Why The Body Needs Iron

Why The Body Needs Iron

What Is Iron?

Everyone has heard of the importance of iron in our diet, but what exactly is iron? A common misconception is that iron is a vitamin when it is in fact a mineral; the difference is in the composition. Minerals are inorganic elements that come from soil and water while vitamins are organic compounds derived from plants and animals. Another notable difference between vitamins and minerals is in how they are absorbed by the body.

Minerals aren’t easily broken down by the acids and heat in our digestive system so they maintain their chemical structure when ingested. This means they are more easily absorbed into the body in higher concentrations than vitamins that can be broken down by air, heat, or acid. 

So
why do we need it?

Studies
from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that iron deficiency
is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies in the United States. So why
should this matter? Well, Iron is a crucial mineral in the formation of hemoglobin,
which is the substance within red blood cells that is responsible for the
movement of oxygen from your lungs throughout your body. 

 

Without
it, our body cannot maintain proper oxygen levels necessary for cell growth
leading to a whole host of health issues including chronic fatigue, reduced
brain function, and a drop in immune function. It is also essential to
maintaining healthy skin and nails. In short, Iron is a necessary nutrient to
our body’s basic functions.

 

How
Much Do We Need?

 

Now that we’ve established iron’s role
the important question becomes, how much iron do we really need in our diet?
Well that depends on a number of factors such as your age, gender, and general
health.

 

For example, children ages 4 to 8 need
around 8mg of iron daily, while Infants and toddlers need around 10mg of iron.

 

Women ages 19 + need around 18mg of
iron daily. This is due primarily to their menstrual cycle. After menopause,
the need for iron sharply decreases for women and their daily intake drops down
to about the same as a man at around 8mg. Without a menstrual cycle, there
simply is less of a need for increased red blood cell production. Some general
health factors will increase your need for iron such as pregnancy where a lack
of iron can lead to the baby being born prematurely and underweight.

 

Comparatively men 18+ need around 8mg
of iron daily to maintain healthy levels of iron in their bloodstream. 

 

Other health factors that call for iron
needs are dialysis patient (the process of dialysis removes iron from the
body), ulcers (which can result in blood loss), bariatric surgery, or gastrointestinal
disorders such as Crohn’s Disease, Ulcerative Colitis, or Celiac Disease that
all stop the body from absorbing iron naturally. The most common health factor,
however, is a natural iron deficiency.

 

Anemia

 

Signs of an iron deficiency, otherwise
known as anemia, can be overt or subtle. Some of the more obvious symptoms are
pale or sallow skin, chronic fatigue, brittle nails, hair loss, and sores on
the corners of the mouth.

 

In more severe cases trouble swallowing
and cravings for strange substances such as dirt and clay. The more subtle
symptoms are shortness of breath, increased heart rate, and cold hands and
feet. If you experience any of these symptoms, it is imperative that you speak
with your doctor. They could be indicative of a more serious condition.

 

Bottom Line

 

Iron is an essential nutrient that
should be a part of everyone’s diet. It’s one of those nutrients that we need
throughout life to sustain healthy function. From the movement of oxygen
throughout the body to aiding in the regeneration of red blood cells after an
intense workout, iron is an important addition to everyone’s diet.

 

Be it from iron rich foods like fish or
from supplements, everyone should make an effort to maintain a healthy level of
iron.  

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.

Rod Stone
Author,
Publisher and Supplier of Healthy Living information and products to improve
your life.

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