Are you feeling fatigued, lacking concentration or experiencing headaches? You may have an iron deficiency!
Iron deficiency remains the largest nutritional deficiency worldwide, affecting 2–5% of adult men and postmenopausal women in the UK. Between 4–13% of referrals to gastroenterologists stem from iron deficiency/absorption issues.1https://cks.nice.org.uk/topics/anaemia-iron-deficiency/background-information/prevalence/
So, let’s talk about the symptoms to look out for and what steps you can take to naturally optimise your iron intake…
Symptoms of iron deficiency:
- Fatigue, weakness
- Poor concentration
- Increased infections
- Hair loss and brittle nails
- Shortness of breath (in severe cases)
What can you do to optimise your iron intake?
1) Eat iron-rich foods every day:
- Vegetables: broccoli, spinach, bok choy, swiss chard, green beans, tomatoes, olives, romaine lettuce
- Nuts and seeds: sunflower, pumpkin and sesame, pine nuts
- Pulses and legumes: lentils, chickpeas, kidney beans
- Fruit: dates, apricot, raisins
- Herbs and spices: parsley, turmeric, cinnamon, cumin
- Red meat, fish and tofu
2) Opt for whole grains: iron is found in the bran and germ. White bread, pasta and rice are low in iron – try switching to whole-grain options.
3) Eat foods containing the nutrients needed to absorb iron:
- Vitamin C: blackcurrants, citrus fruits, parsley, peppers and tomatoes.
- Vitamin A: butter, egg yolk, fish, cheese, kefir, leafy green vegetables, tomatoes, oranges, mangoes and apricots.
- Vitamin B2: asparagus, avocados, currants, eggs and broccoli.
- Vitamin B12: meat, fish, eggs and kefir.
- Copper: avocado, broccoli, mushrooms and olives.
- Folic acid: eggs, green leafy veg and sprouts.
- Selenium: broccoli, celery, eggs, fish, garlic, mackerel, tuna and onions.
- Manganese: broccoli, carrots, coconuts, kelp and liver.
- Molybdenum: buckwheat, butter, peas and sweet peas.
4) Caffeine and tannins can bind to iron and prevent its absorption by up to 80%! Try to avoid consuming coffee, tea, cocoa or red wine within an hour of a meal. Enjoy them in moderation at other times as they are rich in gut-friendly polyphenols!
6) Eating prebiotics and probiotics have been shown to improve the absorption of iron in the large intestine. 3https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9317605/ 4https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31816981/
7) Chuckling Goat Kefir has been shown to contribute to normal iron metabolism.
8) Improve your digestion! Low stomach acid and lack of digestive enzymes can hinder the absorption of iron so digestive power is important to give it the best chance. Read our post on boosting your digestion.
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