EHS Corporate Care
Feeling tired? Having trouble concentrating or sleeping? What many busy executives may not know is that these could be symptoms of iron deficiency. Medical experts estimate that only 65-70% of all Americans meet their daily recommended intake, and the impact of low iron can make your day pretty miserable. Because the main function of iron is to help bring oxygen from the lungs to the muscles and other organs, without the proper iron supply, oxygen circulates more slowly leading to fatigue, irritability and headaches.
Iron is critical for many tasks, chiefly for formation of hemoglobin which gives the dark red shade to the blood and helps transport oxygen to the body cells. Since oxygen is required by each and every body part to perform routine functions, proper levels of iron facilitates the brain's ability to concentrate, the muscle tissues to contract properly, body temperature to be regulated, and the immune system to fight against a number of diseases and infections.
While a poor diet most often leads to iron deficiency, iron can be lost through perspiration (or blood loss), so women executives who are extremely athletic may be subject to low iron levels. And while coffee and tea are good for your immune system, excessive consumption can inhibit the absorption of iron by the body.
How much iron do you need? Women need iron due to the loss of blood through menstruation. And iron requirements are age related. Thus, women between the ages of 11 to 50 require about 18 mg daily, while women over the age of 50 require about 10 mg. Men need much less – with children and teens requiring 18 mg daily, and once a male reaches the age of 19, an intake of 5-10 mg daily is adequate. For both genders, the body stores between 15 to 30 percent to act as a backup for metabolism and to produce red blood cells.
Getting iron in your diet isn't just about eating a juicy steak as most vegetarians know. Iron is found in many foods, with that contained in raw foods absorbed most efficiently. Good plant sources include lentils, soy beans, green leafy vegetables like spinach as well as peas, sprouts, and broccoli. Whole grains found in cereals and bread and ground seeds like tehini paste are other good sources. Foods rich in vitamin C such as citrus and tomato are known to increase iron absorption, so eating chicken or turkey stuffed in a tomato could boost iron absorption. Cooking in cast iron is also known to increase your dietary source of iron, especially with highly acidic foods such as tomato based sauces. Of course, vitamin supplements and iron tablets may be recommended for people low in iron.
Caution is required because iron is stored in the body and can accumulate over time, thus, it is possible to consume too much iron. Toxicity levels begin at about 45 milligrams per day which are generally caused by an overdose of iron supplements. Symptoms of too much iron are nausea, vomiting, and ultimately damage to the lining of the intestinal tract, liver failure, and Diabetes.
If you believe you may have either iron deficiency or possibly iron overload problems, contact your doctor at EHS Corporate Care to find out your iron stores and to balance your intake.
John P. Mamana, M. D.