Female, Tired and Lethargic?

by Dr Naras Lapsys

This is a post that I have been meaning to write for quite some time.  It is a little known fact that one in 3 women (worldwide) is anaemic. There are quite a few reasons why women can become anaemic but by far the leading cause is iron deficiency.  Iron is used by the body to make haemoglobin, which helps store and carry oxygen via our red blood cells. Haemoglobin transports oxygen from our lungs to all the cells in our body. If there is a lack of iron in the blood, our tissues just don’t get enough oxygen. This results in tiredness, a lack of energy and even mental fatigue.  We get iron from our diet when we consume meat, certain dried fruit and some vegetables.  However, with such a significant number of women being anaemic, many women’s eating patterns just don’t provide enough iron.

Iron supplementation is one option to prevent and/or reduce iron anaemia. Unfortunately, the side effects of nausea and constipation often put people off taking the supplement for the many months needed to rebuild the iron stores.  The good news is that a recent study published in 2011 has shown that intermittent or sporadic use of iron supplements can still reduce the risk of anaemia and can improve haemoglobin and ferritin levels (ferritin acts as a measure of stored iron in our blood). The intermittent use isn’t better than daily supplementation but it is effective and hopefully it means that women can take the iron for far longer periods with fewer side effects and actually achieve normal levels once again.

If you frequently wake up feeling like you have been hit by a Mack truck in the night, maybe it is your iron that needs addressing.  However, before reaching for the pill bottle, remember that how you choose to eat plays a critical role in determining your iron levels.  Please come in for a face-to-face or Skype consult and we can work on both your diet and the best iron supplementation strategy needed to get your energy back!

Reference: Fernandez-Gaxiola AC et al. Intermittent iron supplementation for reducing anaemia and its associated impairments in menstruating women. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2011, Issue 11.

 

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