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Tips for Getting and Absorbing Iron

  • Eat foods that are good sources of iron. Concentrate on green, leafy vegetables, lean, red meat, beef liver, poultry, fish, wheat germ, oysters, dried fruit, prune juice and iron-fortified cereals.
  • Eat foods high in vitamin C, such as citrus fruits, tomatoes, and strawberries. Vitamin C helps your body absorb iron from food.
  • If you drink tea, drink it between meals because the tannins in tea inhibit iron absorption. Alternatively, add milk to the tea - the calcium in milk binds with the tannins. (Herbal tea does not have tannins.)
  • Take an iron supplement, but check with your doctor first. Note: Recent research is suggesting that high levels of iron in the blood may increase the risk for heart attacks.
  • Avoid antacids, phosphates (found in soft drinks, beer, ice cream, etc.), and the food additive EDTA. These block iron absorption.
Grain products supply almost half the iron in the American diet, and meats supplied nearly one-fifth (but are better absorbed). About one tenth of the iron in the American diet also came from vegetables. Foods that contain small amounts of iron, but are not considered good sources, can contribute significant amounts of iron to an individual's diet if these foods are eaten often or in large amounts.

When oral iron does not raise iron levels, iron by injection or infusion may be required.

A product called Floradix provides enhanced absorption of iron by using a highly absorbable form of iron, iron gluconate. Floradix also contains B vitamins and vitamin C to enhance absorption, herbal extracts to increase digestion, and fruit juices to ensure proper stomach acidity. A twenty milligram dose of Floradix satisfies the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of fifteen milligrams of iron for women of child-bearing age. An excellent Naturopathic product.
 

 
 

Iron can help with the following:
 
 
AgingNot recommended for:
  Parkinson's Disease / Risk
 Avoiding overexposure to some metals, especially iron, can reduce the risk of developing Parkinson's disease.

Circulation

  Anemia (Iron deficiency)
 Iron supplementation, with as much as 200mg of elemental iron per day, is the obvious therapy for treating and preventing the recurrence of iron deficiency anemia.


Not recommended for:
  Thalassemia
 People who have thalassemia should not take iron containing medications unless it has been established that an iron deficiency is present.

Digestion

  Atrophic Gastritis
 Ferric iron absorption is decreased in achlorhydria but heme iron absorption is not.

Immunity

  Weakened Immune System

Infections

  Mouth Ulcers

Not recommended for:
  Tuberculosis
 Excess levels of iron in the body have been found to promote the development of tuberculosis. In previous studies conducted in Africa, it has been suggested that iron levels are associated with the reproduction of the mycobacterium tuberculosis, as those who consumed large quantities of iron were at a greater risk from TB.

Mouse studies indicate that iron is an essential element in the reproduction of mycobacterium tuberculosis, a discovery that, researchers say, could aid in developing new treatments for TB. [J Exp Med, Dec. 2002;196: pp.1507-1513]

Mental

  Poor Memory
 In women whose whose iron levels are low, with or without anemia, supplemental iron improved mental functioning after four months. [Yahoo! News April 19, 2004] See the link between Iron Deficiency and Poor Memory.

Metabolic

  Metabolic Diet Type

Not recommended for:
  Hemochromatosis (Iron overload)

Musculo-Skeletal

  Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) / Periodic Limb Moveme
 RLS has been associated with an iron deficiency as measured by low ferritin levels. The anemia that results from an iron deficiency may or may not have appeared yet; patients whose serum ferritins were lowest initially improved the most.

Nutrients

  Iron Requirement

Organ Health

Not recommended for:
  Hepatitis
 Patients with chronic hepatitis C sometimes have difficulty excreting iron from the body. This can result in an
overload of iron in the liver, blood, and other organs. Excess iron can be very damaging to the liver. Studies suggest that high iron levels reduce the response rate of patients with hepatitis C to interferon. Thus, patients with chronic hepatitis C whose serum iron level is elevated, or who have cirrhosis, should avoid taking iron supplementation.

Skin-Hair-Nails

  Boils, Abscesses, Carbuncles
 Sometimes recurrent boils are associated with low iron levels.

Uro-Genital

  Menorrhagia (Heavy Periods)
 The following observations have been made regarding iron and menorrhagia:
  • Positive response to iron supplementation alone in 74 of 83 patients (in whom organic pathology had been excluded)
  • A high rate of organic pathology found (fibroids, polyps, adenomyosis, etc.) in the patients who failed to respond to iron supplementation
  • A decreased response to iron therapy when initial serum iron levels were high
  • A correlation exists between menorrhagia and depleted tissue iron stores (bone marrow) irrespective of serum iron level, thus serum ferritin may be a better test than serum iron
  • A well-controlled study showed improvement in 75% of those on iron supplementation, compared with 32.5% for a placebo group.
'Heme' iron (from meat) is 10 times more absorbable than most other forms of iron.

  Possible Pregnancy-Related Issues
 Iron is routinely prescribed for pregnant women during the second and third trimesters, when blood volume increases by 50%. The growing baby is also making blood. Hemoglobin, the blood component that carries oxygen to the cells, is composed in part of iron. During pregnancy, your baby receives plenty of this critical mineral because your body absorbs iron more efficiently. [Eskeland B, et al. Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavia 1997;76: pp.822­8]

There is some controversy about whether iron supplementation is really needed or effective, except for women such as diabetics or those with anaemia, whose iron deficiency is a real threat. [Lao TT, Tami KF. Diabetes Care 1997;20(9): 1368­9] Iron supplementation for anemia often fails because women don't take iron long enough, say researchers at the University of California, Berkeley. They suggest beginning iron supplementation before conception and continuing until breastfeeding is finished. [Viteri FE. Nutr Rev 1997;55(6): pp.195­9]

It is preferable to get your iron in natural foods. Iron supplements may cause nausea and constipation, making the common discomforts of pregnancy worse. Too much iron is also bad for the circulation. If you do need to take iron supplements on doctor's advice, iron chelate is better tolerated by the body and is available from chemists. The U.S. RDA is 30mg.
 
 


KEY
May do some good
Likely to help
Highly recommended
May have adverse consequences
Reasonably likely to cause problems
Avoid absolutely







GLOSSARY

Antacid:  Neutralizes acid in the stomach, esophagus, or first part of the duodenum.

Calcium:  The body's most abundant mineral. Its primary function is to help build and maintain bones and teeth. Calcium is also important to heart health, nerves, muscles and skin. Calcium helps control blood acid-alkaline balance, plays a role in cell division, muscle growth and iron utilization, activates certain enzymes, and helps transport nutrients through cell membranes. Calcium also forms a cellular cement called ground substance that helps hold cells and tissues together.

EDTA:  (Ethylene Diamine Tetraacetic Acid): An organic molecule used in chelation therapy.

Herbs:  Herbs may be used as dried extracts (capsules, powders, teas), glycerites (glycerine extracts), or tinctures (alcohol extracts). Unless otherwise indicated, teas should be made with one teaspoon herb per cup of hot water. Steep covered 5 to 10 minutes for leaf or flowers, and 10 to 20 minutes for roots. Tinctures may be used singly or in combination as noted. The high doses of single herbs suggested may be best taken as dried extracts (in capsules), although tinctures (60 drops four times per day) and teas (4 to 6 cups per day) may also be used.

Iron:  An essential mineral. Prevents anemia: as a constituent of hemoglobin, transports oxygen throughout the body. Virtually all of the oxygen used by cells in the life process are brought to the cells by the hemoglobin of red blood cells. Iron is a small but most vital, component of the hemoglobin in 20,000 billion red blood cells, of which 115 million are formed every minute. Heme iron (from meat) is absorbed 10 times more readily than the ferrous or ferric form.

Milligram:  (mg): 1/1,000 of a gram by weight.

Naturopathy:  Medical practice using herbs and other various methods to produce a healthy body state by stimulating innate defenses without the use of drugs.

RDA:  Recommended Daily Allowance of vitamins or other nutrients as determined by the FDA. U.S. RDAs are more widely used than RDAs, and focus on 3 age groups: Infants of 0-12 months; Children of 1-4 years; Adults and children of more than 4 years.

Stomach:  A hollow, muscular, J-shaped pouch located in the upper part of the abdomen to the left of the midline. The upper end (fundus) is large and dome-shaped; the area just below the fundus is called the body of the stomach. The fundus and the body are often referred to as the cardiac portion of the stomach. The lower (pyloric) portion curves downward and to the right and includes the antrum and the pylorus. The function of the stomach is to begin digestion by physically breaking down food received from the esophagus. The tissues of the stomach wall are composed of three types of muscle fibers: circular, longitudinal and oblique. These fibers create structural elasticity and contractibility, both of which are needed for digestion. The stomach mucosa contains cells which secrete hydrochloric acid and this in turn activates the other gastric enzymes pepsin and rennin. To protect itself from being destroyed by its own enzymes, the stomach’s mucous lining must constantly regenerate itself.

Vitamin C:  Also known as ascorbic acid, Vitamin C is a water-soluble antioxidant vitamin essential to the body's health. When bound to other nutrients, for example calcium, it would be referred to as "calcium ascorbate". As an antioxidant, it inhibits the formation of nitrosamines (a suspected carcinogen). Vitamin C is important for maintenance of bones, teeth, collagen and blood vessels (capillaries), enhances iron absorption and red blood cell formation, helps in the utilization of carbohydrates and synthesis of fats and proteins, aids in fighting bacterial infections, and interacts with other nutrients. It is present in citrus fruits, tomatoes, berries, potatoes and fresh, green leafy vegetables.