Essential mineral – Iron

In India alone, around 200 million children and 400 million adults are suffering due to the health impacts of the important mineral ‘Iron’. If we look at global statistics (other than India), it increases to around 305 million children and 260 million adults. Let us learn about the important mineral.

What is Iron?

Dietary Iron is classified as an essential mineral required by the body. It is used by red blood cells, to make haemoglobin – a protein which helps them in carrying oxygen from the lungs to other parts in the body. The tissues, muscles, organs require oxygen for effective working and the deficiency of which will cause anaemia. Both overdosage and underdosage of iron in the body cause evident health impact, and hence the body needs a balanced level of iron.

Common causes of iron deficiency

  • Inadequate dietary iron in daily food as per required nutritional needs
  • Other health factors (E.g.: Pregnancy, heavy menstruation etc.)
  • Bowel diseases
  • Conditions when body can’t absorb iron (celiac disease, ulcerative colitis,  gastric bypass surgery, intake of any medicines etc)

Symptoms of Iron deficiency

The severity of symptoms may vary depending on age, existing health conditions, and lifestyle factors. Nevertheless, iron deficiency symptoms are capable to affect daily work. It is important to note that iron deficiency leads to a condition named as anaemia and it also can be identified by some of the below symptoms.

  • Tiredness and fatigue – Due to lack of  haemoglobin and thereby oxygen in body, anaemia strikes in and this results in a feeling of tiredness all the time. Other accompanying symptoms are feeling irritated, loss of concentration, weakness
  • Shortness of breath – due to low oxygen levels, when you do any physical activities, the breathing rate will increase and consequently you will soon start to feel shortness of breath even while doing normal daily activities.
  • Pale skin – Haemoglobin gives blood the red color and so when its low, the overlying skin starts appearing pale.  Observe your face, eyes, gums, nails for signs of paleness and dullness.  A quick test can be trying to pull the lower eyelid down, and see the inside layer if it shows to be a vibrant red color. If not, it may be a symptom of iron deficiency.
  • Frequent headaches – With lower oxygen levels in the body, many experience frequent headaches throughout the day and dizziness.
  • Other symptoms include – frequently falling sick due to infections, restlessness, cold hands and feet, dry skin and hair, hair fall, frail looking nails, muscle aches, inflamed tongue and sour mouth

Excess of iron in the body too can show symptoms such as stomach Pain, nausea, vomiting and so it is important to study the dietary recommendation and introduce yourself to a balanced iron intake.

Natural sources of Iron

Iron can be found in Spinach (100 gm can give 2.7 mg of iron), legumes (beans, lentils, chickpeas, peas, and soybeans), dried beans, dried fruits, egg yolks, liver, Lean and organ meat, oysters, poultry, dark red meat, salmon, tuna, whole grains, oily fish, pumpkin seeds, quinoa, broccoli, tofu,

Artificial sources of  Iron

Iron-fortified cereals, health supplements  (Iron tablets, tonics, capsules, powder mix, injections). Please note in the case of oral health supplements, one should take 15-20 mg/day only. Many multivitamin and multimineral tablets have iron.

Leave a Reply