Iron (Fe) is a mineral needed for energy, growth and development.
It is used to make haemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen to all cells and myoglobin, a protein that provides oxygen.
Iron from food comes in two forms: heme and non-heme. Heme is found only in animal flesh like meat, poultry, and seafood. Non-heme iron is found in plant foods like whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, and leafy greens, but these have phytonutrients that bind to the intrinsic iron, reducing its bio-availability (including absorption)
You absorb about 20 - 30% of the heme iron and about 5-10% of the non-heme iron listed on the nutrition label, depending on your gut and overall health and needs.
To improve absorption of non-heme iron, take non-heme iron sources (including supplements) with protein, vitamins B12, folate and C to enhance absorption
It is important to avoid non-heme iron with phytate rich foods such as bran, tea and coffee and calcium rich foods like dairy because they bind the iron and prevent absorption. Eat them an hour apart.
It is more common among women because of menstruation blood loss and restrictive diets.
They usually experience fatigue and lack of endurance when exercising and limited ability to gain muscle mass.
It is important to do a full blood counts that includes:
Serum ferritin (μg/L)
Haemoglobin concentration (g/L)
Transferrin saturation (%)
Avoid blind supplementation because these symptoms are common in other conditions and iron overload can damage organs and lead to liver disease, heart problems, hypothyroidism and diabetes.
It takes about 3 months to see an improvement from the diet interventions and nutrition.