What Every Woman Should Know About Iron Deficiency
by Dr. Cathy Carlson-Rink
One-out-of-four women suffer, the majority of them unknowingly, from iron deficiency – an insufficient amount of iron within the body.
“Women with iron deficiencies typically find their concentration evaporates before they’re able to finish tasks and their ability to get things done has nosedived,” says one of North America’s foremost experts in women’s and children’s health, Dr. Cathy Carlson-Rink. “They also find it hard to exercise for any length of time and may have trouble keeping up with their friends in physical activities.”
Dr. Carlson-Rink says women suffering from poor concentration and poor tolerance for physical activity are often suspected by their physicians of being anemic, so a lab test will be ordered. But when their blood shows normal red blood cell count and normal level of hemoglobin – the oxygen carrying component found in healthy red blood cells — the doctors then rule out anemia.
“Because iron deficiency symptoms usually appear before anemia develops, a more sensitive test to check for a condition known as “pre-anemia” or low iron stores is usually a good idea whenever anemia is suspected but not found by the physician,” said Dr. Carlson-Rink.
Dr. Carlson-Rink says proper diagnosis of pre-anemia in women in their childbearing years is especially important as studies have shown low iron stores are linked with fertility problems, pre-term labor, and low birth weight babies.
“Since most pregnancies are unplanned, women in relationships should ensure they maintain proper iron levels to help guarantee a healthy placenta, delivery at full term and a healthy baby,” she says. “During and immediately after pregnancy, women need to double the amount of iron,” she adds.
Dr. Carlson-Rink says women aren’t the only ones affected by iron deficiency. Recent studies show that iron deficiency poorly affects the intelligence of teenage girls.
Dr. Carlson-Rink says the best way to correct iron deficiency is with dietary change and iron supplements.
Dr. Carlson-Rink says plant-derived iron is preferable over iron from animal sources, as plant derived iron doesn’t create “iron overload”– an over-saturation of iron in the cells which may lead to other health problems. In fact, studies show 20mg/day of iron can correct iron deficiency in four out of five women suffering from iron deficiency without anemia.
“Women with low iron levels don’t have to feel like they’re losing their minds,” says Dr. Carson- Rink. “With proper iron supplementation, they should experience an improvement in general well-being and improvement of symptoms within 4 to 8 weeks. Treated in this way, iron deficiency can be completely resolved in three to twelve months.”