Episode 138: Top 5 Reasons Why You and Your Kids Need Iron

In this episode, Dr. Toni discusses why it’s so important for perimenopausal mamas and their kids to get enough iron. Iron deficiency is the most common micronutrient deficiency worldwide and is crucial for optimal energy, mental health, sleep and brain function. 

What is the Difference Between Iron Deficiency and Anemia?

Iron deficiency is a broad term and refers to low iron stores that do not meet the body’s iron requirements, regardless of whether anemia is present or not.

Iron deficiency anemia is when hemoglobin levels fall below the laboratory reference range. 

Iron deficiency without anemia is when iron storage falls below ideal levels, but anemia is not present. 

What are the Top 5 Reasons Why Iron is so Important?

  1. Reduce fatigue and increase energy
  • Iron helps move oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body and helps your muscles store and use oxygen
  1. Reduce heavy periods 
  •  low iron can impact your clotting and be a factor in your heavy periods, creating a vicious cycle
  1. Mental Health 
  • Being anemic can increase your risk of a mental health diagnosis and can increase your risk of experiencing an anxiety disorder, depression, psychotic disorders
  • Taking iron supplements if you’re anemic can reduce your risk of developing psychiatric disorders
  • Taking iron supplements of iron if you’re not anemic can decrease the risk of future mental health diagnoses
  • Anemic mothers were less responsive and had negative feelings towards their children than non-anemic mothers 
  • Low hemoglobin is associated with postpartum depression
  • Low ferritin is linked with more severe depressive and anxiety symptoms
  1. Brain and cognitive performance
  • Iron deficiency (with and without anemia) has been connected to poor cognitive performance in adolescents
  • Low maternal iron intake at the time of conception is associated with a greater risk of autism in the offspring 
  • Low iron intake during the second trimester has been shown to increase the risk of schizophrenia in the offspring by 30%
  • Infants born with low serum ferritin have been shown to have poorer recognition memory, poorer school performance, difficulty with planning and attention and a higher risk of cognitive and socio-emotional problems including anxiety and depression into young adulthood
  1. Sleep and restless legs
  • Being anemic can increase your risk of a mental health diagnosis and can increase your risk of experiencing a sleep disorder
  • Taking iron supplements if you’re anemic can reduce your risk of developing a sleep disorder
  • Restless Leg Syndrome is associated with low iron levels

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Iron Deficiency?

  • Pale skin
  • Fatigue
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Slowed growth and development
  • Poor appetite
  • Abnormally rapid breathing
  • Behavioral problems
  • Frequent infections
  • Unusual cravings for substances like ice, dirt, paint or starch

How can you Test your Iron Status?

Blood work can test for levels of:

  • hemoglobin (as part of the Complete Blood Count)
  • circulating iron and transferrin saturation – needs to be above 20%
  • ferritin (iron stores) – needs to be above 35

You can still be iron deficient if your levels of the above fall within the lab’s reference ranges!

How can you prevent iron deficiency in yourself and your kids?

  • Serve iron-rich foods – after beginning your baby on solids 
  • Don’t overdo milk
  • Enhancing absorption – with foods rich in acid like vitamin C (ascorbic acid), such as citrus fruits, cantaloupe, strawberries, bell pepper, tomatoes and dark green vegetables, or apple cider vinegar.
  • Consider iron supplementation – unfortunately, an iron-rich diet does not provide enough iron to correct iron deficiency or anemia
Food Source:Iron content (in mg Fe) per 100 g
Animal sources (bioavailability about 20%)
Liver (pork or veal)18
Dry beef9.8
Egg yolk5.5
Beef fillet2.3
Plant sources (bioavailability about 5%)
Wheat bran16.0
Sesame seeds14.6
Soy beans9.7
White beans7.0
Dried apricots5.2
Spinach (limited due to oxalate content)2.7
Whole grain bread2.4
Green beans1.0

Source: SPOG Pediatric Hematology Working Group

Today’s Mama Must Have:

Dr. Toni is a big fan of aloe gel to soothe the skin.

What’s Else is Happening?

Dr. Toni’s next HypnoBirthing session for expecting parents looking to decrease fear and anxiety to support their natural instincts around labour and birth is happening this fall. Join her at https://www.hypnobirthingcalgary.com/register

Join Dr. Lisa’s new Meetup group Wild Woman Adventures Toronto if you want to get out in nature, connect with other women and push yourself out of your comfort zone. Activities include: sunrise/sunset SUP, tree-top trekking, a new moon workshop and more!

Dr. Lisa’s Wild Collective in Fall 2022: get on the waitlist: wildcollectivetoronto.com

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Disclaimer: The information provided is not meant to replace treatment with a licensed health care practitioner. It is for informational purposes only. Consult with a Naturopathic Doctor or other licensed health care professional to determine which treatments are safe for you.