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Iron Deficiency - The Cold Hard Facts

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Article by Carmen Farrugia

 Iron Deficiency - The Cold Hard Facts

 Despite access to food, water and healthcare. Iron deficiency is the only nutrient deficiency still prevalent in the developed world.

Feeling washed out, listless and extremely fatigued?

Before heading down the adrenal fatigue path first consider an iron deficiency. In addition to tiredness, symptoms commonly include; looking pale (only other people can tell), feeling faint, breathless, rapid heart rate, unable to go about daily tasks or not wanting to visit friends/family.

Poor delivery of oxygen throughout the body not only leads to a lack of energy being produced but reduces your ability to fight infections and to concentrate. Low iron levels impair the function of many enzymes responsible for hormone production and detoxification.

Iron is of vital importance during times of growth such as pregnancy and adolescence, and in children from six months to four years. Low iron levels during these times may impair growth and development.


In fact 40% of women begin pregnancy without enough Iron. Recent research has found that the cells involved in building the embryonic brain during the first trimester were most sensitive to low iron levels. Iron is responsible for the growth of the placenta, effects the growth and health of the baby and protects against blood loss during birth. It is so much harder adjusting to life with a newborn when you are iron deficient. Poor Iron levels in pregnancy increases the chance of having a baby with a low birth weight and of being born preterm.


Up to 10% of preschool children in Australia are anaemic. In the last trimester of pregnancy the baby stores 80% of the Iron it needs to be able to continue to grow for the first six months of life. Iron from the diet is then essential to be able to fuel the baby’s fast growth and brain development. Demand often outweighs supply, especially if the child is a fussy eater. Unfortunately a poor appetite, which ironically is a symptom of iron deficiency in children, compounds the problem. Studies have shown that iron supplementation in children with iron deficiency anaemia increases attention, concentration and IQ scores.

The solution

The only way to get enough iron is via food, and a supplement if required.

 Haem sources of iron come from animals and include red meat, organ meats, poultry –chicken & turkey, fish and oysters/clams.

 Non-haem sources come from plants, unfortunately they are not as well absorbed as haem iron for a number of reasons. Good sources include; kelp, molasses, brewer’s yeast, pumpkin seeds, cashews, Jerusalem artichokes, Swiss chard, dandelion greens, prunes and dates.


The Rules about Iron Absorption


  • To increase the availability of plant iron, combine it with vitamin C, meat, poultry or seafood.

  • Combining iron rich foods with grains (such as corn, wheat, rice etc.), beans and legumes reduces the amount of iron being absorbed. This is due to them containing the iron binding substances gluten, phytate and polyphenols.

  • Iron inhibitors in the form of dairy products, tea, coffee and red wine should not be consumed with meals or iron supplements, and should be separated by 2 hours.

  • Other nutrients such as zinc, calcium and manganese can also interfere with iron absorption and are best taken away from each other and meals.

  • Iron supplementation- requires consultation with a healthcare practitioner to determine need and type.  Iron Sulphate, prevalent in many traditional supplements, can cause significant gastrointestinal discomfort and constipation. Other forms such as iron bisglycinate are better absorbed with no nasty side effects.

  • If an iron supplement has been recommended by a professional then it should be taken on an empty stomach with vitamin C, a half hour before food or 1 hour after food. Preferably not too close to bedtime.


There are a number of conditions that can cause tiredness and fatigue, before jumping to conclusions try to keep it simple. RULE OUT IRON DEFICIENCY FIRST.


1 Apr 2015

Last Update: 9 Apr 2015

Article/Information supplied by Carmen Farrugia

Disclaimer - Any general advice given in any article should not be relied upon and should not be taken as a substitute for visiting a qualified medical Doctor.