You're a fit person, and you've just walked down to the shops, but you're feeling a bit puffed, fatigued and a bit miffed as to why you feel like this. We have to be careful when it comes to our diagnoses of health issues, especially in the cases of fatigue.

We tend to pigeon-hole ourselves into one box (like iron deficiency), when there may be other stuff going on. This article is about iron deficiency, not fatigue in general.


What does iron do?
Haemoglobin is the molecule in our blood which transports oxygen throughout the body. Iron is a key component of Haemoglobin. Without enough iron, we struggle to get enough oxygen. The puffing we may experience in iron deficiency, is your body trying to get extra oxygen in. This isn't iron's only function, but it will be the main function you will probably notice in your body.

How do we become iron deficient? It's not always a case of just not eating enough iron containing foods. We can also become iron deficient by depleting our stores AND by blocking iron absorption.

Here are just some of the ways (this is not a complete list)
· Heavy menstruation
· High levels of training (athletes are susceptible)
· Smoking/drinking
· Stress
· High caffeine consumption
· Poor intestinal health
· Heavy consumption of calcium (antacids, supplements, too much dairy) · Heavy consumption of tannins (in tea)
· Consumption of softdrinks and other phosphate containing foods
· Elevated toxicity

What are the symptoms
Fatigue, low energy, low moods, puffing at weird times, dizziness, weakness, hair loss. But of course, some of these symptoms also relate to other issues, so use sensible judgement as you work through your health concerns.

How do you know what is causing your low iron?
Now this is the million dollar question. Your doctor is possibly going to take the "eat more red meat, and take a supplement approach", whereas someone like myself might take the stress, tannin, caffeine,calcium, smoking/drinking angle and a naturopath or integrated doctor or herbalist may look at your absorption issues through your intestinal health or toxicity.

It may be, that you need to see a few people to get it sorted. This is what I would recommend: ·

Start with looking at consumption by increasing iron from red meat, dark leafy greens, and if you are vegetarian, include vitamin C containing foods such as kiwifruit and oranges in your diet.

Take an iron supplement if your levels are rock bottom to boost them up to normal levels. Some supplements can cause constipation, so this is another area that might need a little playing around with - finding the right supplement. I have used Ferrograd-C with no issues, but I do know that some people will. Be savvy with what is right for you vs marketing messages claiming they have the best product. Ask around and get different options from trusted advisors.

· If your iron depletes again quickly, then head down the road of looking at your absorption and depletion issues and work with a well trained professional on these. And ladies, this includes menstruation issues, please save hysterectomy as an absolute last resort to solving a menstrual related iron issue - try and get the hormone issue causing this first if you can.

· Be patient, and keep getting your levels checked. If you are eating enough iron and levels keep dropping, AND it is affecting you, then the holistic approach may take you a little longer as you get it sorted. A final note on iron levels in blood tests.

As we all know, if our blood tests don't have a little star (*) or LOW (L) indicator next to them, they can often be overlooked, even when they're quite low. We may have low iron that is functionally low but doesn't show up deficient.

We won't get into the ins and outs of blood reference ranges, but if you have these symptoms and your iron levels are at the low end within the range, talk to your doctor and if they're not prepared to help, get a copy of your results and take them to someone for a second opinion.

Stacey Hancock
November 2012

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