Iron deficiency is most often caused by insufficient intake. However, it may result from intestinal bleeding, excessive menstrual bleeding, a diet high in phosphorus, poor digestion, long-term illness, ulcers, prolonged use of antacids, excessive coffee or tea consumption, and other causes.
In some cases a deficiency of Vitamin B6 or Vitamin B12 can be the underlying cause of anemia. Strenuous exercise and heavy perspiration deplete iron from the body.
Iron deficiency symptoms include:
inflammation of the tissue of the mouth
nails that are spoon-shaped
nails that have ridges running lengthwise
slowed mental reactions
Important Functions of Iron
Perhaps the most important of iron's functions in the body is the production of hemoglobin and myoglobin (the from of hemoglobin found in muscle tissue) and the oxygenation of red blood cells.
Iron is the mineral found in the largest amounts in the blood. It is essential for a healthy immune system and for energy productions.
Because iron is stored in the body, excessive iron intake an also cause problems. Too much iron in the tissues and organs leads to the production of free radicals and increases the need for Vitamin E.
High levels of iron have also been found in association with heart disease and cancer. The buildup of iron in the tissues has been associate with a rare disease known as hemochromatosis, a hereditary disorder of iron metabolism that causes bronze skin pigmentation, cirrhosis of the liver, diabetes, and heart disorders.
Food Sources High in Iron and Herbal Sources of Iron Supplements
Foods High in Iron
green leafy vegetables
enriched breads and cereals
Other Food Sources with Iron
kidney and lima beans
Herbs that contain Iron
milk thistle seed
There must be sufficient hydrochloric acid (HC) present in the stomach in order for iron to be absorbed. Copper, manganese, molybdenum, Vitamin A, and the B-Complex Vitamins are also needed for complete iron absorption. Taking Vitamin C can increase iron absorption by as much as 30 percent.
Excessive amounts of zinc and Vitamin E interfere with iron absorption. Iron utilization may be impaired by rheumatoid arthritis and cancer. These diseases can result in anemia despite adequate amounts of iron stored in the liver, spleen, and bone marrow. Iron deficiency is more prevalent in people with candidiasis or chronic herpes infections.
Do not take iron supplements if you have an infection. Because bacteria require iron for growth, the body "hides" iron in the liver and other storage sites when an infection is present. Taking extra iron at such times encourages the proliferation of bacteria in the body.