I am Woman, Hear me Roar!

Except that lately my roar has been more like a squeak…. but you know, I am Woman Hear me Squeak just doesn’t sound as good.

So why am I squeaking you ask? Well, it’s the same reason 1 out of 10 woman in America are squeaking… we are low in Iron 😦

I’ve written here and here about my low iron, but I have a feeling, and many facebook messages, that make me think a lot of other woman are dealing with this problem recently. So why not turn yet another almost awkward conversation you could be having with your doctor into one that we can all have today in cyberspace!

iron 2

What’s the deal with iron?

So Iron is a naturally occurring element that your body needs. Remember that high school chemistry class you took in which you had to memorize the periodic table of elements and then you forgot them by June 14th? Well all those amazing compounds and elements are hanging out inside each one of us at this very minute… they are just doing so in teeny-tiny trace amounts.

Why do I need it? Doesn’t my body make it?

We (our red blood cells) need iron to live. Iron is pretty much in this awesome relationship with Oxygen and what it does it deliver (bind) Oxygen to our red blood cells. Without oxygen being bound to our red blood cells, we would be some serious sad sacks who constantly feel exhausted as well as a host of other negative effects. Our body cannot make (naturally) these Iron as well as those other periodic elements so we must CONSUME them. Some people do so my eating foods that are rich in nutrients while others opt-out for supplements.

And how am I low in it?

As a woman, there are about a million reasons as to why you could be low on your iron… everything from heavy menstruation, food sensitivities that are over looked, genetic predisposition, hormone imbalance and on, and on, and on!

What are some symptoms of being low in iron?

I love and hate this question… not specifically about iron, but just the question “What are the symptoms of being low in ___________________?” Mainly because I feel as though 99% of American woman are low in sleep and this often overshadows medical conditions. This often results in woman looking at a list of deficiency symptoms and thinking “Hey, 70% of those things are totally me”, and then sometimes we go take iron supplements instead of taking better care of ourselves and really don’t solve any real issues. So if you have children who are waking up during the night, children who are sleeping bed with you, if you are caring for elderly parents, have a bladder the size of a pea or other issues that are preventing you from sleeping through the night or well, please take these things into consideration.

Iron-Deficiency Symptoms (Source)

  • Feel weak and tire out more easily.
  • Feel dizzy.
  • Be grumpy or cranky.
  • Have headaches.
  • Look very pale.
  • Feel short of breath.
  • Have trouble concentrating.
  • Feel cold or have feet and/or hands that do not warm up.
  • Bruise easily.
  • Have increased anxiety.
  • Struggle sleeping through the night.

I think I am Iron deficient… how do I bring this up to my doctor?

You simply say this…. “Dr. _____________, lately I have been feeling (insert symptoms), do you think this could have anything to do with my iron? I have been reading some information lately and learning about iron deficiency, could we talk about this?” Your doctor will look upon your sleepy face with a smile and happily discuss this topic, because Doctors actually like it when we as woman understand and are listening to our bodies.

What will my doctor suggest if my blood work shows that I am low in iron?

Well, remember the reasons why you may be low in iron…this will dictate the way in which your iron deficiency is treated. For me, my iron deficiency is a 3-sided problem. T.M.I… My menstrual cycle is both long and heavy, I have some food allergies and sensitivities that effect my bodies ability to absorb iron and lastly I am naturally and genetically unable to absorb iron like I should be. So let’s break this down a bit…

– Menstrual Cycle… this can be treated when mild by taking a supplement to balance out the loss of blood you have every month. If it is a severe case, your doctor may suggest (based on age, season of life and other factors) that you go on medication that stops your period and results in you only have a period 3-4 times a year or even less.

– Food Allergies/Sensitivities… if you are consuming foods that your gut (intestines) struggle with breaking down and digesting, you could be destroying your intestine lining enough to put it in a situation in which it cannot absorb nutrients. People in this situation will usually find out that they are not only iron deficient, but also deficient in other vital nutrients.

– Genetic Predisposition… some people who have a family line coming from the Mediterranean (usually Greek and Italian) have a genetic inability to absorb and process iron properly. These individuals have to figure out with their doctor what are “normal” levels for their situation and body and work with many tools to get their iron levels their.

What are the long term effects of having low iron, but not treating it?

Let’s get to the point on this one… their are two main things that happen when you are iron deficient that most woman care about. One, you put your cardiac health in danger if you allow your body to become severely iron deficient over long periods of time, and two, you risk gaining weight.

I am low in iron, however do not want to take a supplement. What foods can I be consuming daily to increase my iron intake?

  • Beef, Lamb, Turkey
  • Veal, Liver, Eggs
  • Shrimp, Scallops, Oysters
  • Tuna, Sardines, Haddock
  • Spinach, Sweet Potatoes, Beets
  • Broccoli, Green Beans, Dandelion Greens






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