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Iron is a substance that our bodies need to perform a number of metabolic functions. The most important and well known function is making red blood cells. Red blood cells transport oxygen to all the organs in the body. They all need oxygen to work properly especially the brain which uses 20% of the oxygen in the bloodstream. Iron also plays an important role in building the immune system which helps us fight off disease and illness. There have been studies done on the importance of iron in treating restless leg syndrome.
One of the most common symptoms of iron deficiency is fatigue. It can be accompanied by muscle weakness, headaches and foggy thinking. This is a sign the body isn’t getting sufficient oxygen to function properly. An inability to regulate body temperature may also be an indicator of iron deficiency. Iron is also important for the contraction of the muscles.
An adequate supply of iron in the diet is especially important for growing children as they need it to make muscles, bones and other tissues. Women of childbearing age, meaning those that menstruate, also need to make sure they have an adequate supply of iron to make the red blood cells to replace those lost in menstruation. Often, a low red blood cell count in someone who isn’t menstruating is an indicator that there is a disease state occurring somewhere in the body. Monitoring ones iron levels is important especially if you have a disease such as cancer or kidney disease because they can sap the body’s supply of iron quite quickly.
Green leafy vegetables such as spinach have been touted widely for their iron content. You can also get iron from legumes, lentils, sprouts, broccoli, soy beans and whole grains. Meats and fish contain iron as well as do dried fruits. There are some processed foods such as cereals and breads that have added iron. You can also get an iron supplement. In the case of chronically ill patients an iron infusion may be needed. Below is a larger list of healthy and delicious food rich in iron.
The most common side effect is constipation. It is wise to check with your health practitioner to see if you need an iron supplement first and to deal with any elimination issues that may arise if you do take one.