Fragile nails, dull hair, muscle weakness and fatigue – we often attribute all these spring problems to fatigue and lack of vitamins and seldom take action, hoping that next summer and future vacations will rectify the situation. And yet, it is better not to leave the problem, hoping that it will “go away on its own”, as the reported (as well as some other) symptoms may indicate iron deficiency anemia and should be treated, said Catherine. Antipova, a specialist at the CMD Center for Molecular Diagnostics of the Rospotrebnadzor Central Research Institute of Epidemiology, writes the Rossiyskaya Gazeta.
How is iron deficiency manifested?
The clinical picture of iron deficiency is due to iron deficiency in the tissues. The activity of many enzyme systems in the body is reduced (iron deficiency syndrome), the tissues are not supplied with oxygen in sufficient quantities (sick syndrome). As a result, a person experiences discomfort, his well-being deteriorates significantly.
Weakness is indicated by symptoms such as muscle weakness, fatigue, drowsiness, headaches and dizziness, performance is reduced – not only is physical activity tolerance and performance deteriorating, patients complain of decreased attention, learning ability. They come to the doctor and say: “Nothing hurts me, but I have no strength for anything”.
We need to look for the cause and pay attention to more specific symptoms: paleness of the skin and mucous membranes, for example.
And iron deficiency syndrome is characterized by signs such as dry skin, a tendency to form cracks and “breaks” in the corners of the mouth, pigmentation of the color of coffee with milk. The nails become soft and brittle, sometimes transverse streaks appear. Some patients have very specific manifestations: for example, one person says that they began to like the “chemical” smells of varnish, paint, acetone, and even car exhaust. Or he is irresistibly attracted to gnawing chalk or charcoal (this happens to pregnant women). Another unusual symptom is the effect of the “blue sclera” (with a lack of iron, the collagen synthesis in the sclera is disrupted, they become thinner and acquire a blue tinge).
In a word, there are so many symptoms that, of course, you need to understand with a doctor. I note that the clearly defined symptoms of iron deficiency appear only after the depletion of its reserves in the body and this of course requires immediate action.
But since there are so many symptoms, how can you confirm that iron deficiency is the cause?
Of course, with the help of laboratory research. The first preventive test that your doctor will definitely prescribe is a complete blood test. Based on its results, we can assess the level of hemoglobin, hematocrit, hemoglobin concentration in erythrocytes (with iron deficiency anemia, these indicators are usually reduced), as well as the number and mean volume of erythrocytes.
If anemia is suspected, more detailed studies will be needed: serum ferritin (the main form of iron storage in the body), transferrin (the main iron carrier), serum iron and some other tests.
Why is there a lack of iron? Who is at risk?
Iron deficiency anemia is one of the most common diseases in the world. At risk are pregnant women, women after childbirth and during breastfeeding, as well as young children. Since these are the periods of life that are considered the most “iron consumption”, they require more attention and control.
But the causes of iron deficiency can be different: for example, due to blood loss (gastrointestinal bleeding, loss of blood during menstruation and childbirth, and even in some cases, continuous blood donation. In addition, with some diseases of the stomach and intestines Iron absorption is reduced – it ‘s worse Finally, the common reason is insufficient iron intake with food, something that happens to vegetarians.
In any case, the state of iron deficiency sooner or later becomes noticeable. Only by understanding its cause can we fully help the body.
How to increase the level of iron in the body?
The main ways are to increase the intake of iron with food, taking iron supplements by mouth (ie orally) or parenterally (by intravenous infusion – dropper). In particularly severe cases, a blood transfusion (blood transfusion) is possible.
According to the WHO recommendation, the optimal dose of iron for the treatment of iron deficiency anemia is 120 mg per day. In children, the dose depends on age: from 3 mg / kg per day in children under three years, to 45-60 mg per day in children three years and older.
It is important to understand: the doctor calculates the individual dose of medication and the duration of treatment.
By the way, there is scientific evidence that treatment with low doses of iron supplements and short doses (2 weeks per month) is more effective and more tolerable than a more intensive course when high doses of medication are taken several times a day.
Speaking of iron medicines, it is worth mentioning the existence of two groups of medicines – those containing iron and iron. More than one study has been conducted comparing these groups and eventually experts tend to conclude that there is no significant difference between them.
I will only note that ferrous iron preparations are more tolerable, as they have a more pleasant taste, so they are more often prescribed to children and adolescents.
Do you need to take iron supplements?
Any dietary supplements (as well as iron supplements) should only be taken as directed by your doctor. Independent, uncontrolled intake can lead to complications. This is due to the fact that with violations of iron metabolism, it can not be absorbed and deposited in various organs and tissues.
Too often we treat “biological supplements” lightly, that is, something “useful”, but it does not affect the body as a medicine, and therefore we allow them to be taken without first passing tests and consulting a specialist. You can not do that.
Is it possible to do without medication just by adjusting the diet?
The problem of iron deficiency is most often a nutritional problem. So the answer is yes, in most cases you can improve the situation by providing adequate, balanced nutrition.
The daily requirement of iron for an adult is about 1-2 mg, for a child – 0.5-1.2 mg. A typical daily diet provides 5 to 15 mg of iron per day. In the intestines, only 10-15% of the iron supplied by food is absorbed.
The most iron-rich foods of animal origin: beef, lamb, liver, fish, cottage cheese, chicken. They contain heme (bivalent) iron, which is well absorbed. Iron from plant products (cereals, vegetables, fruits) is non-heme (trivalent), absorbed worse. Therefore, we must make sure that there is enough food on our table.
Incidentally, ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and folic acid can increase the bioavailability of iron from plant foods. They form a soluble compound with iron, which is well absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract.
Also, for a balanced diet, including pregnant women, it is essential to have a sufficient amount of protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins, micro and macronutrients in the diet.
Diet plays an important role in combating iron deficiency. But again, with iron deficiency anemia, if such a diagnosis is made, a dietary correction is not enough. An integrated approach together with iron formulations will give a faster and more noticeable result.
Is it true that there are foods with which iron is “not friendly” and is not absorbed?
Indeed, there are foods that inhibit the absorption of iron. These are tannic acid and vegetable. They are found in tea, coffee, cocoa, whole grains, corn, nuts and bran. Calcium also negatively affects the absorption of iron.
Therefore, you should not drink foods that contain iron or iron supplements with milk. Bran fibers, phosphates, oxalic acid also interfere with iron replacement.
Therefore, with anemia, it is not only important to eat foods rich in iron, but also to distinguish between their use and foods – the “enemies” of iron.