Fatigue and iron deficiency

Posted on May 11, 2015

Are you utterly exhausted? Is your fatigue crushing and unrelieved by rest? If that is the case, your condition may be due to an iron deficiency.

How do I know if my fatigue is due to an iron deficiency?

Check yourself! Do you have one or more of the symptoms below?

1. You have been feeling tired for more than a month.

2. You always feel cold.

3. Your skin looks paler than usual.

4. You simply cannot focus.

5. You have substantial hair loss and brittle nails.

For more information, please visit [email protected]. If you feel that you need to be examined by a doctor or a nurse, a consultation can be arranged. To access this service, you must be a registered UP student.

What is fatigue?

Fatigue is a subjective feeling of tiredness. It is distinct from weakness and has a gradual onset. It is also different from drowsiness, which makes one feel that sleep is required. Fatigue is a normal response to physical exertion or stress, but can also be a sign of a physical disorder, eg iron deficiency.

What are the causes of iron deficiency?

• Blood loss (red blood cells in blood contains iron).

• A lack of iron in your diet (food intake). Your body depends on a regular supply of iron from the foods you eat.

• An inability to absorb iron. Under normal circumstances, iron from food is absorbed into your bloodstream in your small intestine.

• Pregnancy

Fatigue due to iron deficiency can be prevented by eating foods that are rich in iron.

Types of dietary iron

1. Heme iron, derived from haemoglobin, is found in meat-based proteins and absorbs two to three times faster than non-heme iron. Lean ground beef, chicken livers, oysters and clams are potent sources of iron in this category.

2. Non-heme iron is found in plant-based foods.

Beans, spinach, broccoli, dried fruits (such as apricots) and fortified cereals are among the best sources.

3. To boost your daily iron intake, eat foods that are rich in vitamin C and iron-rich vegetables.

Vitamin C can speed up the absorption of iron travelling from your digestive system into your bloodstream by up to five times, giving you a major energy boost. Great pairs of foods that contain vitamin C and iron include:

• Red bell peppers and spinach

• Tomatoes and broccoli

• Citrus fruits and young soy beans steamed in the pod (edamame)

4. Cook your pasta sauce in an iron skillet.

Acidic foods with high moisture content, such as tomato sauce, will absorb the most iron from these cooking pots. In one study, the iron content in spaghetti sauce tripled after it had been simmered in a cast-iron pot. Sauté vegetables and other foods this way as often as you can to increase iron intake.

5. Limit coffee and tea intake three hours prior to an iron-rich meal.

Since the tannins that are present in tea and coffee interfere with iron absorption, you should try to avoid drinking these beverages for a few hours before a meal that is high in iron, especially when you are trying to build up your body's stores.

6. Choose clams whenever you can.

Fresh and canned clams are equally good and not only provide large quantities of iron, but are also a top source of potassium and vitamin B12. Eat clams once a week as an alternative to another protein. A serving of 85 grams (about 10 small clams) provides up to 24 mg of iron and contains only 126 calories.

- Author Student Health Services

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