Pumping Iron

Chronic fatigue was starting to get me down. I would go to sleep as early as my children and have difficulty getting out of bed twelve hours later. I would then have to nap later in the afternoon. Upon my husband’s insistence, I finally made a doctor’s appointment.

My doctor ordered a series of tests, most of which I couldn’t even pronounce. Three weeks later, the results are in. I am iron deficient. I thank God that I was not diagnosed with a life threatening disease. Iron deficiency is something that can be easily managed.

Iron is an essential mineral for life. It’s found in red blood cells and its job is to carry oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. This oxygen releases energy from the foods you eat. Some characteristics of low iron include weakness, lethargy, muscle fatigue, and shortness of breath. My doctor recommended iron supplement pills and choosing more colourful foods such as red meats, dark green vegetables and the browns of whole grains.

Looking into it further, I learned that iron from meats, the “heme” form, is more easily absorbed than that from vegetables. In general, meat, fish, and poultry are excellent sources. Organ meats like liver, kidney and heart are important sources. Others include beets, egg yolks, legumes, kale, sardines, oysters, anchovies, mussels, and clams. This will call for a revamping of my diet. Some food sources that I have in my kitchen right now include raisins, dried apricots, spinach, broccoli, beans, dried fruits, whole grains, fortified cereals, and enriched breads.

Unfortunately, one friend told me that caffeine could inhibit the body's absorption of iron. In researching this, I found out that indeed tea and coffee contain inhibitors. To my surprise, my desire to increase fibre in my diet may also have worked against iron absorption. According to a pamphlet published by the Beef Information Centre, “A high fibre intake in general may act as an iron inhibitor.” They recommend eating foods that contain heme iron and /or vitamin C when eating foods that act as iron inhibitors. For example, eating a spinach salad that has strawberries is a good combination; beans with tomato sauce and pork; spaghetti with meat sauce; a glass of orange juice with a bowl of oatmeal cereal. God truly blessed us with many food options. I can easily make these ideas part of my weekly diet. I’m ready to start “pumping iron”.

Blessings on the road to health.

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