To some people, the United States may appear to be a nation full of self-diagnosing pill poppers. There are supplements to your left and right in nearly every store. Yet, many people are ignoring the most effective means of nurturing their bodies. Being aware of changes, acknowledging if and when something feels off, and then actually taking steps to rectify that problem by seeing a physician can eliminate a world of problems. I’m not suggesting becoming a hypochondriac, but just because vitamins, minerals and organic whole foods are readily available, it does not mean that our nation is at its peak health.
One of the most surprising health concerns for me is realizing how many of us are actually deficient in nutrients despite the fact that nearly everything is at our fingertips. We consume empty calories and subject our bodies to enormous amounts of stress without providing them with the nutrients to function at peak capacity. Imagine running a marathon fueled only by a burger with extra cheese and large fries. You’d barely make it over the starting line let alone cross it again for the finish.
Check out the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) . There are numerous illnesses and deficiencies in the U.S. that we often would not even think about. One of my greatest concerns, as someone who consumes very little meat, is obtaining enough iron. The CDC acknowledges iron deficiency as one of the most common nutritional imbalances, especially in women. Not only can iron deficiency cause a host of problems on its own, but over a prolonged period of time it can lead to anemia. Common symptoms of iron deficiency often go overlooked. Symptoms can include feeling tired and weak, cold hands and feet, as well as decreased immune health.
Diagnosing iron deficiency should always be left to a professional health practitioner. Your doctor will be able to order blood tests to screen for any amount of iron deficiency. A healthy amount of iron is absolutely necessary in the body. If the body does not have enough iron, it is difficult to produce hemoglobin, which transports oxygen throughout the body. Without an easy availability and flow of oxygen, the heart has to work double time to distribute oxygen rich blood throughout the body. Fatigue sets in and even the smallest task can become overwhelmingly difficult. With fatigue often comes the desire for caffeine, but as another negative health obsession in the U.S., caffeine interferes with iron absorption and actually contributes to rather than rectifying the problem of fatigue.
If you think you may have an iron deficiency, check with your doctor to have a few simple tests done. The solution may be as simple as an iron supplement, but there is always a chance that deficiencies may also be related to other health concerns. For women especially, eat a diet rich in iron. And for those who, like me, do not often consume iron-rich meat products, have some vitamin C with your iron rich vegetables, nuts and legumes. The vitamin C in orange juice and other fruits aids in the absorption of iron. The U.S. may not have the healthiest population, but the important thing to remember is that we have all of the opportunities available to each of us as individuals, to achieve our own optimal health.
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