Iron deficiency occurs when the body losses or uses up more iron than it takes up. When you eat food rich in iron, it is then absorbed in the small intestines into the blood stream. Excess iron is stored in the liver and bone marrow. Mild shortages can be compensated by the body from these reserves. However when they run out, it leads to symptoms of iron deficiency and anemia. Severe iron deficiency or anemia may need oral iron supplements or even blood transfusion. A daily uptake of 7mg iron could keep you healthy.
Major causes of iron loss are:
- Heavy menstrual bleeding
- Chronic bleeding in the stomach or bowels from gastric ulcers, intestinal ulcers, tumors, angiodysplasia and hemorrhoids
- Blood loss through blood donation, accident or surgery
- Long-lasting loss of blood in the urine (hematuria)
- Athletes loss more iron through increased perspiration: 1.2 mg pro liter sweat
Major causes of malabsorption or insufficient supply of iron are:
- Poor iron absorption from vegan diets. There are two forms of iron in food: the heme iron (which contains hemoglobin) and the non-heme iron found in vegetables (does not contain hemoglobin). The body absorbs most of its iron from animal foods that originally contained heme iron, such as red meats, fish, and poultry.
- medications which affect the absorption of iron in the bowels e.g Aspirin, Fibrates etc. Take iron supplements at least 30min before meals . Drink a class of orange juice or eat an orange ( or grape fruit, guava, lime) during meals to ease iron uptake
- Inflammation of the stomach or bowels may disrupt iron uptake. Individuals suffering from ulcerative colitis or Crohn disease need to check their iron level often.