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LGLWSM Newsletter 051 - The Dangers of Taking Iron Supplements
November 03, 2011
If you're already feeling lethargic just thinking about the holidays, you might consider taking extra iron to help increase your energy, but iron might not be the best choice. Most people quickly assume that they must be anemic when they feel overly tired or have consistent low energy. Iron is always the preferred supplement prescribed when anemia is suspected. Our physicians have done a good job of making us think that extra iron is actually good for us!
Pregnant women are often prescribed ‘pregnancy vitamins’ that are very high in iron. I remember my experience with these vitamins! I took them for a couple of days, and then became so constipated I thought I would never be able to have a bowel movement again. I actually stopped taking the vitamins because of this unpleasant side effect.
In fact, for the last several decades, iron supplements have been routinely recommended by physicians. Because iron is required for proper cell growth and longevity, it is too often assumed that people should take supplements with extra iron. After all, more is better or is it?
A common misconception is that anemia is directly linked to iron deficiency. However, anemia can be caused by other things as well, such as hypothyroidism and vitamin B12 deficiency. Supplementing iron in these cases is unnecessary and could exacerbate problems related to the underlying issue.
High levels of iron are linked to many risks:
When you consider that the modern day diet is heavy in muscle meats and other foods that are enriched with added iron, it is easy to see why high iron is such a common problem. Staple foods in the SAD (Standard American Diet) such as breads, pastas and cereals, are required by federal law to be enriched with added iron. In addition, iron is also present in many multivitamin and mineral supplements.
It is far better to take iron supplements only when blood tests show an actual deficiency. Even when a deficiency exists, it is far safer to eat foods naturally high in iron than rely on iron supplements.
Good sources of iron are liver, cereals, enriched breads, nuts, raisins, some vegetables like broccoli, poultry, dried apricots, sun dried tomatoes, whole grains, some seeds like sunflower, pumpkin, and sesame, cocoa powder and chocolate, and dried herbs.
Vegetable sources of iron are considered to be non-heme. (no blood) Unlike heme sources of iron found in animal products, non-heme sources are not as bio-available by your body. Spinach for example has always been known to be high in iron but it also contains oxalic acid, which binds to iron and inhibits its absorption. Some whole grains such as buckwheat and certain vegetables such as Swiss chard along with certain nuts and beans are also high in oxalic acid. Cooking spinach to remove the oxalic acid and consuming it with a vitamin C rich food, such as red bell pepper, increases iron absorption. Of course, if you're not concerned about boosting iron levels, forget about trying to increase its absorption and just enjoy your veggies!
Happy Thanksgiving to Everyone!
Until Next Time!
Stay Sweet and Be Beautiful!
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