Iron is a constituent of haemoglobin and myoglobin and aids in the transportation of oxygen to cells and carbon dioxide to the lungs. In the form of myoglobin it provides the oxygen necessary for muscle operation. The affinity of iron for oxygen is widespread in nature. Common rust, an oxide of iron, forms rapidly when iron is exposed to air and water.
Iron is also important in protein synthesis. 75% of iron in the body occurs in red blood cells. It is stored in bone marrow, the intestinal wall, liver and spleen. Many enzymes require iron as a co-factor, especially those involved with oxidation – reduction reactions. For example, when white blood cells surround invading microbes and their cell walls with peroxides, the reaction is due to iron containing enzymes. Iron is also in the enzymes that play a major role in muscle function. It is necessary for proper assimilation of the B – complex vitamins.
Calcium, copper, cobalt and vitamin C need to be present in order for iron to do its work. Taking vitamin C or foods containing vitamin C with meals greatly increases the iron absorption of the food being eaten. Calcium also helps assimilation of iron. The importance of iron to our immune system is also pointed out by the fact that germs, especially bacteria, steal iron for their fuel and thus deplete stores in the body. Human iron reserves, unlike any other minerals, are regulated by absorption rather than by the amount excreted. The intestinal mucosa contain ferritin which regulates iron absorption by an unknown mechanism. The body conserves and recycles iron from red blood cells and excretes = 1mg of iron per day in males and 1.5mg per day in females.
Anaemia, unusual fatigue, body weakness, general debility, poor endurance, breathing troubles, dizziness, irritability, hazy thinking, flatulence, sickly looking skin, brittle nails, short attention span, depression, overall itching, headaches, sore tongue, heartburn, nausea after meals, loss of apetitie, constipation or diarrhoea, hair loss, heart palpatations.
Women experiencing anaemia in the first three months of pregnancy may cause spina bifida in the unborn child
Is rare, excessive doses may be harmful to children. Hydrolized protein chelate supplements are organic iron and are easily assimilated. Ferrus sulphate is an inorganic iron. It can destroy vitamin E but can be assimilated by the body to a small degree. Ferric iron, a form usec in many iron supplements, is like rust, and it is not assimilated by the body. Both ferric and ferrous iron, the types that are usually put in iron rich foods are cheaper and can be deposited in the liver and can cause constipation.
Running has been indicated as an antagonist of iron reserves. The pounding action of running apparently causes red blood cells to be destroyed, which in turn, slows the runners recovery from exercise.
To obtain the most efficient use of iron supplements, one should consume them between meals with vitamin C. Even the efficiency of multiple vitamin and mineral preparations containing iron have been questioned because of the reactivity of iron.
Medicinal and therapeutic Uses
A dosage of 10mg for men and 15-18mg for women. More iron is required when blood loss has occurred. The elderly need additional iron because they often absorb it poorly. Pregnant and breast feeding require extra iron to help maintain their iron stores and to support the growing faetus. Those who have growth spurts such as children and teenagers may also require extra iron.
Positive effects: haemoglobin production, prevent fatigue, aids growth, disease and stress resistance, muscle function, good skin tone, prevent and relieve iron deficiency anaemia
Good Food Sources
Liver, black strap molasses, brewer’s yeast, sunflower seeds, dried peas and beans, eggs, oysters, lentils, raisins, dried peaches, whole grains, cereals, oats, wheat germ, prunes, grapes, apricots, chamomile, chickweed, comfrey, dandelion, Echinacea, eyebright, fenugreek, garlic, ginger, ginseng, hawthorn, hops, horsetail, kelp, lobelia, marshmallow, mullein, papaya, peppermint, poke root, red clover, red raspberry, rosehips, rosemary, sarsaparilla, skullcap, slippery elm, taheebo, white oak bark, yarrow, yellow dock.
Nutrients like tannic acids, fibre, the phosphates in egg yolk, milk and cheese, and other inorganic phosphates (including carbonated drinks), alcohol and aspirin, form insoluble precipitates with iron thus lowering the absorption of iron. Coffee and tea reduce the absorption of iron by as much as 50% because of the tannin content. Many minerals also compete for the absorption of iron. High intakes of calcium, magnesium. Zinc, copper, manganese and cadium can interfere with iron absorption.
Iron deficiency has been called the most prevalent deficiency state affecting human populations. Iron deficiency anaemia caused by lower circulating levels of haemoglobin and red blood cells is characterized by listlessness, tiredness and dizziness on standing. It lowers one’s ability to stay warm. Since the oxygen carrying capacity is reduced with iron deficiency, fatigue is likely to come on quicker, more often and last longer. Depression and sleeplessness often accompany iron deficiency.