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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Iron and Fatigue

Fatigue and motherhood go together like cookies and milk. Whether you have a newborn or a teen, it seems keeping up with our kids and sleepless nights are common fodder for mom-to-mom conversations. But fatigue can come from a wide variety of sources and one that we often overlook is iron deficiency. Just this week the Holistic Moms Network hosted a Twitter Party with one of our new Sponsors, Floradix, and the information shared bears repeating.

An estimated 26% of women or 7.8 million women between the ages of 15 and 45 are iron deficient. The symptoms sound familiar to mamas: "fatigue, decreased ability to concentrate, decreased endurance during exercise, increased frequency of infection, paleness, dark circles under the eyes, brittle hair and nails, and cold hands and feet." The demands of pregnancy and nursing exacerbate iron deficiency for many parents. According to Dr. Cathy Carlson-Rink, a licensed naturopathic physician and registered midwife, “Many women enter pregnancy with low iron stores and, in fact, it is estimated that only one in five women enter a pregnancy with adequate iron levels. And since it can take up to six months to replenish low iron stores, I recommend regular low dose iron supplementation in the childbearing years to ensure that iron levels are adequate around the time a pregnancy is planned.”

Even long before starting a family, many young women suffer from iron deficiency. Adolescents are at risk for iron deficiency due to rapid growth rates, the onset of menses, and other factors including the certain birth control options. According to a 2001 study, three-quarters of adolescent girls do not reach daily dietary requirements for iron. Building iron stores early can help alleviate some of the common symptoms of iron deficiency and may help with learning and the ability to concentrate.

Dietary iron sources include meat, fish and poultry, lentils, dried beans, grain products, vegetables, dried fruit, and molasses. Unfortunately, a number of foods can also interfere with the absorption of iron in the body, including dairy products, some cereals, and a motherhood staple - coffee. Flora also manufactures as popular natural liquid iron supplement, Floradix, that has been shown to rapidly increase ferritin levels within a short period of supplementation. For young women suffering from fatigue, a simple blood test that includes ferritin levels can be a valuable tool to identifying iron deficiency.

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