Iron is an essential mineral that plays an important role in the body's overall health. It is responsible for carrying oxygen in the blood and is also involved in the production of energy. Unfortunately, many women and people who menstruate suffer from iron deficiency, which can lead to a variety of health issues. While a lack of iron in the diet is one commonly known cause of iron deficiency, there are other less well-known causes that can also contribute to low iron levels. In this blog post, we will explore three less common causes of iron deficiency and how they can be addressed.
Heavy Menstrual Bleeding
Heavy menstrual bleeding, also known as menorrhagia, can be a significant cause of iron deficiency in women. Menorrhagia is defined as bleeding that lasts longer than seven days, or bleeding that is heavy enough to require changing a tampon or pad every hour for several hours in a row. Women with menorrhagia may lose more than 80ml of blood during their menstrual cycle, which can lead to iron deficiency if the iron lost in the blood is not replaced.
Women who experience heavy menstrual bleeding may also have symptoms such as fatigue, shortness of breath, and pale skin. Naturopathic treatment for heavy menstrual bleeding often includes herbal remedies such as vitex (chaste tree), yarrow, and shepherd's purse.
Celiac disease is a condition that affects the digestive system and can lead to malabsorption of nutrients, including iron. This is because celiac disease damages the lining of the small intestine, which can prevent the absorption of iron from food. Women with celiac disease may experience symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating, and diarrhoea.
A naturopathic approach to treating celiac disease includes a strict gluten-free diet, which can help to reduce inflammation in the gut and promote healing of the intestinal lining. Supplements such as digestive enzymes and probiotics may also be recommended to help improve digestion and absorption of nutrients.
While regular exercise is important for overall health, heavy exercise can also contribute to iron deficiency in women. This is because when we exercise, we break down red blood cells, which contain iron. If we do not replace the iron lost during exercise, it can lead to iron deficiency over time.
Women who engage in heavy exercise, such as endurance athletes, may be at particular risk for iron deficiency. Symptoms of iron deficiency related to heavy exercise may include fatigue, decreased athletic performance, and increased susceptibility to infections.
A naturopathic approach to addressing iron deficiency related to heavy exercise may include dietary changes to increase iron intake, such as eating more red meat and leafy greens.
Iron deficiency is a significant issue that affects many women and people who menstruate, and it's important to identify and address the less common causes to ensure optimal health. Naturopathic medicine offers a range of solutions, from dietary and lifestyle changes to targeted supplementation and herbal remedies, that can help address iron deficiency and improve overall health and wellbeing.
If you're experiencing symptoms of iron deficiency, or if you're concerned about your iron levels, consider scheduling an appointment with me to explore your options and develop a personalised treatment plan. With the right support and care, you can take control of your health and get on top of your iron once and for all.