Popeye knew what he was doing by eating his spinach. He turned to spinach to get stronger, which is true – spinach can help a person feel/be stronger. How? Spinach is loaded with iron, which not only helps a person’s strength, but also can give a person energy, strengthen bones, improve brain and cardiovascular function, and keep the digestive tract healthy. Sadly, low iron is the number one nutritional deficiency in America.
If you’ve ever felt extra exhausted or weak, there’s a good chance you may be lacking this mineral, especially if you’re a woman. Around 10 percent of women in America are deficient in iron, according to the CDC.
Iron is an essential mineral that is extremely important for the body to have a proper amount. This mineral helps transport oxygen throughout the body. Iron is an important component of hemoglobin, which is the substance in red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. In fact, hemoglobin represents, around two-thirds of the body’s iron. If your body is lacking iron, the body cannot make enough heathy oxygen-carrying red blood cells, and you most likely will develop anemia.
When the body lacks oxygen, you feel fatigued and exhausted; your body will have a tougher time fighting off infections or even thinking or making decisions properly.
How do you know if you have a deficiency? Often, people don’t even realize they have anemia unless they are beyond fatigued, pale, or have a hard time exercising. Symptoms of low iron include:
- Shortness of breath
- Increased heart beat
- Sores at corner of the mouth
- Cold hands and feet
- A sore tongue
- Brittle nails
- Hair loss
- Difficulty swallowing
A doctor can detect an iron deficiency through a blood test. If you are pregnant, have ulcerative colitis, celiac disease or Chron’s, you should get your blood tested regularly.
The amount you need depends on age, gender, and health. Your doctor will help determine how much you need. Your doctor will suggest an iron-rich diet if your iron is low. Iron-rich foods include: red meat, spinach, beans, dried fruit, and fortified cereals. However, your diet may not be enough for your deficiency, and your doctor may recommend an iron supplement. Your doctor will start you on a low dose and gradually increase your dosage, so your chance of developing side effects (constipation, upset stomach, vomiting) is lessened. Adults shouldn’t take more than 45 mg of iron a day.
If you’ve been extra sluggish lately (even though you get enough sleep) and your mind seems foggy, you may be low in iron. Your best bet is to get your blood levels checked by a doctor. Dr. Kordonowy of Internal Medicine, Lipid & Wellness of Fort Myers will examine you and order a blood test to determine if you have an iron deficiency or another issue. To book a consult, click here or call 239-362-3005, ext. 200. Dr. Kordonowy of Internal Medicine, Lipid & Wellness is a concierge, patient membership physician in Fort Myers, and provides direct primary care services.