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Vitamins 560

Iron

What is Iron?

 

 

Iron is a metal, but for our bodies a vital nutrient, which we get from our diet, that fills many important functions in the body, mainly:

Oxygen transport
Helping transport oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body
Brain health
Iron is necessary for the production of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine.
Energy production
Iron is involved in the production of enzymes which among many processes also include the production of ATP - the primary energy source for all cells in our bodies
Muscle function
Iron is involved in the production of myoglobin, a protein found in muscles that helps store and release oxygen for use during muscle contraction.

Two types of iron can be absorbed by the body:

Heme iron
Non-heme iron

Heme iron is found in animal products such as red meat, poultry and fish while non-heme iron is found in plant-based foods. The average adult has a recommended daily intake of 9 milligrams.

Showing normal iron levels indicate that your intake of iron is adequate as well as the regulating system controlling the absorption, suggesting that your red blood cell production as well as oxygen transportation are healthy and effective.

Measuring iron is relevant for numerous reasons. It is mainly used for diagnosing and monitoring iron-related diseases such as iron deficiency anemia, (too little iron) and hemochromatosis (too much iron). Iron levels may also be of interest if you are taking iron supplements or if you get treated with extra iron.

Measuring iron levels can then help evaluate and monitor progress and effectiveness of treatment. Although rare, iron is also a very important measurement when investigating, diagnosing and monitoring thalassemia, a genetic disorder affecting the production of hemoglobin.

 

 

High levels of Iron

 

 

High levels of iron in the body, also known as iron overload, indicate that there has been an increased intake of iron, an increased absorption of iron or a combination of the two.

The most common cause is hemochromatosis, which is a genetic disorder causing the body to absorb too much iron. Since high iron levels may cause organ damage, it is important to find out what the high levels may be due to. Other common causes to have in mind when showing high levels of iron include excessive iron supplementation, repeated blood transfusions and chronic liver disease (since the liver is responsible for regulating the storage of iron).

 

 

Low levels of Iron

 

 

Low levels of iron, also known as iron deficiency, is a common nutritional deficiency worldwide. Iron deficiency can result in anemia, since iron is needed for the production of hemoglobin and lack of hemoglobin is equivalent with anemia.

When you suffer from anemia, it is common that the red blood cell production is affected (since the production requires iron), resulting in smaller cells. This, in turn, decreases the efficiency of carrying and transporting oxygen to all tissues of the body. Low iron levels will therefore consequently result in a decreased ability to provide the body with adequate amounts of oxygen.

To keep it clean, iron deficiency can be caused by three main reasons:

Impaired ability to absorb iron
Seen in conditions such as celiac disease and inflammatory bowel disease
Also seen during infections
Insufficient intake of iron
Increased loss of iron
Through blood loss due to injury or surgery (or menstruation)
Nephrosis