Iron deficiency

Some Facts About Iron

Written byVictoria Rabi, M.D.,member of American Medical Association;Member of Florida Medical Association; member of AmeriClerkships Medical Society.

Iron is an important and vital microelement for all living organisms including humans. It plays a big role in multiple metabolic processes such as oxygen and electron transport as well as DNA synthesis. As a component of hemoglobin (Hb), an erythrocyte protein, iron helps transfer oxygen from the lungs to the tissues. Iron is also part of myoglobin, and it supports muscle metabolism and healthy connective tissues. It is part of and a co-factor of some enzymes, including the mitochondrial cytochrome system, which plays a crucial role in the production of ATP as the main source of energy of our organism. This explains most of our symptoms in regards to iron deficiency like tiredness, lack of energy, sleepiness, difficulty in maintaining body temperature (cold intolerance). This microelement is necessary for physical growth, neurological development, cellular functioning, as well as the synthesis of some hormones. Due to iron deficiency, our immune systems function significantly decreases, and our organism is easily prone to bacterial and viral infections. During pregnancy iron deficiency affects neural system development, causes growth retardation, miscarriages, preterm deliveries, an increase in maternal and infant mortality as many other major negative effects. In children, iron deficiency affects cognitive and physical development. In adults, iron deficiency causes difficulty concentration and impaired cognitive function as well. In athletes, iron deficiency (iron blood concentration has a significant reverse correlation with training degree) causes a decrease in physical performance, fatigue, and an intolerance to exercise as well as the other negative effects.

There are two types of iron. There is heme, a soluble ferrous form of iron easily absorbed by our organism, contained in meat and fish; and non heme, insoluble ferric form of iron is poorly absorbed by our body, contained mainly in plants. The average American diet, which contains 6-7 mg of elemental iron per 1000 kcal of food, is enough for iron homeostasis. From 15-20 mg/day of dietary iron, adults absorb only 1-2 mg. We mostly recycle iron from RBC and in majority cases, we need less content iron to be absorbed. There are enhancers (meat and fish, or “meat factor,” and ascorbic acid) and inhibitors (calcium, egg white proteins, milk proteins, albumin, tannins, tea, wine, and fibers) of iron absorption. The main role of iron transportation belongs to proteins like transferrin and ferroportin. The absorption and distribution of iron throughout our body is predominantly regulated by the peptide hormone hepcidin, which binds to ferroportin, an iron transporter presented on cells of the intestinal duodenum, macrophages, and cells of placenta causing increase ferroportin internalization and degradation and as a result decrease of iron absorption in general. Inflammatory processes increase the expression of hepcidin. The loss of iron in normal physiologic conditions occurs in the urine, and by the desquamation of the cells from the skin and gastrointestinal tract. The average male absorbs and loses around 1 mg of iron from their diet, while females in their childbearing years lose about 2 mg of iron daily. Women of childbearing age, athletes, seniors, vegetarians require more than average iron intake. Some pathologic (like blood loss acute or chronic, chronic inflammatory conditions, cancer patients, patients with gastrointestinal disorders, and many other pathological conditions), as well as physiologic (women cyclic periods, pregnancy, and breastfeeding) conditions can cause the iron deficiency. The main treatment is iron replenishment by iron and iron-containing supplements. Due to side effects of iron and iron-containing supplements like constipation, in certain cases, diarrhea, stool and teeth discoloration, nausea, vomiting, upset stomach, dizziness not everybody is compliant with this treatment. It can induce and increase inflammation in the gut and by increasing pro-inflammatory cytokines reduce erythropoiesis (RBC formation). Not everybody can undergo such therapy as it can flare many diseases in remission. In fact, to reach the desired levels of iron in blood the patient has to take it for at least a 6 month period. The iron-enhanced oxidative stress may lead to increased mutagenesis, cell death, ulcerations. Intravenous administration of iron preparations can cause hypersensitivity reactions, tachycardia, strong perspiration, worsening of rheumatic inflammation, myalgia, dysgeusia, iron overload, which can cause at the final stage of organ failure.

Ironcatch was invented to help with absorption heme as well as non heme iron from our diet making it more available for our organism to use. This supplement contains fish oligosaccharides which are more powerful than the regular “meat factor” and a blend of vitamins (ascorbic acid, alpha-tocopherol, and folic acid) and microelements (zinc and copper). All these elements improve iron absorption, increase energy level, support the immune system, and maintain well being of the human organism in general. This supplement can be taken by any patient despite the anemia etiology. Certain medications can decrease the iron absorption, like antacids and others, always try to have like 2 hours interval in between taking Ironcatch and other medications patients are on. It has no known side effects. Ironcatch simply increases affinity and susceptibility, as well as expression and the efficiency of the iron transport system, and makes bioavailability of iron for our organism higher. Compared to iron and iron-containing supplements, patients who suffer from irritable bowel disease, ulcerative colitis, and Crohn’s disease can take it without fear of disease exacerbation. It is gluten-free which makes it suitable for patients with celiac disease. People who receive blood transfusions on a regular basis due to anemia can increase blood iron levels by simply taking Ironcatch. Depending on the severity of anemia, patients can start from 1 tablet twice a day during the main meals for 2-4 months, and a maintenance dose is 1 tablet a day. A significant result can be noticed already in 30 days. This is a valuable innovation in our medical and clinical fields.

Iron deficiency

Keeping up the iron balance with the right food while stuck at home

Most of us are aware how deficiency or over-consumption of various essential elements has noticeable after effects on human health. There are several features that determine the benefits and negative effects of any element in human body. This includes but not limited to metabolism, absorption, and other major interactive physiological processes.

Iron is one of the essential elements for almost all living organisms as it contributes in carrying the metabolic processes. For human, it is responsible for transporting oxygen transport, carrying out deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) synthesis, as well as in electron transport. That being said, it is important to have a regulated amount of in the form of free radicals, as too much of it can result in tissue damage. Disorders of iron metabolism are commonly seen amongst a huge percentage of global population and can result in diverse clinical manifestations. The most common one is anemia.

Did you know?

The fraction of iron absorbed from the daily food may range from 5% to 35% and depends on a number of factors such as age, physical activities and type of iron.

During the stage of early infancy, the iron requirements are met by human milk. However, the need for iron rises becomes important and more from 4-6 months after birth and typically should be anywhere between 0.7-0.9 mg/day. Of 1 and 6 years of age, this requirement almost doubles and becomes considerably high in adolescents. Iron is one of the most vital elements during the period of growth spurt and more so for menstruating girls. For boys, the need for iron reaches high during puberty.

The fine balance between dietary uptake and loss is necessary to maintain the iron balance in the body. As and how there is augmentation of body mass, thete will be boost in iron requirements.

The highest probability of suffering iron deficiency is amongst those who cannot have adequate access to iron rich foods and it is applicable to anyone irrespective of the age and gender.

Consequences of iron deficiency

Iron deficiency results from depletion of iron stores in the body. The primary reason is difficulty or problem with iron absorption which fails to keep pace over a long period with the metabolic demands of the body. It fails to aid in the normal body growth and to replenish iron loss, which is primarily related to blood loss.

The primary causes of iron deficiency can be any of the following –

  • low intake of bio-available iron
  • increased iron requirements caused from rapid growth
  • pregnancy
  • heavy blood flow in menstruation, and
  • excess blood loss from pathologic infections

How Your Body Uses Iron in Food

When you eat iron rich, it is absorbed mainly through the upper part of the small intestine. There are two forms of dietary iron- heme and non-heme. While sitting back at home and being stuck in this pandemic, you should be aware of the benefits of iron-rich food and how it can impact your health. Monotonous diets can also complications in iron absorption and accumulation.

Common food items rich in Iron

With a daily value (DV) is 18 milligrams, Iron is an essential nutrient that can be found in the following sources-

Animal-based sources of iron

  • liver (chicken, lamb)
  • sardines
  • egg (chicken)
  • duck
  • beef
  • lamb
  • salmon

Plant-based sources of iron

Plant foods that have non-heme iron include-

  • legumes (such as lentils, chickpeas, beans)
  • firm tofu
  • dried apricots
  • dried apricots
  • pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
  • sunflower seeds
  • nuts (cashews and almonds)
  • wholegrain cereals (oats or muesli, brown rice, whole meal bread, amaranth and quinoa)
  • vegetables such as kale, broccoli, spinach, and green peas

Eating a balanced, healthy diet which has all the nutrients along with being good sources of iron can help prevent the deficiencies. However, if you feel there is any sort of constant fatigue or weakness, do not delay to get in touch with a doctor at the earliest.