It is a trace mineral, an inorganic substance that is derived from the earth. It is necessary to make hemoglobin, the pigment in red blood cells that transports the oxygen through the bloodstream and removes the carbon dioxide that is given off by cells as waste product of metabolism.
It also forms part of a substance called myoglobin, which is present in the muscles and helps supply oxygen to body tissues. In addition, it is a component of certain enzymes and proteins.
SIGNS OF DEFICIENCY:
Iron deficiency can result in anemia, with symptoms that include fatigue, weakness, pale skin, and shortness of breath. Adults with a deficiency tire easily and are unable to work as hard as they normally can.
Do not try to self diagnose or self treat iron deficiency anemia. Not all forms of anemia are due to a lack of this dietary mineral, and only a doctor can tell which type is present. The problem may not even be anemia. Weakness, listlessness, and a tendency to tire easily can be signs of a number of other conditions.
When too much of this mineral is present, it is stored for future needs. Excessive storage can build up to toxic levels that can damage the liver, pancreas, and heart. An excess may also increase infections, and may worsen these infections by providing it to the organisms need to flourish.
The body is highly efficient at recycling its own iron. The liver extracts it from old and dying red blood cells, and uses it to make new hemoglobin. However, iron supplements are recommended during pregnancy and to treat iron deficiency anemia. Women of reproductive age may also need supplements because heavy menstruation sometimes depletes their reserve.
Supplements should not be taken unless recommended by a doctor. As with any dietary supplement, iron supplements should be used in amounts typically recommended for nutritional purposes only.
FORMS OF IRON:
There are two forms of iron; "heme" (found in animal sources) and "nonheme". The body absorbs "heme" more easily than "nonheme", however, if you eat "nonheme" along with the "heme" foods or foods containing vitamin C, iron absorption significantly improves.
Iron rich foods:
"Heme" includes chicken, eggs, red meat, liver and seafood.
"Nonheme" include nuts, dried fruit, whole grains, lentils, dark green vegetables, legumes, tofu, fortified cereals and brewer's yeast.
The best herbal source of iron is alfalfa, burdock, cayenne, chickweed, dandelion, kelp, mullein, stinging nettle, parsley, pokeweed, rhubarb, rose hips, and yellow dock.
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