One of the most common mineral deficiencies in mothers…..
Iron is one of the most common mineral deficiency in mothers and one of the most important minerals to correct.
Symptoms of low iron:
~ Poor concentration
~ Poor tolerance to stress
~ Shortness of breath
~ Poor exercise
~ Restless legs
~ Increased anxiety
Some other clues you might notice are slightly blue-ish white of your eyes or pale creases in the palm of hands.
Ways to check iron levels through blood tests
Ferritin ideally between 50-70 micrograms per litre (anything below 30 is generally deficiency)
Transferrin saturation – below 20% suggests deficiency
Soluble trans -ferritin receptor test is the gold standard for checking iron levels (You can request this from your GP, there might be a small fee to check this but worth the information if you think your iron is low).
In the past older iron sulphate supplements often caused constipation and are relatively low absorption. Now we know Iron bisglycinate is better absorption 80-90% (look for this on your iron supplement).
Nutritional ways to boost your iron levels:
In reality when iron has reached a level it is deficient in, additional supplemental support is often required until the level is back up within normal range. It is important to understand different types of iron and how our body utilizes them from nutritional sources.
Haem iron is found only in animal proteins and is more readily utilised by our body. This is important for someone who has absorption issues. Some haem iron sources include:
Beef, chicken, oysters, mussels, duck, sardines, lamb, tuna.
Non-haem iron comes in plant-based sources of iron. Many people who live a vegan or vegetarian diet will utilise this iron source. This type is ore difficult for the body to utilise. Here are the top non-haem iron sources:
Soybeans, lentils, pumpkin seeds, red kidney beans, cooks spinach, edamame, tofu, tahini, chickpeas.
When consuming non-haem iron its best to also pair with Vitamin C rich foods for better absorption.
It is also important to know some foods high in phytates, polyphenols or calcium can make it more difficult for us to absorb iron. These foods are tea, coffee, whole grains and dairy products.
Iron plays a vital role in our overall function.
It is important for:
~ Detoxification (via catalase and cytochromes)
~ Immune function, especially the production of NAC and the oxygen carrying haemoglobin.
~ Neurotransmitters, such as the production of dopamine, melatonin and serotonin (supports mood/ stress resistance)
~ Hormones, includes thyroid production, oestrogen metabolism, and insulin sensitivity
And finally when taking an iron supplement remember unless you are pregnant to only take every second day, and avoid taking it with calcium.
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Kate Sedon is a Registered Nurse & Midwife who trained in Australia in 2007. She has settled down in The Coromandel, New Zealand, with her soulmate fisherman, two gorgeous sons, and their black lab.