects all ages, with children, women who are pregnant or menstruating, and people receiving kidney dialysis among those at highest risk for this condition. Iron is also part of myoglobin, a protein that carries and stores oxygen specifically in muscle tissues. Iron is important for healthy brain development and growth in children, and for the normal production and function of various cells and hormones. Iron from food comes in two forms: heme and non-heme. Heme is found only in animal flesh like meat, poultry, and seafood. Non-heme iron is found in plant foods like whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, and leafy greens. Non-heme iron is also found in animal flesh (as animals consume plant foods with non-heme iron) and fortified foods. iron deficiency anemia include:
- Blood loss. Blood contains iron within red blood cells. So if you lose blood, you lose some iron. Women with heavy periods are at risk of iron deficiency anemia because they lose blood during menstruation. Slow, chronic blood loss within the body — such as from a peptic ulcer, a hiatal hernia, a colon polyp or colorectal cancer — can cause iron deficiency anemia. Gastrointestinal bleeding can result from regular use of some over-the-counter pain relievers, especially aspirin.
- A lack of iron in your diet. Your body regularly gets iron from the foods you eat. If you consume too little iron, over time your body can become iron deficient. Examples of iron-rich foods include meat, eggs, leafy green vegetables and iron-fortified foods. For proper growth and development, infants and children need iron from their diets, too.
- An inability to absorb iron. Iron from food is absorbed into your bloodstream in your small intestine. An intestinal disorder, such as celiac disease, which affects your intestine’s ability to absorb nutrients from digested food, can lead to iron deficiency anemia. If part of your small intestine has been bypassed or removed surgically, that may affect your ability to absorb iron and other nutrients.
- Pregnancy. Without iron supplementation, iron deficiency anemia occurs in many pregnant women because their iron stores need to serve their own increased blood volume as well as be a source of hemoglobin for the growing fetus.
Initially, iron deficiency anemia can be so mild that it goes unnoticed. But as the body becomes more deficient in iron and anemia worsens, the signs and symptoms intensify. Iron deficiency anemia signs and symptoms may include:
- Extreme fatigue
- Pale skin
- Chest pain, fast heartbeat or shortness of breath
- Headache, dizziness or lightheadedness
- Cold hands and feet
- Inflammation or soreness of your tongue
- Brittle nails
- Unusual cravings for non-nutritive substances, such as ice, dirt or starch
- Poor appetite, especially in infants and children with iron deficiency anemia
HEALTH BENEFIT OF IRON SUPPLIMENTS:
Iron helps to preserve many vital functions in the body, including general energy and focus, gastrointestinal processes, the immune system, and the regulation of body temperature. The benefits of iron often go unnoticed until a person is not getting enough. Iron deficiency anemia can cause fatigue, heart palpitations, pale skin, and breathlessness.
Blood volume and red blood cell production increase dramatically during pregnancy to supply the growing fetus with oxygen and nutrients. As a result, the demand for iron also increases. While the body typically maximizes iron absorption during pregnancy, insufficient iron intake or other factors affecting the way iron is absorbed can lead to iron deficiency. Low iron intake during pregnancy leads to premature birth and low birth weight, as well as low iron stores and impaired cognitive or behavioral development in infants. Pregnant women with low iron may be more prone to infection because iron also supports the immune system. It is clear that iron supplements are needed for women who are both pregnant and iron deficient. However, research is ongoing as to the possibility of recommending additional iron to all pregnant women. It is argued that all pregnant women should take 30 to 60 milligrams (mg) of iron supplements on every day of their pregnancy, regardless of their iron levels.
Better athletic performance:
Iron deficiency is more common among athletes, especially young female athletes, than in individuals who do not lead an active lifestyle. This appears to be particularly true in female endurance athletes, such as long-distance runners. Some experts suggest that female endurance athletes should add source of elemental iron per day to the current RDA for iron intake. Iron deficiency in athletes decreases athletic performance and weakens immune system activity. A lack of hemoglobin can greatly reduce performance during physical exertion, as it decreases the body’s ability to transport oxygen to the muscles.