Iron is an essential mineral that every living organism needs in the proper amount in order to function properly .
Despite iron being available widely all around us it can’t be readily utilized by organisms as it easily gets oxidized to the insoluble form that organisms can’t process in their systems so in order to be able to utilize iron, your body has to be able to reduce iron from the insoluble ferric state (fe+3) to the soluble ferrous state (fe+2) that your body can deal with and the human gastric acidity is the main reducing agent in our bodies .
When you consume foods that contain iron you absorb the iron through the enterocytes of your jejunum and duodenum only a small fraction is absorbed about 5_35% depending on the type of food you’ve had then it gets transported to your blood by a transporter called (transferrin) it sends it to the bone marrow where cells are responsible for erythropoiesis turn it into heme and binds it to a globulin protein forming the oxygen carrying molecule hemoglobin .
Iron should be present at a certain limit in your plasma as too much iron can lead to serious oxidative damage so your liver produces the hormone hepcidin to regulate the amount of iron present in your serum by decreasing the rate of iron absorption from your intestine as there is no means for excreting iron from your body .
Excess iron is stored in your body in two forms ferritin and hemosiderin mainly in your liver, spleen and bone marrow hemosiderin releases iron slowly so the best marker used for estimating the amount of stored iron is ferritin levels in your serum.
Since iron is very important it is critically conserved the most common cause for iron deficiency anemia is blood loss that includes :
- heavy menstrual cycles that’s why mostly women suffer from iron deficiency anemia
- serious blood diseases causing hemolysis
- pathological infections like hook worms causing Gastrointestinal bleeding
- The second most common cause is the low consumption in times of increased requirements like in pregnancy or during growth spurts that’s why mostly adolescent girls and pregnant women suffer from iron deficiency anemia
- another cause is defective iron absorption like in celiac disease or after a recent gastrointestinal surgery
So when your iron stores (ferritin) become depleted (<12 ng/mL) that leads to lower hemoglobin levels in your blood (<12g/dL for females and <13g/dl for men ) and it makes your RBCs shrink lowering your mcv (<80fl) and lowers the total amount of RBCs in your blood lowering your hematocrit (<40%)then your body starts to develop symptoms of anemia as general fatigue , weakness, dizziness, pale skin cold extremities , brittle hair and nails ,pica which is abnormal cravings like to dirt and soil and it can lead to complications like depression and heart disease it is especially serious in pregnancy as it can lead to delayed cognitive development in the fetus and lower birth weights and increases the risk of postpartum bleeding .
So in order to prevent that very common disease one should try to prevent it if you have any of the risk factors contributing to lowering iron levels in your body you need to take iron supplements for 3 to 6 month to replenish your iron stores maybe even receive blood transfusions in severe cases and definitely increase the amount of foods with iron in your diet and add to it foods rich in vitamin c since it aids in the absorption of iron through the gut and avoid drinking too much black tea and coffee as it contains tannin that lowers your iron absorption.
Daily requirements of iron are (8 mg for men and postmenopausal women and 18 mg for women in the reproductive years 27 mg for pregnant women ) it’s not safe to consume iron in levels of 40_45mg in a day so as not to suffer from iron overload and toxicity that can be fatal.
There are many great foods rich in iron you can add to your diet to have the benefits of the important mineral and if it is plant source of iron (non heme iron) it is best to have with it a source of vitamin c like tomatoes and citrus as it helps in its reduction to the soluble form for easier absorption and better utilization in the body.
» Now, we will focus on foods rich in iron «
Liver is one of the greatest sources of heme iron and not only the liver but every organ meat like kidney and heart are full of iron and extremely nutritious .liver contains 6.5 mg of iron in 100 grams equal to 36% of your daily recommendations another great benefit of liver is that it is one of the richest food of vitamin A with 860_1,100% of RDI and vitamin B12 with 3,460% of RDI as well as copper and choline and a great source of protein with fewer calories than red meat despite it’s great value it is best to avoid excessive consumption of liver during pregnancy as there is the risk of getting toxoplasmosis if you eat it undercooked or from an unknown source that can lead to miscarriage or serious congenital anomalies and the excess vitamin A intake can be teratogenic it is also best if people with gout refrain from eating too much liver as it contains purines which form uric acid and can cause exacerbation of your symptoms.