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The importance of iron levels

Getting sick frequently? Suffering from heavy periods? You may possibly be too high or deficient in iron, with the latter tending to be most common. Sometimes hereditary dispositions may cause high levels of iron, which may make you feel fatigued due to the oxidative stress it causes (Drakesmith & Prentice, 2008). When levels are too low, it affects the synthesis of ATP, also resulting in fatigue (Cherayil, 2010).

Iron is also involved in innate and adaptive immunity, which also requires a sweet spot in terms of levels, as some pathogens can feed off iron to grow (Cherayil, 2011). If iron is the culprit of your infections and fatigue, it could be either from low levels or high levels. The best way to check levels is to get a full iron study blood test from your functional medicine practitioner, where they can then ascertain what intervention is best.

If you know you struggle with high or low levels, here are some practical ways to help point them in the right direction:

3 Ways to Increase Iron Absorption

  • Add vitamin C rich foods to iron-rich meals that include steak and red meat. Adding lemon juice or any vitamin C rich food will help to enhance the absorption of iron
  • Avoid green tea or caffeine around iron-rich meals. The polyphenols can reduce the absorption of iron
  • Combine iron foods with beta carotenes. Meaning, a perfect iron increasing meal would look like red meat with sweet potato (or pumpkin) and a leafy green salad coated in lemon juice and olive oil (yum!)

3 Ways to Decrease Iron Absorption

  • Peppermint tea. This not only reduces iron absorption but also doubles as a digestive, so sipping on some tea before a meal containing iron definitely ticks the box.
  • Including calcium with iron-rich meals. Calcium-rich foods like butter and organic goat’s cheese can reduce iron absorption.
  • Green tea! While it was already mentioned above, if you have trouble with excess iron, you may have the perfect excuse to increase matcha lattes and drink this polyphenol-rich tea closer to meals.

These are great starting points to help regulate iron levels. However, if you’re struggling with low or high levels of iron, it’s always best to get checked regularly (approximately every 3 months) so current interventions can be re-established or changed, which can be discussed with your naturopath.

Book an appointment at Merge Health today to speak with a functional medicine practitioner about managing your iron levels and a general gut health diet.

Cherayil, B. J. (2010). Iron and immunity: Immunological consequences of iron deficiency and overload. Archivum Immunologiae et Therapiae Experimentalis, 58(6), 407–415. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00005-010-0095-9
Cherayil, B. J. (2011). The role of iron in the immune response to bacterial infection. Immunologic Research, 50(1), 1–9. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12026-010-8199-1
Drakesmith, H., & Prentice, A. (2008). Viral infection and iron metabolism. Nature Reviews Microbiology, 6(7), 541–552. https://doi.org/10.1038/nrmicro1930

By Fallon Cashell – A.R.T Practitioner

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