Advice on Iron Deficiency

Iron deficiency is actually a very common nutritional deficiency. Iron is found mostly in meat but is also present in dried fruits and vegetables – proving there are iron rich food choices for vegetarians and it would be a good idea to do some more research on this.

The body needs iron in order to function properly – its primary function is to make haemoglobin which helps store and transport oxygen through the red blood cells around the body.

A lack of iron can sometimes lead to a person developing iron-deficiency anaemia, which is the most common form of anaemia and makes up half of the anaemia cases worldwide – it usually affects more women than men.

It is particularly common in women who experience heavy periods, pregnant women and in those who have certain conditions which affect the absorption of certain foods in the intestine – coeliac disease is a good example of this.

In your case the cause of iron deficiency may be the result of your new diet, however, it is unlikely that you have developed iron-deficiency anaemia solely due to this reason.

Common symptoms include tiredness and generally feeling lethargic, shortness of breath and sometimes heart palpitations. Sufferers may have a pale complexion or suffer from nail weakness and mouth ulcers.

Anyone experiencing any of the symptoms of iron-deficiency anaemia should visit their GP for a clear diagnosis and to rule out any other problems. Diagnosis is usually made relatively easily through a simple blood test – this will measure the levels of haemoglobin present in the blood.

It is important to determine the underlying cause of anaemia in order to treat the deficiency effectively – your GP will ask questions about your diet and lifestyle to uncover the source of the problem.

The most common form of treatment for the symptoms is through iron supplements such as ferrous sulphate. these tablets should be taken up to three times a day and will help build up iron stores in the body.

Be mindful of your diet and where possible try to include iron-rich foods – meat does happen to be one of the best but obviously not applicable here – other good examples include dried lentils, peas or beans, fish, eggs, dried fruit and wholegrain bread. Iron can also be found in green vegetables such as kale, broccoli and spinach.

Overall it is important you maintain a well-balanced diet and healthy lifestyle, particularly when cutting out a major food group.

Getting your five a day will become increasingly important in order to ensure you’re getting a good balance of vitamins, minerals and fibre. Milk and dairy products are good sources of calcium and protein and if you prefer dairy-free alternatives then soya and oat milk will do the job.

The iron that comes from vegetable sources is not as easily absorbed into the body as it is from meat however – Vitamin C is known to help with the absorption of iron so boost your levels – incorporating citrus fruits, dried fruits such as apricots, tomatoes and plenty of leafy green vegetables will help.

Tea and coffee are also known to adversely affect how your body absorbs iron so try to limit your intake.

There is no reason why becoming a vegetarian should prevent you from having a varied, balanced and nutritious diet and staying perfectly healthy but do your research.

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