health

Feeling tired? Young women among those most at risk of iron deficiency

By Sophie Kesteven and Laura Tchilinguirian

Feeling fatigued? You could be among the 10 per cent of young women in Australia that suffer from iron deficiency.

ACT doctor Jonathan Bromley recently published an article about iron deficiency

Others at risk included people in Indigenous communities, preschool children, and those restricted with eating patterns such as vegans.

Dr Bromley said iron played an important role in helping the body create oxygen-carrying red blood cells and without it people could be left feeling less than their best.

He said there were three key reasons for why someone might be low in iron.

“Either a lack of intake of iron in your diet, a lack of absorption of iron from the gut, or loss of iron, which in reality which means a loss of blood from somewhere in the system,” he said.

“With women, particularly of childbearing age, they are losing blood on a monthly basis and therefore their demand for iron is higher, so that’s where they are at a higher risk of becoming iron deficient.”

He said preschool children were also vulnerable because they were growing rapidly and therefore their demand for iron was higher.

Signs and symptoms

Dr Bromley said signs of extreme iron deficiency included a reduction in exercise tolerance.

“Getting very puffed walking up a flight of stairs or just coming home from work exhausted,” he said.

“On a subtler level … in young children it’s poor cognitive development or lagging behind their peers.

“For the adult population patients often talk about feeling foggy headed, forgetful or they have difficulty concentrating in meetings.”

Dr Bromley said one of the best ways to avoid iron deficiency was to address your diet.

“The most available sort of iron in the diet is, of course, meat; particularly red meat, liver or shellfish,” he said.

“But there is certainly ample iron in vegetable sources, iron-fortified cereals, pasta and eggs and beans.”

Another way of consuming iron is through supplements, however Dr Bromley warned against leaving them out around children because in large doses they could be harmful.

“The iron tablets look quite inviting. They look like little sweets so they should always be kept well out of reach from children,” he said.

In addition, he said vegans and vegetarians wanting to get more iron in their diet should consume more orange juice because the vitamin C antioxidant helped to improve the absorption of iron from vegetables.

If addressing your diet does not work in the first instance, Dr Bromley advised consulting a GP.

This post originally appeared on ABC News.


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