MINERALS OF LIFE – Are you getting enough Iron from your food?

Eating the Right Minerals for the Health & Wealth of Your Body

Minerals are the basic building blocks of life. Iron and Calcium are two major dietary minerals that can lead to severe health challenges if deficient in the human system.  Both minerals are most important for the growth and maintenance of health. Iron is most important for building strong red blood cells to carry oxygen and other nutrients to all cells of the body. Iron is most vital to the blood as it forms the red pigment, hemoglobin, which assist in the transportation of oxygen from the lungs to the various tissues of the body. Iron is of importance to metabolism and helps prevent anemia, often caused by a poor appetite or diet. Iron is difficult to absorb, difficult to keep and easy to lose. To be assimilated to any degree, iron needs the presence of copper, folic acid(vitamin B9), vitamins B6(pyridoxine) and B12 (cobalamin), vitamin C as well as calcium and phosphorus.

A sallow complexion with weakness and fatigue, with an ease of picking up infections could be an evidence of weak adrenal glands arising from a lack of iron salts in the blood. It is said that people who have weak backs and spines lack the grit of iron!

A deficiency of iron essentially creates a lack of red blood cells and this is evident from a low blood pressure and other signs of anemia. Iron is a magnetic element in the blood which attracts oxygen and is an active constituent of many enzymes that do various jobs in the body.  Two-thirds of this essential trace mineral is present as hemoglobin, the remainder is stored in the spleen, liver, bone-marrow and in the muscles as myoglobin, which acts as an oxygen carrier to the muscles.

It is said that iron is to the blood what Calcium is to the bones but there are six other essential minerals apart from these two: sodium, potassium, copper, phosphorus, iodine, zinc and magnesium, manganese.  Minerals are the unsung heroes of nutritional therapy. A delicate balance of mineral salts in the body is vital for biological health.

The Recommended Dietary Allowance
according to the US FDA & WHO is 10 mg for men and 18 mg for women. Higher dosages of up to 30 mg are recommended for pregnant and breast-feeding women. It is important not to take too much iron in supplement form as recent research shows that excessive iron in tissues raises the risk of heart disease and some kinds of cancer.

 Women tend toward iron deficiency on a monthly basis because of their menstrual cycle. It is estimated that more than half of the world’s population of the women folk are anemic or have a tendency toward anemia, more especially in the so-called third world or developing countries. (See map below).The truth is that anemia is more prevalent in sub-Saharan countries.

Malarial Anaemia

Malarial anaemia is an enormous public health problem in malaria-endemic areas of the world and occurs predominantly in children in the first 3 years of life.  Anemia is a common complication in malarial infection, although the consequences are more pronounced with Plasmodium falciparum malaria. 

Malaria remains an enormous problem in public health around the world. Over 2 billion people live in malaria-endemic areas and up to 1 million children die each year of malaria.  

Malaria is a mosquito-borne infectious disease affecting humans and other animals caused by parasitic protozoans (a group of single-celled microorganisms) belonging to the Plasmodium type. Malaria causes symptoms that typically include fever, fatigue, vomiting, and headaches. In severe cases it can cause yellow skin, seizures, coma, or death. Symptoms usually begin ten to fifteen days after being bitten. If not properly treated, people may have recurrences of the disease months later. In those who have recently survived an infection, reinfection usually causes milder symptoms. This partial resistance disappears over months to years if the person has no continuing exposure to malaria. The disease is most commonly transmitted by an infected female Anopheles mosquito. The mosquito bite introduces the parasites from the mosquito’s saliva into a person’s blood. The parasites travel to the liver where they mature and reproduce.

How then does malaria cause anemia?  Anemia is the result of a decrease in the number of red blood cells in the blood. Malaria specifically attacks red blood cells, invading them and then undergoing multiple cycles of reproduction inside them. Once replication has been completed, the malaria parasites burst out of the red blood cell, destroying it in the process. Over the course of an infection, this can destroy many red blood cells, resulting in anemia in the patient.

Arthritic patients on regular steroid, chloroquine or aspirin medication run the risk of lost

absorption of iron. They all should bolster their diets with natural sources of iron to prevent iron-deficiency anemia.

Iron deficiency Anemia

But what is iron deficiency anemia?  Anemia occurs when you have a level of red blood cells (RBCs) in your blood that is lower than normal. Iron deficiency anemia is the most common type of anemia, and it occurs when your body doesn’t have enough of the mineral iron. Your body needs iron to make the protein called hemoglobin. This protein is responsible for carrying oxygen to your body’s tissues, which is essential for your tissues and muscles to function effectively. When there isn’t enough iron in your blood stream, the rest of your body can’t get the amount of oxygen it needs.

While the condition may be common, a lot of people don’t know they have iron deficiency anemia. It’s possible to experience the symptoms for years without ever knowing the cause.

In women of childbearing age, the most common cause of iron deficiency anemia is a loss of iron in the blood due to heavy menstruation or pregnancy. A poor diet or certain intestinal diseases that affect how the body absorbs iron can also cause iron deficiency anemia. Naturopathic Doctors normally treat the condition with natural sources of iron supplements achieved thru changes to your diet as well as the appropriate Tissue Cell salts.

Who is at risk for iron deficiency anemia?

Anemia is a common condition and can occur in both men and women of any age and from any ethnic group. Some people may be at greater risk for iron deficiency anemia than others. These include:

Women of childbearing age are very susceptible to iron-deficiency anemia.  Pregnancy, significant menstrual bleeding, and uterine fibroids are all reasons why women are more likely to experience iron deficiency anemia.  Heavy menstrual bleeding occurs when a woman bleeds longer or more than women typically bleed during menstruation. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), typical menstrual bleeding lasts for four to five days and the amount of blood lost ranges from 2 to 3 tablespoons. Women with excess menstrual bleeding typically bleed for more than seven days and lose twice as much blood as normal.

According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), an estimated 20 percent of women of childbearing age have iron deficiency anemia. Pregnant women are even more likely to experience iron deficiency anemia because they require greater amounts of blood to support their growing babies.

A pelvic ultrasound can be used to look for the source of excess bleeding during a woman’s period, such as fibroids. Like iron deficiency anemia, uterine fibroids often don’t cause symptoms. However, they occur when muscular tumors grow in the uterus. While they’re not usually cancerous, they can commonly cause heavy menstrual bleeding that can lead to iron deficiency anemia.

  • pregnant women
  • people with poor diets
  • people who donate blood frequently
  • infants and children, especially those born prematurely or experiencing a growth spurt
  • vegetarians who don’t replace meat with another iron-rich food
  • People living in malaria endemic area

Can iron deficiency anemia be prevented?

When caused by inadequate iron intake, iron deficiency anemia can be prevented by eating a diet high in iron-rich foods and vitamin C. Mothers should make sure to feed their babies breast milk or iron-fortified infant formula.

Foods high in iron include:

  • Red meat, such as lamb, pork, chicken, and beef
  • beans
  • pumpkin and squash seeds
  • leafy greens, such as spinach
  • Nuts, raisins and other dried fruit
  • eggs
  • seafood, such as clams, sardines, shrimp, and oysters
  • iron-fortified dry and instant cereals

Additionally, vitamin C helps your body absorb iron. If you’re taking iron tablets, a doctor might suggest taking the tablets along with a source of vitamin C, like a glass of orange juice or citrus fruit. 


Foods high in vitamin C include:

  • citrus fruits, such as oranges, grapefruits, strawberries, kiwis, guavas, papayas, pineapples, melons, and mangoes
  • broccoli
  • red and green bell peppers
  • Brussels sprouts
  • cauliflower
  • tomatoes
  • leafy greens

What are the symptoms of iron deficiency anemia?

The symptoms of iron deficiency anemia can be very mild at first, and you may not even notice them. According to the American Society of Hematology (ASH), most people don’t realize they have mild anemia until they have a routine blood test.  

What are the potential health complications of iron deficiency anemia?

Most cases of iron deficiency anemia are mild and don’t cause complications. The condition can usually be easily corrected. However, if anemia or iron deficiency is untreated, it can lead to other health problems, including:

Rapid or irregular heartbeat

When you’re anemic, your heart has to pump more blood to make up for the low amount of oxygen. This can lead to irregular heartbeat. In severe cases, it can lead to heart failure or an enlarged heart.

Pregnancy complications

In severe cases of iron deficiency, a child may be born prematurely or with a low birth weight. Most pregnant women take iron supplements as part of their prenatal care to prevent this from happening.

Delayed growth in infants and children

Infants and children who are severely deficient in iron may experience a delay in their growth and development. They may also be more likely to experience infections.

Symptoms of moderate to severe iron deficiency anemia include:

  • general fatigue…Tiredness & fatigue or dizziness or weakness
  • pale skin …Impaired health of skin, nails, teeth and bones
  • shortness of breath …Breathlessness & palpitation
  • Dizziness or Giddiness
  • strange cravings to eat items that aren’t food, such as dirt, ice, or clay
  • a tingling or crawling feeling in the legs
  • tongue swelling or soreness
  • cold hands and feet
  • fast or irregular heartbeat
  • brittle nails
  • Headaches
  • Colitis
  • Slow mental reaction
  • Insomnia at night and sleepiness during the day
  • Loss of interest in sex
  • Stinging sensation in the head, the heel, the bottom of feet, the fingertip or the shoulder joints
  • Other little recognised symptoms of a possible deficiency of iron are crying for no reason, painful breathing and poor hearing

If you’re at risk for iron deficiency anemia, talk to your doctor to determine if blood testing or dietary changes could benefit you. 

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