Tired and low energy?

Are you constantly tired and have little energy? Do you feel weak? Do you get out of breath easily? Do you perhaps suffer from an iron deficiency in your blood? What are the symptoms? What about heme iron and non-heme iron in the diet? How do you get an iron deficiency? How do certain combinations of foods hinder or promote the absorption of iron in your body? Can nutritional supplements in the form of iron pills (also called steel pills) solve your iron deficiency?

Tired and lacking energy?

If you are constantly tired and suffer from a lack of energy, those around you will quickly, and not always rightly, say that it is psychological or that you are eating unhealthy. Fatigue and a lack of energy can have many different causes, which is why it is always wise to visit your doctor for these types of symptoms.
Perhaps you are quickly exhausted due to anemia due to an iron deficiency.

  • What are the symptoms of an iron deficiency in your blood?
  • What about the two types of iron in the diet?
  • How do you get an iron deficiency?
  • Solutions for iron deficiency


Symptoms of an iron deficiency in your blood

Iron (Latin: ferrous ) is one of the building blocks of hemoglobin. If the hemoglobin level in your blood is too low (in the case of an Hb <7.5 mmol/l in women (6.8 in pregnant women) and <8.5 mmol/l in men) we speak of anemia (or anemia). ). You can already have symptoms of an iron deficiency before you are medically diagnosed with anemia. By the way, a lack of iron in the blood is only one of the many possible causes and forms of anemia.
With an iron deficiency you suffer from fatigue and a lack of energy. You also notice that you quickly get out of breath. You will probably feel faint and perhaps feel dizzy easily. Your skin may look pale. Perhaps you suffer from irritability or depression. Some people experience restless legs. There are many more indications that may indicate an iron deficiency.
By the way, most symptoms of iron deficiency can also indicate a lack of thiamine (vitamin B1) or be the result of another condition.

What about the two types of iron in the diet?

At the same time as your diet you get two types of iron:

  • heme iron ; this occurs in animal foods, for example in beef or lamb liver; heme iron is more easily absorbed into your body than non-heme iron;
  • non-heme iron ; this occurs in plant-based foods; think, for example, of green vegetables such as broccoli or green beans, or whole wheat bread, (most) meat substitutes; legumes (such as lentils), nuts and tomatoes; non-heme iron is more easily absorbed into your body if you also consume food with vitamin C with all your meals (think of fruit such as oranges, possibly in the form of fresh orange juice).

If you drink tea with a meal, the absorption of iron into the blood is hindered. This does not apply to herbal tea. It is advisable that several hours pass between drinking coffee and tea and iron-containing foods.

How do you get an iron deficiency?

Unlike a thiamine deficiency, which can occur within a few weeks, it can take a longer time before you suffer from an iron deficiency. Your body builds up a supply of iron in the spleen, bone marrow and liver. The resorption of iron in the small intestine is adjusted to your needs. That is why, in the event of an iron deficiency, a much higher percentage of the
iron supplied is absorbed into your body than would otherwise be the case.
Anyone who eats a varied diet and is otherwise healthy has little chance of a serious iron deficiency. Vegetarians, vegans, women with heavy periods and people who exercise intensively are more likely to have an iron deficiency.
An iron deficiency can be detected with a simple blood test. If it is not clear what the deficiency is due to, a medical cause is sought. whether an intestinal disorder could be the cause. For example, there may be a parasitic worm infection or an intestinal tumor. In the elderly, iron anemia can occur due to, for example, chronic rheumatism, diabetes or inflammation. In such cases, treatment with iron preparations is of no use. In fact, this can even be harmful.

Solutions for iron deficiency

You can combat an iron deficiency with a dietary supplement of iron pills (also called steel pills). Make sure that you do not choose a supplement that would cause you to take more than the recommended daily allowances (RDA) of nutrients. Sometimes ascorbic acid (vitamin C) is added to iron tablets to promote better absorption into the blood.
Some iron preparations are absorbed into the body slowly through controlled release. These ‘slow release’ pills are less effective because iron is almost exclusively reabsorbed in the first part of the intestine and can therefore have less effect on the hemoglobin level of the blood. With these modified-release tablets, the iron is only released in the large intestine, which can only absorb the iron to a very limited extent. In practice, if you take these pills, you will not suffer less from side effects such as stomach pain, diarrhea or constipation than with the cheaper tablets.
In this context, remember that too high an iron level is harmful to your body. In the case of medically prescribed iron tablets, you can rest assured that the dose is tailored to your personal situation and that this treatment will help you feel better again. If you always get tired easily and have little energy, it is always wise to consult a doctor before choosing over-the-counter remedies.

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