Replenishing Iron Stores
Yolandi Rademeyer R.D
For women 18 years and up the recommended daily intake is 27 mg – 32 mg /day
During pregnancy the recommended daily intake is 27 mg / day remains the same 
Iron comes in two forms, heme iron and non heme iron. Generally, heme iron is better absorbed than non heme iron.
Animal products = 40% heme + 60% non heme 
Plant foods = 100 % non heme
Heme iron and non-haem iron are both absorbed in the small intestine, but via different mechanisms. Because we have a limited ability to excrete excess iron, the body has prevention mechanisms for iron overload: Haem iron is absorbed through the gut wall in an intact form, regardless of how much we need. Non-haem iron absorption is more carefully controlled, as it is more readily absorbed when the body has need for iron.
- With non heme iron, the absorption is regulated according to how much the body needs iron
- Non-haem iron is nearly as well absorbed as haem iron by people with very low iron stores
- In pregnant women, who need the most iron, absorption can increase by 60% relative to normal 
There are three levels of iron deficiency, in increasing order of severity:
- Depleted iron stores
- Early functional iron deficiency
- limits oxygen delivery to cells
- resulting in weakness, fatigue,
- reduced immunity
- shortness of breath
- sensitivity to cold
- heart palpitations
- Iron deficiency anaemia (most common nutritional deficiency in the world)
In pregnant women can result in:
- premature delivery
- low birth weight in infants and higher infant mortality
- delayed psychomotor development in infants and impaired cognitive function 
Causes of iron deficiency :
- Other than the fact that as women we loose blood on a regular basis?
- Gastrointestinal inflammation (eg, in Crohn’s disease or coeliac disease)
- Gastrointestinal blood loss (eg, associated with colorectal cancer, aspirin use or genitourinary diseases)
- Excessive intake of zinc (due to zinc supplementation)
- There is a higher prevalence of iron deficiency in obese people
- inadequate iron intake
- higher blood volume
- Chronic inflammation in obese people is associated with higher levels of hepcidin, which downregulates intestinal iron absorption
Habits to remember when trying to replenish iron levels:
- Cooking in cast iron skillets (the longer the cooking process the higher the iron content of the meal will be)
- Combining citrus / Vit C rich foods and iron foods
- Taking Vit C supplements with meals high in iron
Habits that Inhibit iron absorption:
- Red wine
- Some berries (cranberries)
- Not combing dairy and iron foods
- Not taking calcium supplements close to meals that are high in iron
- Excess Zinc supplementation
- Not taking high doses of zinc with meals high in iron
Iron supplements may be prescribed and should be taken according to the directions of the healthcare professional.
The above habits to avoid still applies for iron supplementation
Iron supplementation often cause constipation and can be taken with one of the following:
- Prune juice (100%, no sugar)
The following may be used to relieve constipation
- 2 tablespoons Ground flax & psyllium husk mixed in water
- Magnesium citrate supplement
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