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Pumping Iron

Filed Under: Vitamins and Minerals at 2:47 pm | By: Susan Coyle, Senior Editor
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Right now, I’m in my late-afternoon, what-happened-to-naptime lull. I would love if I could resort back to my college days when a naptime was a crucial part of everyone’s afternoon, or even better to pre-school when you got in trouble for not sleeping. I’m tired; I’m worn out. If you asked almost anyone else how they felt, at, at least, one point during the day, they would respond similarly. We are all tired. We work too much, stress too much and sleep too little. But, could our fatigue be more than a consequence of our lifestyles? Could there be an underlying reason for our drooping eyelids and sagging energy levels? As with every time I ask a question like this, the answer is yes.

Iron deficiency is an under-diagnosed condition that occurs when your body does not have enough iron to produce the necessary amount of red blood cells. When this occurs, a person may feel unduly weak, dizzy, tired or irritable, and may have trouble concentrating. Since all of these symptoms are also associated with a busy life, many people misdiagnose themselves. For anyone, this can be extremely detrimental and everyone should be aware of their iron levels and needs. However, there are certain groups who should be particularly iron-conscious. The first is women. Women are particularly susceptible to the condition, because they lose a great deal of iron during menstruation and pregnancy. Iron deficiency during pregnancy and breast feeding can, in turn, lead to iron-deficient infants , which leads us to our second group: children. Children, in general, are at a high risk for iron deficiency. But, recent studies suggest that overweight children are even more so. In a survey of 1,641 toddlers, researchers found that 20 percent of overweight children were iron deficient while only seven percent of the group who were not overweight was. Should the iron deficiency continue through childhood, school achievement, mental and motor development, and learning could be impeded. Therefore, it is vital that children maintain healthy iron levels.

Doing this begins at birth. Infants should be fed breast milk or iron-fortified formula until they are able to eat other foods. At that point, they should be given iron-fortified food products. They should not be given cow’s, goat’s or soy milk before they turn one, as they are low in iron. Once children begin eating regularly, habits that can easily become excessive, such as juice-drinking, snacking, and junk food, should be monitored and kept at a healthy level. As for the rest of us, we, too, should maintain an iron-rich diet by eating foods such as red meat, tofu, figs, eggs, whole-grains and raisins. If we believe that we are iron deficient, or that our child is, we should see our doctor. If iron deficiency is the source of our problems, iron tablets are available. And in no time, we’ll have to find another excuse for our fatigue.

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