Iron deficiency what to do? – An overview of causes, symptoms and foods containing iron!
Today, iron deficiency is the most common disease in the world. Around 9% of Germans and around 20% of women of childbearing potential in Europe suffer from it. However, iron is of great importance for us and our body – it makes us efficient, promotes our concentration, ensures healthy hair, skin and nails and much more. But what are the causes and symptoms and what can be done in the event of an iron deficiency? What are the iron deficiency home remedies and what are the foods high in iron? The answers to these and many other questions can only be found in our article!
Iron is an important component of many important functional units and is primarily required for the formation of hemoglobin. The red blood cells get their color from hemoglobin and it ensures that the inhaled oxygen reaches the body cells via the bloodstream. If the body is not supplied with enough iron, an iron deficiency occurs with serious consequences for health.
Iron deficiency what to do and what is iron good for?
Our bodies store around 3-5 grams of iron, and roughly half of that is used to make hemoglobin. Although we only need 1 milligram of iron per day, the daily iron loss through stool, urine, sweat and other factors is as much as 3-4 milligrams. Normally, this loss can be compensated for with food. However, the body can absorb a maximum of a fifth of the iron it consumes. For this reason, it is recommended that women consume around 15 mg and men 10 mg of iron daily from foods containing iron. One speaks of an iron deficiency if:
- The hemoglobin levels in a woman are below 12 g / dL.
- The hemoglobin levels in a man are less than 13 g / dL.
Globally, around 12% of the total population is affected by the disease. However, women of childbearing age form the greatest risk group and the main reasons for this are, on the one hand, the monthly bleeding and, on the other hand, a poor diet and diet. The following groups suffer most from an iron deficiency:
- Women with normal or heavy menstruation
- Pregnant women
- Infants, children and adolescents
- Vegetarians and vegans
- Blood donor
- Elderly people
What are the causes of iron deficiency?
The causes of iron deficiency depend on many factors – gender, age, physical activity and illnesses. The most common reasons for large iron losses include:
- Severe blood loss during menstruation, after an operation or if you donate blood too frequently.
- Chronic bleeding due to gastrointestinal diseases in ulcers, polyps and tumors.
- Lack of nutrition and diets – Iron deficiency is about a mismatch between intake and need. Reduced iron intake is very common, especially with diets that are too strict.
- Disturbed iron absorption means that your body is not absorbing iron optimally. The reasons for this can be various illnesses such as gastritis or an infection with the bacterium Helicobacter pylori or an excessive consumption of coffee or black tea.
- With athletes – The iron requirement of people who exercise regularly is roughly twice that. With every liter of sweat, our body loses approximately 1.4 milligrams of iron.
- With a vegetarian or vegan diet – Since iron is absorbed much better from meat than from plant-based foods, vegetarians and vegans are advised to consume iron-deficient supplements or vitamins.
- Some diseases and drugs can also lead to iron deficiency, even if you eat a balanced and healthy diet.
Iron deficiency what to do and an overview of your daily iron requirement
How much iron the body needs depends primarily on gender, age and life situation.
- baby – 0.6 to 5 mg
- Children up to 10 years – 8-10 mg
- Girls up to 16 years – 15 mg
- Boys up to 18 years – 12 mg
- Women up to 50 years – 15 mg
- Women aged 51 and over – 10 mg
- Pregnant and breastfeeding women – 20-30 mg
- Men aged 19 and over – 10 mg
Symptoms of iron deficiency what to do?
The iron deficiency symptoms are very diverse and divided into 3 stages depending on the severity.
- In the first stage one speaks of a slight iron deficiency, which often even goes unnoticed. There are complaints such as fatigue, tiredness and difficulty concentrating.
- In the second stage the cells are no longer supplied with enough iron and the deficiency becomes a disease. The first symptoms are hair loss, itching, dry skin, paleness, cracked corners of the mouth or a burning sensation on the tongue.
- In the third stage the iron loss is so pronounced that many body functions no longer function properly. The symptoms are severe headaches, insomnia, chronic fatigue, susceptibility to infections and the so-called restless legs syndrome. In some cases, depression and shortness of breath can occur.
What helps against iron deficiency?
Have you noticed some of the symptoms and want to know what can be done about iron deficiency? Which are the natural sources of iron?
- Consume foods and beverages containing iron – The good news is that you can correct or prevent iron deficiency with the right diet and healthy, iron-rich recipes. When putting together your diet, you should make sure that some foods promote iron absorption, while others have a negative effect on it. Food that is rich in iron must primarily consist of lean, red meat, fish, eggs and vegetables.
- Iron deficiency medication – Unfortunately, if the iron loss is too pronounced, it cannot be remedied with a balanced diet. Iron deficiency preparations are available as tablets, capsules, effervescent tablets, drops or even as juices. Even if most drugs are available without a prescription, they can sometimes cause unpleasant side effects such as diarrhea, constipation, stomach pain or nausea. For this reason, we recommend that you consult your doctor first.
- Fix iron deficiency quickly with Iron infusions – Infusions are given through the vein and are best for people who cannot tolerate oral iron deficiency medication.
- Iron deficiency homeopathy – A slight iron deficiency can also be treated with Schussler salts in tablet form or homeopathic globules. Depending on the severity, a daily intake of 3 to 6 tablets is recommended. The no. 3 Schussler salts iron deficiency are called Ferrum phosphoricum and improve iron absorption in the intestine. This helps with concentration problems and paleness.
Iron deficiency what to do and iron-containing foods and drinks at a glance
The best and fastest way to combat iron deficiency is to incorporate iron-rich foods into your diet. However, iron is divided into 2 groups – heme iron and non-heme iron.
- Heme iron is found in offal, meat, poultry, seafood and fish and is much better absorbed by the body than vegetable iron. Liver and black pudding are particularly good natural sources of iron.
- Non-heme iron is contained in plant-based foods and is unfortunately not so well absorbed. In addition, the iron content in the fruits and vegetables is much lower than in the meat. The best vegetable sources of iron include legumes such as soybeans, chickpeas and lentils.
Ferrous foods table
A food rich in iron helps to remedy an iron deficiency quickly. But what contains a lot of iron and how can you supply iron naturally? In the following we have put together a list of blood-forming foods for you. The values refer to 100 grams. [Table id = 75 /]
Do you have a vegetarian or vegan diet and would you like to know how you can compensate for or prevent an iron deficiency? Below is the iron content in grain products per 100 grams.
- Wheat bran – 15 mg
- Millet flakes – 9 mg
- Amaranth – 9 mg
- Flaxseed and Quinoa – 8 mg
- oatmeal – 4.2 mg
- Buckwheat – 3.5 mg
- Rye flour – 2.1 mg
- Whole grain rice – 1.7 mg
- Rye bread – 1.7 mg
- White bread – 1.2 mg
Some legumes are also an excellent source of iron. However, the phytic acid it contains can negatively affect iron absorption and for this reason it is recommended that you soak the legumes for at least 8 hours before cooking.
- Soybeans, dried – 9.8 mg
- lenses – 8 mg
- White beans – 7 mg
- Chickpeas – 6.1 mg
What helps with iron deficiency? – An overview of fruits and vegetables containing iron
Even though most fruits have a lower iron content, some fruits that are low in calories, healthy and very high in vitamin C can support and promote iron absorption. From a little lemon juice in the tea to a freshly squeezed orange juice for breakfast to delicious strawberries for dessert – everything is allowed and can only be an advantage. Strawberries, grapefruit, mandarins, kiwi, tomatoes, leafy vegetables and broccoli are particularly rich in vitamin C.
Beverages with a lot of iron – iron-containing juices as delicious, natural sources of iron
However, in order to supply your body with sufficient iron, you do not always have to eat a steak. There are an incredible number of delicious and iron-containing drinks that are just as healthy. However, the drinks help to prevent iron deficiency and not to combat it completely. But which juice has a lot of iron and tastes good? Freshly squeezed juices made from grapes, beetroot, pomegranate, various berries or cherries are a wonderful source of iron. Or how about a carrot or apple juice? They not only contain iron, but are also rich in vitamin C and many minerals and vital substances that are important for our health. The beetroot iron content is around 1 milligram per 100 grams and can hardly influence an iron deficiency.
Iron-containing tea and herbs
In addition to meat, legumes and beverages containing iron, there is also a large selection of herbs that can counteract or prevent iron deficiency. The nettle, which is usually made into tea, is particularly popular. However, you shouldn’t expect miracles – after all, the amount in tea is not particularly high and is hardly a source of iron. A perfect addition to side dishes and dressings are also parsley, dandelion and chives.
Iron deficiency what helps and which foods you should avoid?
While many blood-forming foods promote and support iron absorption, there are also some that can negatively affect it. If you cannot do without these completely, you should either only consume them in moderation or keep an interval of about 3 hours before or after meals. These foods mainly include:
- Polyphenols – contained in coffee and black tea
- calcium – in milk and cheese
- Oxalic acid – in rhubarb and spinach
- Phosphates – in dairy products and cola, sprite, etc..