Iron Requirement

Iron Requirement: Overview

A deficiency of iron can occur in the body for a variety of reasons, such as inadequate intake, poor absorption (for example chronic diarrhoea or malabsorption syndrome), increased iron demands (as in pregnancy) and abnormal loss of blood from the body (for example hookworm, gastric ulcers and frequent or excessive menstruation).  Anemia is the most common form of iron deficiency. Iron, a mineral, functions primarily as a carrier of oxygen in the body, both as a part of hemoglobin in the blood and of myoglobin in the muscles.

Iron is one of the most important trace elements required by the body and is widely distributed throughout it.  The total iron content of a person varies with age, sex, nutrition, and state of health.  Normal adult males are estimated to contain 4.5gm of iron.  It is an essential element for the formation of hemoglobin of red blood cells; about 60-70% of iron is contained in hemoglobin.  Muscle tissues contain about 3% of iron as myoglobin.  The body stores iron in the liver, spleen, kidneys and bone marrow as ferritin, hemosiderin and siderophilin.

Both iron and copper are involved in oxidation-reduction reactions, which in turn are responsible for energy production in the body.  Iron-containing protein is responsible for transport of oxygen from our lungs to different organs.  With out oxygen, none of the tissues can survive.

Causes and Development

Most people get enough iron in their diet, but chronic bleeding from any cause, such as menstruation, results in iron loss which may exceed intake, resulting in an additional requirement.  A shortage of iron is most commonly evidenced by iron-deficiency anemia.  However, body stores of iron must be significantly depleted before anemia begins to develop.

Signs, symptoms & indicators of Iron Requirement:

Symptoms - Food - Preferences

Afternoon coffee/sugar craving may be a sign or symptom of Iron Requirement Afternoon coffee/sugar craving

Craving coffee or tea can indicate a need for iron.

Symptoms - General

Symptoms - Head - Mouth/Oral

Symptoms - Nails

Upward-curving fingernails is a sign or symptom of Iron Requirement Upward-curving fingernails

Low iron stores are the most common cause of anemia, but this condition is the last stage of iron deficiency.  Earlier signs of iron deficiency include spoon-shaped nails, fatigue, and poor immune function.

Brittle fingernails may be a sign or symptom of Iron Requirement Brittle fingernails

A deficiency of essential nutrients and minerals such as iron, zinc, vitamins and calcium can cause the nails to become weak.

Conditions that suggest Iron Requirement:

Circulation

Immunity

Infections

Canker Sores (Aphthous Ulcers) may suggest Iron Requirement Canker Sores (Aphthous Ulcers)

Vitamin B12, folate, zinc and iron have been shown to be effective in up to 60% of patients with canker sores when such a vitamin or mineral deficiency has been documented.  [Dermatologic Clinics 1996:14, pp.243-256, British Dental Journal 1985:159, pp.361-367]

Musculo-Skeletal

Restless Leg Syndrome often suggests Iron Requirement Restless Leg Syndrome

Iron deficiency (specifically blood ferritin below 50 mcg/L) accounts for 20% of all cases of RLS.  A 2007 study observed RLS features in 34% of patients having iron deficiency as compared to 6% of controls.

Skin-Hair-Nails

Male Hair Loss may suggest Iron Requirement Male Hair Loss

Iron deficiency anemia can in some cases contribute to hair loss.

Female Hair Loss may suggest Iron Requirement Female Hair Loss

Iron deficiency anemia can in some cases contribute to hair loss.

Risk factors for Iron Requirement:

Reproductive

Menorrhagia (Heavy Periods) often increases risk of Iron Requirement Menorrhagia (Heavy Periods)

Chronic iron deficiency can be a cause of menorrhagia, creating a cycle of more blood loss (iron loss) making the condition worse.

Supplements and Medications

(Past) H2-blocker antacid use often increases risk of Iron Requirement (Past) H2-blocker antacid use

By reducing stomach acid levels, H2 blockers might interfere with the absorption of iron, zinc, and perhaps other minerals.

Symptoms - Food - Beverages

(High) coffee consumption may increase risk of Iron Requirement (High) coffee consumption

Research has shown that drinking coffee causes a significant loss of several vitamins and minerals, including vitamins B and C, calcium, iron, and zinc.

Iron Requirement can lead to:

Nutrients

Recommendations for Iron Requirement:

Diet

Caffeine/Coffee Avoidance may help with Iron Requirement Caffeine/Coffee Avoidance

Research has shown that drinking coffee causes a significant loss of several vitamins and minerals, including vitamins B and C, calcium, iron, and zinc.

Mineral

KEY

Weak or unproven link: may be a sign or symptom of; may suggest; may increase risk of
Weak or unproven link:
may be a sign or symptom of; may suggest; may increase risk of
Strong or generally accepted link: is often a sign or symptom of; often suggests; often increases risk of; often leads to
Strong or generally accepted link:
is often a sign or symptom of; often suggests; often increases risk of; often leads to
Definite or direct link: is a sign or symptom of; strongly suggests
Definite or direct link:
is a sign or symptom of; strongly suggests
May be useful: may help with
May be useful:
may help with
Very useful: is highly recommended for
Very useful:
is highly recommended for