Iron: The energy builder we all need - some more than others

Constantly feeling fatigued? Rarely have the energy to get through the day? Then you might be suffering from an iron deficiency - especially if you're a woman. In the following we'll look at why iron is so important to our bodies, what can happen if we are not getting enough, and why taking iron supplements might be beneficial.

What is Iron?

Iron is a mineral that is essential to our health and is a main component for carrying oxygen in our red blood cells and transmitting nerve impulses. Iron is a key component of haemoglobin and myoglobin, two proteins involved in the transport and storage of oxygen to the body’s tissues. Not having enough iron in the body is known as anaemia.

Why does your body need Iron?

Iron provides the energy needed for healthy brain function and ensures that your muscles, including your heart, work effectively. Iron has a role in creating energy from nutrients. It also contributes to the transmission of nerve impulses, where the signals that coordinate the actions of different parts of our body. Iron is also needed for energy production by activating a key enzyme known as aconitase. This enzyme is required for efficient energy production from the breakdown of food. Additionally, sufficient iron is required for several immune functions in the body.

Are you getting enough Iron?

So, if you feel generally fatigue, muscle fatigue, shortness of breath, irritability, headaches, have pale skin or lips, mental confusion or poor memory then maybe you should get your iron levels checked. There are a number of reasons why your iron levels might fall low. Your diet may be lacking the foods that contain it, or you may have blood loss, such as through menstruation. Or your body might suddenly need increased levels of iron, due to pregnancy or intensive physical training.

How does my body get enough Iron it needs?

In search of a healthy balanced diet and plenty of energy, many people look to their iron levels. A healthy body maintains an intricate balance of iron. If iron stores are high, the body will absorb less iron from the foods you eat. Conversely, if iron stores are low it will increase your ability to absorb it. Dietary iron has two main forms – haem and non‐haem. Heme iron or the kind you find in red meat, kidneys, seafood and poultry is common. Non-heme iron is found in items such as fortified cereals, wholegrains and vegetables, eggs, beans, peas, lentils, nuts, seeds, green leafy vegetables and dried fruits, and is a good way to add more of this nutrient to your diet. Non‐haem iron is found in plant‐based foods but it isn’t as well absorbed as animal sources. However, non‐haem iron absorption can be enhanced by consuming vitamin C rich fruits and vegetables at the same time.

Might Iron supplements be of use?

An iron supplement is the simplest, most convenient way to maintain the daily iron levels that your body needs and might be beneficial for those with greater iron needs such as pregnant and lactating women, or for those with inadequate iron intake such as some vegans and vegetarians. Ideally, you should take iron supplements on an empty stomach or with food or drinks that have vitamin C, as this will help the body absorb the iron. Be sure to refer to your doctor on the recommended dosage and how long you need to take an iron supplement.

Browse our website to find out more on our range of iron supplements.


Sources: ‘Daily iron supplementation for improving anaemia, iron status and health in menstruating women.’ Low MS, Speedy J, Styles CE, De-Regil LM, Pasricha SR. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2016 Apr 18;4:CD009747. ‘Weekly iron folate supplementation in adolescent girls--an effective nutritional measure for the management of iron deficiency anaemia.’ Joshi M1, Gumashta R.. Glob J Health Sci. 2013 Mar 20;5(3):188-94. doi: 10.5539/gjhs.v5n3p188. ‘Hemoglobin and plasma vitamin C levels in patients on peritoneal dialysis.’ Finkelstein FO1, Juergensen P, Wang S, Santacroce S, Levine M, Kotanko P, Levin NW, Handelman GJ.. Perit Dial Int. 2011 Jan-Feb;31(1):74-9. doi: 10.3747/pdi.2009.00154. Epub 2010 Jun 17.

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