This week on our Instagram we asked you what questions you'd like to know about iron, and we had so many great questions come through we wanted to share them with everyone.
1. Iron deficiency vs. iron overload, how can you tell?
The symptoms of each of these are very similar, in both cases you commonly see:
- Low energy
- Fatigue or weakness
- Low mood
- General decline in sense of wellness
There are some differences—when someone is deficient in iron, or anaemic, they may have a slight grey or pale colour to their skin while someone high in iron, or haemochromatosis, may have a bronzy/orange look.
The World Health Organisation estimates that one-third of all women of reproductive age are anaemic, 40% of pregnant women and over 40% of children under five years of age. Still before looking at supplementing with iron, we always recommend getting your iron levels tested. You can talk to your local doctor about this or request a ferritin blood test; it's about $17.
2. Should iron supplements be taken with or without food?
There is a lot of conflicting information or "rules" out there around taking iron without food. Ultimately it comes down to trying to improve the absorption of iron into our body.
Foods with vitamin C and b vitamins in them (oranges, kiwifruit, tomato, fresh veggie salads) will help our body absorb iron. In contrast foods that have high protein, calcium, high zinc and tea and coffee will compete for absorption.
If in doubt, it's best to have iron on an empty stomach or alongside a vitamin C supplement.
3. Why is the RDA for iron higher for women than men?
- 8mg for men and postmenopausal women
- 17mg for women
- 27mg for pregnant women
- 10mg for breastfeeding
Women and people who menstruate, often need more iron for the simple reason that they are routinely losing their red blood cells. 70% of the iron in our bodies is used in the production of more red blood cells so menstruating slows down this process.
Essentially the more blood you lose, the more iron you need. You'll also notice a higher iron requirement during pregnancy, this is because you are building more red blood cells for the baby and need more iron to do so.
4. How long does it take to improve your iron levels?
So this is going to depend on several factors unique to you and your body, including:
- Gut Health
- How well you absorb iron
- The form of iron (heme or nonheme) you have
- How much you have each day
- How much your body's need and requirement is (are you pregnant, do you have a heavy flow, do you use it more regularly etc.)
If you have a history of low iron, there are a few things you can regularly do to improve your iron levels and again, we always recommend that you test these regularly to see how they're doing.
- Make sure you're eating good sources of iron daily (like this pulled steak taco recipe) or supplementing (we have just created Iron Restore, a non-constipating iron supplement)
- Test regularly
- Doing both of these things while monitoring how you feel, will help you understand more about your own body and you'll learn what you need to maintain healthy iron stores to keep you feeling your best.
5. Can iron deficiency lead to hair loss?
Yes, there is evidence that iron deficiency can lead to hair loss. A classic pattern is hair loss through the middle and top of the head, but hair loss can also be linked to a number of other things, so it's better to keep an eye out for the symptoms we talked about above; fatigue, low energy, low mood.
If you think you may be low or high in iron, we recommend going in to see your local doctor or getting a simple blood test done to find out for sure.
If you are low in iron a fantastic place to start is with our brand new, Iron Restore, a highly bioavailable, iron bisglycinate that is gentle on the gut and won't leave you constipated. To make sure you're absorbing this precious metal, we've also added vitamin C and vitamins B9, B12 and B6.