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iron deficiency and treatment also good foods of iron

Iron deficiency.

Iron deficiency and iron deficiency anemia are important, and occasionally, controversial topics in Sports Medicine.  Iron is used by red blood cells to help deliver oxygen all throughout the body.  When iron levels are too low, bodily functions are negatively affected.  Iron levels in the body can be low for reasons such as a diet deficient in iron, inadequate iron absorption in the stomach and intestines, or by loss of iron, which is a common cause in menstruating women.  Iron deficiency (ID) is the result of low iron stores. Occasionally, iron levels may be low enough to cause anemia, which is known as iron deficiency anemia (IDA).  True anemia may have negative effects on immune function, cognitive abilities, and even athletic performance.  This is particularly concerning to endurance athletes.

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  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Palpitations (a feeling of having an irregular heartbeat)
  • Diminished athletic performance

Treatment Options and Prevention for Iron Deficiency Anemia

Treatment of iron-deficiency anemia focuses on correcting the underlying cause of the deficiency and helping your body replenish its iron stores so it can restore a normal red blood cell count.

Oral iron supplementation

Iron pills can be taken to rebuild your body’s stores of iron. Since your body has to use the iron to build new red blood cells, symptoms may not improve for a couple weeks. It is recommended to continue the pills for at least three months after your red blood cell count returns to normal, to help your body store away additional iron for later needs.
Unfortunately, some people find iron pills uncomfortable to take. The pills can cause abdominal discomfort, nausea, diarrhea, and constipation. They can also cause dark stool, although this is harmless. The pills are most effective when taken on an empty stomach because they are not absorbed as effectively if taken with other food.

Intravenous iron supplementation

In some cases, iron needs to be given intravenously to ensure the restoration of normal body iron stores. The reasons for iron include a failure to correct anemia with oral iron pills, an inability to absorb iron in the gut (for example, after surgery to the gut), and a need for rapid recovery (e.g., for severe iron deficiency in pregnancy).

Treatment of underlying causes

If your anemia is caused by an underlying condition, your physician may refer you to a specialist. For example, you may need to see a gynecologist for the removal of bleeding uterine fibroids or a gastroenterologist for the removal of a polyp in the colon. Your physician may also recommend specific medications depending on your underlying condition, such as antibiotics for H. pylori.


You can take a few simple actions to prevent or control iron deficiency anemia.
  • Maintain a nutritious diet: In addition to iron, vitamin B12, folate, and vitamin C are all important for red blood cell production. Try to get most of your calories from nutrient-dense foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, seafood, lean meats and chicken, eggs, beans and peas, and nuts and seeds. You should also follow food safety practices to avoid foodborne illness. If you are vegan or vegetarian, make sure to eat lots of iron-rich foods, such as leafy green vegetables.
  • Stay up-to-date with recommended screenings: Current guidelines suggest screening for iron deficiency for all infants are at 1 year of age and all pregnant women. Additionally, colon cancer screening is recommended for all adults over age 50.
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