What Is The Vitamin C Rda For A 3-Year-Old Girl Iron-Deficiency Anemia – How to Get the Most Iron Out of Your Diet and Supplements

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Iron-Deficiency Anemia – How to Get the Most Iron Out of Your Diet and Supplements

Iron deficiency anemia (IDA), also called simply “anemia,” is a medical diagnosis given to those who have fewer red blood cells (RBCs) than normal. Since a major component of RBCs is iron, when there is a deficiency of RBCs, iron deficiency is usually the culprit. Although there are other types of “anemia”, for this discussion, only Iron Deficiency Anemia will be discussed.

In Red Globes there is hemoglobin that binds to oxygen that is inhaled; this oxygen is then transported throughout the body by those blood cells. At the same time, carbon dioxide is taken up and returned to the lungs for removal from the body through exhalation. For optimal health, the body needs enough RBCs to have proper oxygen-carbon dioxide exchange; therefore, the blood needs enough iron to be available to make enough Red blood cells.

Prevalence of Iron Deficiency Anemia

Unfortunately, not everyone has enough Iron in their bodies to produce enough Red Blood Cells for optimal health and oxygen exchange. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimated that 19% of the American population has Iron Anemia, which is responsible for an average of 429,000 hospitalizations and causes an average of 4,686 deaths per year (CDC, 2009).

The two largest groups that are affected by this anemia are nursing homes and women of childbearing age (ages from 13 to 45 years).

The RDA of Iron is 10 mg for children and adults; 15 mg for premenopausal women, and 30 mg for pregnant women.

Signs and Symptoms of Anemia

Most signs and symptoms of anemia are due to a lack of oxygen in the body tissues and the brain. The most common are fatigue, headache and pallor. If the anemia does not improve or worsens, then other symptoms follow: slowing down of mental reactions, lethargy, irritability, poor concentration; difficulty swallowing; spoon-shaped nails; sensitivity to cold; heart palpitations, shortness of breath; increased menstrual bleeding; increased susceptibility to infections; and obesity.

For those with respiratory or heart-related illnesses, Anemia can worsen symptoms or make it harder to control the illnesses.

Causes of Iron Deficiency Anemia

The main cause of IDA is bleeding or blood loss. Blood loss can come from any source; when too much blood is lost, the body has difficulty compensating for the oxygen distribution that is essential for life. Most people are aware of blood loss, such as from an injury, menstrual bleeding, or bleeding hemorrhoids. However, sometimes bleeding can occur without a person knowing, such as with a bleeding stomach ulcer. At times like these, they are not aware that they are Anemic.

Other causes:

> Inadequate dietary intake of Iron, or intake of Iron without converters (see below)

> Drinking alcohol or alcoholism

> Depletion of Iron by medical drugs

> Iron depletion through natural supplements

> Depletion of Iron through dietary foods

More on Iron Depletion

Iron depletion occurs quite rapidly as iron “floats around” in the blood. When a medicinal drug or herbal component enters the bloodstream, the substance binds to the Iron, thus rendering the Iron AND the substance unable to be used – ultimately the combination is removed from the body either through the bowels or the urine. Either way, this can cause problems for those who are drug, supplement and/or Iron dependent for health reasons.

There are MANY medical drugs that deplete Iron from the body. Some of the categories are (this list is not complete):

> Antacids: such as those used to reduce stomach acidity, GERD, etc.

> Antibiotics: cephalosporins, penicillins, tetracyclines, etc.

> Anti-inflammatory Drugs: ibuprofen, steroids, etc.

> Medicines for Lowering Blood Pressure: calcium channel blockers, ACE Inhibitors, and others.

> Diuretics: “water pills”

> And the list goes on…

Some of the commonly used natural supplements that deplete Iron by binding to it either in the blood or digestive tract (again, the list is not complete):

> Calcium

> Magnesium

> Artichoke

> Cascara sagrada

> Chamomile

> CoQ10

> And the list goes on…

Some foods and drinks that deplete Iron (when eaten/drinked with foods containing Iron or Iron supplements):

> Dairy products

> Coffee

> Tea

> Alcohol & Wines

If the drug or supplement binds to the Iron in the digestive tract, then it is possible to separate Iron from the drug or supplement by two hours, so the Iron will have a better chance of being absorbed. If unsure, then it is best not to take Iron with the supplement (talk to your doctor or pharmacist about a medical interaction with Iron).

3 Types of Iron: Heme, Non-Heme and Elemental

The types of Iron that are absorbed best (fastest) are Heme sources of Iron. Heme means they are the closest to the type of Iron that is used to make RBC’s, so they are easily used to make the RBC’s. Common dietary sources of Heme Iron are red meats, liver, chicken, seafood and eggs.

Non-Heme Iron there are sources of Iron that require modification of the Iron before it can be used – it needs to vitamin C, vitamin A or beta-carotene to make it active for use. Without these assistants, this form of Iron will be unusable by the body. Sources of Non-Heme Iron are the non-meat/animal sources, such as dark green leafy vegetables, whole grains, nuts, molasses and dried fruits; herbs such as cayenne, kelp, peppermint, and roses. To make the Iron in these substances usable, take vitamin C, vitamin A or Beta-carotene with the meal.

Treatment of Iron Deficiency Anemia is usually a supplement, an Elemental Iron Source such as Ferrous Sulfate. Elemental Iron needs conversion like the above mentioned vitamins. Therefore, if you buy a bottle of Elemental Iron, it might say that each tablet contains 325 mg of Iron, but only 65 mg MAY be absorbed and used optimally (usually only about 20 mg is usable per tablet).

A strange fact about Iron (and almost all vitamins and minerals) is that when it is needed by the body, more will be absorbed during its time of need.

All sources of Iron (when absorbed correctly) will turn stool dark green or almost black. This is a normal reaction.

Do Not Take Iron Supplements If…

Taking Iron supplements that are not needed by the body can cause health challenges such as heart disease, Iron Toxicity and can damage the liver. Therefore, adult men and postmenopausal women should avoid supplements that contain Iron, unless otherwise directed by a healthcare practitioner.

Maximize Iron Absorption (Get Most from the Diet)

Iron is found in many vegetables, nuts and grains. However, as mentioned above, it is in a form unusable by the body. Without a converter (vitamin C, vitamin A or Beta-Carotene), the Iron in these foods will be removed from the body. Therefore, take a vitamin source while eating foods that contain Non-Heme Iron. Foods that contain Heme Iron do not need the conversion – it is readily available for use.

Also, don’t take Iron supplements or eat an Iron-rich diet with coffee, dairy products, alcohol or tea, as these drinks bind to Iron and make it unusable, even with a converter like vitamin C.

Vitamin C can be found in citrus fruits. Vitamin A and Beta-Carotene are best found in yellow or orange vegetables such as broccoli.

Reference

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2009). “Anemia or Iron Deficiency” at http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/anemia.htm

best wishes,

Dr. Ronda

Disclaimer: The information provided by Dr. Ronda Behnke Theys is for educational purposes only. It is important that you do not make any health decisions or stop any medication without first consulting your personal physician or health care provider.

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