Why is iron important
Monthly periods are the most common cause of iron loss worldwide and research shows that women of childbearing age need up to x2 more daily iron than men. The average menstrual period lasts anywhere from two to five days. It is estimated that 220 to 250mg of iron per pint of blood is lost during menstruation. This can vary over a woman’s lifetime and may be affected by changes in iron stores, changing contraceptives, use of intrauterine devices or certain medications.
A woman’s natural iron regulatory system increases absorption of iron from her diet during these times of blood loss. Her normal absorption rate of 1 milligram is stepped up to 1.5–3 milligrams per day—the female body’s natural response to blood loss. However it may be difficult to meet this increased need for iron through diet alone, particularly in women with low red meat intake, those on plant based diets and those who have recently given birth.
Amongst women who experience heavier periods adequate daily iron intake is particularly important and may be difficult to achieve with diet alone.
Can I always get enough iron from my food during periods?
You can get iron from food but it may not be absorbed well, and it may not be sufficient to meet your requirements due to menstruation. Women can lose up to half a pint of blood during each menstrual cycle.
Even if you are making an effort to ingest more iron by eating meat, most health authorities recommend a safe upper intake of only 500g of red meat per week. Also, several factors must be present before iron can be absorbed and used by the body, such as a healthy digestive system and adequate amounts of nutrients such as zinc, vitamin C and B complex. Proteins that bind with and carry nutrients into the bloodstream are also needed in the diet for iron to be absorbed. Also, other daily habits like drinking tea and coffee after your meals or taking calcium supplements with iron rich meals can reduce iron absorption.
Some iron rich foods include:
- Red meat
- Dark, leafy greens.
Avoid caffeine immediately after your meals, since this substance can decrease iron absorption. Vitamin C, on the other hand, can make it easier for your digestive system to absorb iron.
Supplementing your diet with iron tablets
If you do decide to increase your iron intake through iron supplements, it is important to choose one that is kind on your stomach and strong on absorption. While ferrous sulfate is considered the ‘gold standard’, these tablets may cause gut irritation leading to constipation and nausea.
Active Iron contains a non-constipating iron formula that uses innovative technology to target the body’s natural site of absorption in the small intestine. Active Iron is clinically shown to have x2 better absorption of ferrous sulfate and is kind enough to take on an empty stomach.