Iron is an essential mineral for the production of red blood cells, maintain energy levels, proper functioning of the heart and brain, strong nails and hair health.
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Iron is the mineral found in greatest abundance on our planet. Because of this we could expect that there would be no deficiency in people, but that is not the case. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), iron deficiency is the most common nutritional disorder in the world. It occurs significantly in both developing and developed countries. About 1/3 of the world's population (more than 2 billion people) have iron deficiency. In developing countries, 40% of pre-school children and pregnant women (in the second gestation) are anemic.
Atention: Anemia and iron deficiency are different things! We can have anemia without iron deficiency and iron deficiency without anemia. I'll explain it better in a little while.
What is the purpose of iron in our body?
Iron is essential for various chemical reactions in our body to occur.
A fundamental nutrient, which we can not stay even a few minutes without it, is called oxygen. Who carries it is our red cells (red blood cells). Oxygen is fundamental so that food can be transformed into energy. And what does iron have to do with it? It is part of the red blood cells, and this means that the transport of oxygen can be compromised in iron deficiency, because the amount of red cells present in the blood is reduced. The person is "less red", bleached, pale!
As the body needs to continually bring oxygen to the cells, when there are fewer transporters (due to lack of iron) the heart speeds up this transport. The heart beats more times per minute. People with a heart rate of 70 bpm (beats per minute) at rest can easily reach 120 bpm when they are severely deficient in iron.
Another very important point is that in order to withdraw the energy from the food, several enzymes (compounds that accelerate the chemical reactions in the organism) that depend on iron are necessary. Iron deficiency reduces energy production. The person becomes tired, without energy.
Iron is part of the functioning of several cells, including the brain. In their deficiency can occur reduction of attention, discouragement, sadness, depression, will to chew ice, eat raw rice, clay and brick. There may be reduced appetite.
Very common in iron deficiency is the loss of hair and brittle nails, and may even present deformities. The skin may have changes, such as cracks in the corners of the lips. The immune system becomes depressed. Cognitive development is impaired. There is a risk of premature birth and abnormality in the fetal brain development.
Need for iron in life stages
At various times in life the need for iron may be higher than we can ingest or absorb.
Women, due to bleeding from menstruation, have a greater risk than men of having iron deficiency.
Pregnant women will need to increase their blood volume by 20% in the first trimester of gestation and in the last trimester they will have too much iron for the placenta and the baby. The need for iron in this period is very high.
Stages of intense growth: adolescence (boys and girls) and children between 4 months and 2 years of age need a lot of iron.
Nutritional inadequacy may also contribute to iron deficiency, but in most cases, it is the metabolic need that leads to the increased need for iron and often requiring supplementation.
The production of red cells
To produce the red cells (which carry the oxygen), we need a healthy bone marrow because it is our factory. For the process to begin, we need protein, stimulation of the thyroid hormone and a hormone of the kidneys. After that it is necessary for the bone marrow to receive a good amount of vitamin B12, folic acid (vitamin B9) and iron. There are other nutrients that are also needed, but the ones mentioned are often the main ones.
What is anemia?
We call anemia the reduction of hemoglobin levels in the blood, per unit volume of blood. Hemoglobin is a protein (which contains iron) that is present in the red cell (red blood cell).
As we have seen before, there are several stages and needs of stimuli or raw materials for red cell production to be successfully completed. Lack of iron is the main nutritional reason that leads to anemia.
Thus, anemia is a fact that we give through laboratory examination and that can be manifested by several signs and symptoms.
After finding that the individual has anemia, the doctor should start the research to know the reason that is leading to it. Several diseases can lead to anemia, such as chronic renal failure, hypothyroidism, neoplasias (cancers), inflammatory diseases, blood loss ... Several cases of anemia do not bring iron deficiency together.
The anemia will receive a surname name according to the factor that develops it.Thus we will have megaloblastic, pernicious, falsiform, sideroblastic anemia ... When anemia is due to lack or deprivation of iron it is called iron deficiency anemia.
Thus, we may have anemia without iron deficiency and we may also have iron deficiency without anemia. In the latter case, when iron stores are low, but the bone marrow is still getting enough iron to produce the red cells.
SYMPTOMS OF IRON FAILURE
The following questions below, when given positive answers ("yes"), may suggest iron deficiency. The presence of at least 3 of the symptoms below is very suggestive of the lack of iron in the body. All of the changes described may have other differential diagnoses other than iron deficiency. Therefore, your doctor should evaluate your picture as a whole to substantiate the diagnosis. Do you have difficulty getting out of bed even after a restful night's sleep? Do your nails chip, break, are softened or deformed? Do you feel very tired when you wake up in the afternoon or at night, even when you sleep the number of hours you need to rest? The problems you face always seem huge and you do "soft body" to solve them? Over the years you feel that your income is no longer the same? Do you feel sadness without an apparent cause? Do you have difficulty practicing physical activity? Do you feel that your income from physical activities is low? Do you become ill (cold, sore throat ...) easily? Do you feel dizzy or see light spots when you stand up fast? For women: are their hair falling more than they should fall?
This condition predisposes to greater iron loss: short menstrual cycles (less than 28 days) or prolonged total flow (more than 5 days) or bleeding in abundance (more than 2 days).
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