Tackling the Menace of Iron Deficiency and Iron Deficiency Anaemia

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Blood – that is what delivers oxygen and nutrients to every cell in the body.

The process of oxygen delivery is a very intricate process – Breathing in binds oxygen to hemoglobin in the lungs after the release of Carbon Dioxide. (Haemoglobin contains protein and iron. Iron makes up haeme and therefore being iron deficient leads to anaemia). The oxygen then travels to each cell and unbinds from hemoglobin to enter the cells. The hemoglobin then takes up the carbon dioxide in the lungs.

Oxygen is what is required for each cell to produce energy. If energy is unavailable then the cell dies. If oxygen is deficient then energy production in each cell is inadequate.

What is the consequence of low oxygen delivery to the cells?

Each cell and therefore the body is quickly tired, fatigued, and is not performing optimally.

This means that organ systems do not work to full capacity – the brain, the nerves, the heart, the muscles, the gastrointestinal digestion and absorption, the lungs, the kidneys, the urinary system the hormonal glands, the reproductive and sexual system, the skin, the bones, the hair – the entire body in fact!

Have we thought about this? Have we considered the havoc anaemia can create in life?

Can we let anemia be?

We can hear your answers – a clear-cut NO! Of course not.

Why should our children, adults, and elderly be weakly surviving when we can be full of vigour?

Why should fatigue and sub-optimal performance be our constant companions?

Why should simple tasks and mild exercise make us tired?

Why should our population be labeled lazy and unproductive because the body cannot perform optimally due to iron deficiency?

We want each cell of our body to thrive in the most efficient manner, not just weakly survive. That is why iron deficiency anaemia needs to be tackled.

WHO estimates that 42% of children less than 5 years of age and 40% of pregnant women worldwide are suffering from anemia. The latest reports according to the National Family Health Survey 5 says that 57% of our women, 67% of our children, and 25% of our men suffer from anemia. An entire population that cannot be optimally productive in all ways due to iron deficiency!.

Now is the time to address this problem.

At this point – a note: Iron deficiency anaemia is a culmination of the larger problem of iron deficiency. We must remember that iron is required in the blood for various functions in the body – importantly that to do with the brain and nerves and intelligence as well as for immunity. It is required by the muscles to perform well. Since the body recognizes the function of oxygen delivery as being of prime importance, anaemia is the last manifestation of iron deficiency and indicates that the other functions of iron have already been largely compromised!

Signs and symptoms of iron deficiency anaemia: (Caution – Mild anemia may be asymptomatic)!

  • Tiredness and lethargy
  • Fatigue
  • Breathlessness
  • Pale skin and conjunctiva
  • Fainting and dizziness
  • Fast heart rate and pulse
  • Spoon shaped nails
  • Hair loss

Very important to note: If any instance of any of these symptoms are observed, it is imperative to get a blood test done. Haemoglobin is the most common test prescribed.

We at Nutritionwithvibha would advise a Complete Blood Count, Serum iron, Transferrin, and Serum ferritin to give a complete picture of not only anaemia but iron deficiency and iron stores too. This report is to be discussed with your physician as well as your nutritionist for a sustainable plan to manage anaemia.

Consequences of Iron deficiency and iron deficiency anaemia:

  • Low physical performance and inability for physical performance
  • Low concentration and memory
  • Decreased school performance
  • Permanent cognitive damage
  • Reduced work productivity
  • Perceived as weak, dull, lazy, and unintelligent
  • Stunting, growth retardation, and delayed sexual maturation
  • Infections and illnesses
  • Compromised and complicated pregnancies with low birth weight babies
  • Organ dysfunction
  • Heart Failure
  • In the elderly, dementia, increased incidents of falls, inadequate functioning, hospitalizations, and subsequently the increased rate of deaths are seen due to anaemia.

Iron deficiency and iron deficiency anaemia occur primarily due to the following reasons:

  1. Inadequate intake: Iron is a micronutrient available in small amounts in foods. Vegetarians especially need to be mindful of food choices to ensure that adequate iron is consumed.
  2. Periods of increased requirements – Growth phases, pregnancy, lactation, and infections require increased amounts of iron and if inadequate, it can lead to anaemia.
  3. Worm infestations in the intestine: A huge issue that leads to iron losses and a deficiency as a consequence
  4. Infections and decreased absorption: In case of intestinal infections or when disease strikes, the requirement is high and intake low due to reduced appetite.
  5. Blood loss due to injury or heavy menstrual flow

What are the ways to prevent iron deficiency and iron deficiency anaemia?

  1. Eat whole grains: This is especially for the vegetarian population. Iron is present in the outer covering of cereals and pulses. The moment we make the switch to refined grains, a decreased quantum of iron is available
  2. Choose iron-rich grains and pulses: Rajkeera, Whole wheat, Bajra, Chana or Chickpeas
  3. Include green leafy vegetables in the diet thrice a week: Spinach, red amaranth, Dill leaves or Shepu, and drumstick leaves are rich in iron. Let these be part of the menu two to three times a week.
  4. Include dry fruits, seeds, and nuts: Dates, Dried figs, or Anjeer and nuts have iron and will contribute to the iron intake. Garden Cress seeds called Halim in Hindi have a high content of iron. It can be used to make snacks as well as it can be included in gravies and dals.
  5. Nonvegetarian foods are rich in iron and the kind of iron present in them (haeme iron) is hugely available for absorption. Lean meat and liver thus become excellent sources of iron.
  6. Vitamin C helps in the absorption of iron. Thus, squeezing lime after the gas flame is out off, adding fruits and vegetables that are rich in Vitamin C to the iron-containing meals and food combinations will help to absorb iron easily
  7. Promoting appropriate and feasible methods of food processing and preparation, to improve bioavailability and absorption of nutrients – germination, fermentation, and soaking of ingredients can improve the absorption of iron.
  8. Avoid consuming inhibitors of iron with meals that are high in iron content; Avoid drinking tea or coffee during meal times; consumption of the same 1–2 hours after the meal is safe.
  9. Cook in iron utensils – Some iron is available in foods if cooked in iron vessels. Use iron tavas for rotis and iron kadhais for roasting and cooking. However, do make sure it’s good quality iron vessels that you are using.
  10. Deworm every 6 months – from children to the elderly

Most important to remember that iron trickles in from multiple sources. Also, deficiencies of other nutrients like protein, zinc, folic acid, and vitamin B12 could also contribute to the development of anaemia. Thus, Dietary diversification is one of the best ways to prevent anaemia in the first place. Including all food groups and consuming nutrition-dense meals, every day can help prevent several nutritional deficiencies.

Eating well, choosing well, and planning menus well are important for the iron health of the family!

Here’s, sharing two iron-rich & nourishing recipes which are specially curated for You!

What if you have been diagnosed with iron deficiency or iron deficiency anaemia?

In this case, iron and multivitamin and multi-mineral supplements need to be started. We suggest a choice of a low-dose supplement of 50 mg per day to minimize the side effects of acidity and constipation.

This needs to be part of a healthful eating plan with the adequacy of iron in the diet.

We at Nutritionwithvibha.com stand united with the National Nutrition Mission for an Anaemia Mukt Bharat and take seriously the need for nutrition education to create a sustainable change in health and in the menace of anaemia.

Enough lives have been led small, low-powered, and inefficient only because of an iron deficiency. It is time that our potential rises and is not prey to our faulty diet and lifestyle practices.

Let iron be there not only in out wills and spines but also in our blood and liver – so that we may live our best version of ourselves.

Write in with your queries on Iron deficiency and iron deficiency to [email protected]

Stay iron replete.

Stay blessed

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