How to Avoid Iron Deficiency
The Connection Between Iron Deficiency & Vitamin C
Iron deficiency can lead to a series of uncomfortable side-effects. Fatigue, light-headedness, or brittle nails may be due to a lack of this essential mineral. The solution is often simply eating more iron via supplements or nutrient-rich foods, but there are also other helpful nutrients, such as vitamin C, that can help your body absorb more iron. Read on for how these two work in conjunction to keep your body supplied with the oxygen it needs.
Deficiency vs. Anemia
While these two terms are often used interchangeably, there is a distinct difference between a deficiency and anemia. Simply being low in iron is considered an iron deficiency, while anemia is a more severe, often chronic, disorder. A deficiency may be managed with dietary changes, while anemia frequently requires medication or supplements and monitoring.
If you are concerned that you may be anemic, it’s important to visit your family doctor before attempting to diagnose and treat yourself.
Why Iron is so Important
Your cardiovascular system relies on iron to make hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells that transports oxygen throughout your body. Without enough oxygen circulating from your lungs to your tissues, your body has trouble taking care of itself. The result of this deficiency causes issues from your head to your toes.
Symptoms of Iron Deficiency
The symptoms of low iron range from the mild to extreme. Depending on the severity of your condition, you may experience moderate or intense variations of:
- Pale skin
- Chest pain or rapid heartbeat
- Shortness of breath
- Dizziness or light-headedness
- Cold hands and feet
- Inflammation or soreness of your tongue
- Brittle nails
- Unusual cravings for substances with no nutritional value, such as ice, dirt or starch
- Poor appetite, particularly in infants and youth with iron deficiency anemia
Women, especially during menstruation and pregnancy, are more likely to be low in iron. Generally, pregnant women need twice as much iron as other adults. Children and infants can often be low in iron, as they haven’t had the opportunity to develop a store of iron yet. Those who donate blood regularly can develop a deficiency as they use up their stores after their donations. In any case, consult a physician for your specific supplementing needs and dosage.
Causes of Iron Deficiency
There are a variety of reasons why you may experience a shortage of iron. For women, during pregnancy, the body is tasked to use so much more as it is growing a baby. Additionally, childbirth and monthly menstruation can also cause a deficiency, as well as severe injuries, surgery, or blood donations.
In some cases, it may be an inability to absorb enough iron. This can be due to intestinal surgery such as gastric bypass or chronic intestinal diseases, like Crohn’s or celiac disease. The most common culprit is a lack of the mineral in your diet, with absorption rates affected by your vitamin C level.
How Vitamin C Contributes to Healthy Iron Levels
Vitamin C has a huge impact on your system. Not only does it help fight the common cold, it helps your body absorb iron from the food you eat and the supplements you take. It doesn’t just boost absorption; Vitamin C has also been shown to aid in the formation of red blood cells, where we find iron-rich hemoglobin. This vitamin, however, is not stored by your body, so you need daily intake. For these reasons, it’s a wise choice to pair food high in vitamin C with high-iron food or supplements.
Eating Right to Fight Anemia
At Nova Scotia Organics, we always believe in eating a proper diet, rich in the abundance of vitamins and minerals found naturally in food. Making meals with these ingredients can help you to increase your iron levels naturally.
Foods that can give you a natural boost in iron include:
- Meat – beef, pork, poultry
- Seafood – oysters, mussels, clams
- Legumes – beans, peas, lentils
- Leafy greens – spinach, kale, chard
- Dried fruit – apricots, dates, berries
- Fortified cereals – breads, pasta, muffins that are made with iron fortified flour
Supplementary Vitamin C Foods
Foods to pair with your high-iron foods include:
- Citrus fruits – oranges, grapefruits, tangerines
- Bell peppers
- Berries – strawberries, blueberries, cranberries
- Cruciferous vegetables – cabbage, brussel sprouts, broccoli
- Squash – butternut, spaghetti, acorn
When your diet simply can’t keep up to the demands on your iron stores, it may be time to consider a supplement. It can be taken during temporary occasions when you need extra iron, like menstruation, pregnancy or around blood donations.
The Nova Scotia Organics Iron + Vitamin C Supplement
Our Iron + Vitamin C caplets are made entirely of plant-based, organic ingredients that combine the power of iron-rich foods and the absorption-enhancing vitamin C. Our vegan supplement uses ingredients like curry leaf for iron and acerola cherries for vitamin C. It is a simple way to obtain the extra iron you need to maintain optimal health.