Remarkable Health Benefits of Iron

Iron is a crucial mineral that sustains human vitality in many ways. It is one of the essential minerals required by the body. It supports a diverse range of functions such as oxygen transport, energy metabolism, improving immune function and brain function. Since it plays a vital role in many physiological functions, it is considered a powerhouse nutrient given its role in energy release and oxygen transport. In this blog we attempt to present a snapshot of iron and its remarkable functions in your body.

Health benefits of Iron

Oxygen transport: Iron is necessary for making hemoglobin, a protein found in red blood cells. Hemoglobin is responsible for transporting oxygen from the lungs to tissues and all over the body. Iron is a key component of the heme group, a component of hemoglobin. Insufficient levels of iron in the body leads to decreased hemoglobin production. This reduces the oxygen carrying capacity of the blood leading to a condition called iron deficiency anemia characterized by weakness, fatigue and shortness of breath. 

Energy release: Iron is a crucial component of certain enzymes involved in energy metabolism. These enzymes participate in the processes that produce ATP, allowing cells to effectively utilize the oxygen carried by hemoglobin. Thus, iron directly influences energy levels by supporting both oxygen transport and cellular energy production. Iron is especially a part of electron transport chain (ETC), which is involved in energy production within the cells.

Immune support: Iron levels in your body play a crucial role in immune function. Iron and the iron-binding proteins help regulate the activity of the immune system. A robust immune system is essential for protecting the body against infections and illnesses. Iron contributes to the proper functioning of the immune system by supporting the production of white blood cells, which are the body's defense against pathogens. These immune cells require iron to carry out their duties effectively and fight off invading bacteria and viruses

Brain health: The brain requires a steady supply of oxygen to function well and because of its role in oxygen transport, iron plays a crucial role in cognitive function. Insufficient iron levels can lead to reduced oxygen delivery to the brain, impairing cognitive abilities such as memory, concentration, and overall mental performance. Research shows that iron deficiency, particularly during early childhood and adolescence, can have long-lasting effects on cognitive development and academic achievement. Studies also show that iron deficiency affects cognitive functions in neurologically intact adult patients too. Hence, ensuring adequate iron intake is especially critical during all stages of life to support optimal brain growth and function.

Muscle health and physical performance: Iron also plays a role in muscle metabolism and proper muscle contraction. Low iron levels may lead to muscle weakness, fatigue, and decreased physical performance, affecting both athletes and those engaging in regular physical activities. Muscle cells need oxygen to produce energy during exercise, and iron-enriched hemoglobin delivers this much-needed oxygen to working muscles. Athletes and physically active individuals require sufficient iron to support their increased energy demands during intense workouts.

DNA synthesis and repair: Iron is a crucial element that plays a vital role in many body processes. It acts as a helper for important enzymes involved in DNA metabolism, which includes DNA repair and ribonucleotide reductase. These enzymes need iron to work properly and carry out their essential functions.

Sources of Iron

Ensuring an adequate intake of iron through diet is crucial for reaping its numerous health benefits. There are two primary types of dietary iron: heme iron and non-heme iron.

Heme iron is found in animal products such as red meat, poultry, and fish. It is more easily absorbed by the body compared to non-heme iron.

Non-heme iron is found in plant-based foods, such as beans, lentils, tofu, spinach, and fortified cereals. Although non-heme iron is less readily absorbed, consuming it with vitamin C-rich foods can enhance its absorption.

For individuals with iron deficiency or increased iron needs, supplementation can be an effective solution. Traditional iron supplements, while widely used, often come with challenges related to absorption and potential side effects. However, the advent of bioavailable iron supplements has revolutionized iron supplementation, offering distinct advantages over conventional options.

Tips for choosing iron supplements

Enhanced Absorption: Bioavailable iron supplements are designed to provide iron in a form that the body can readily absorb and utilize. Traditional iron supplements often contain non-heme iron, which is less easily absorbed by the body, especially when taken on an empty stomach. In contrast, bioavailable iron supplements often utilize heme iron or iron in a chelated form, which significantly improves absorption. This ensures that a larger proportion of the iron reaches the bloodstream, maximizing its benefits.

Side Effects: One common complaint with conventional iron supplements is gastrointestinal side effects such as constipation, nausea, and upset stomach. These issues arise because the body struggles to break down and absorb the iron effectively. Bioavailable iron supplements, particularly those using heme iron or chelated iron, are less likely to cause these side effects. Their improved absorption means that smaller doses can achieve the same results, minimizing the risk of gastrointestinal discomfort.

Versatility and Safety: Bioavailable iron supplements come in various forms, including capsules, liquids, and chewable tablets. This versatility allows individuals to choose the most suitable option for their preferences and needs. Additionally, with proper dosing and administration, bioavailable iron supplements are generally safe for most individuals, ensuring effective iron replenishment without unnecessary risks.

Here are some high-quality supplements we recommend:

Time Release Iron by Douglas Laboratories: Douglas Labs Time Release Iron tablets are specially designed to provide 54 mg of iron carbonyl (Ferronyl) per serving for a 6-to-8-hour period.  The release of iron begins 30 minutes after ingestion of tablet and will take up to 8 hours. Carbonyl iron is well-tolerated, easily absorbed, and has a low toxicity. The product is free of yeast, gluten, soy protein, milk, dairy, corn, sugar, starch, preservatives and other artificial flavorings. The suggested use is to take 2 tablets daily with meals or as directed by healthcare provider. Taking iron supplements with food may reduce gastrointestinal side effects.

Vitamin Code Raw Iron by Garden of Life: If you are looking to include a non-constipating, whole food iron in your diet, Garden of Life’s Vitamin Code Raw Iron is your best fit. The supplement offers 22 mg of gentle whole food iron blended in a base of 23 fruits and vegetables with live probiotics and enzymes. The highlight of this supplement is that the nutrients are individually grown using probiotic cultivation to produce RAW Food-created nutrients. The raw nutrients are produced below 115 F, which ensures that the natural cofactors, along with live probiotics and enzymes also accompany the nutrients just like how it occurs in its natural state. Vitamin Code raw powders are delivered in capsules without any binders or fillers everything you want and nothing you don't want. Another major plus is that there is no high heat ever used in the manufacturing process. The supplement does not contain synthetic binders or fillers, artificial flavors, sweeteners, colors or additives commonly used in other tablets. The product is Non-GMO Project Verified, RAW, Certified Vegan, Star-K Kosher, Gluten Free. Each serving size of 1 capsule provides 25 mg of vitamin C, (from culture of S. cerevisiae) 400 mcg DFE of folate (from culture of S. cerevisiae), 500 mcg of Vitamin B12 (as Methylcobalamin from culture of S. cerevisiae),22 mg of iron (from Brown Rice Chelate). The capsule also contains 310 mg of RAW organic fruit and vegetable blend along with 60 mg of RAW probiotic & Enzyme blend. The recommended dosage is to take one capsule a day with or without food. The capsule may be opened and contents may be added to water or juice. 

Liquid Iron by Genestra Brand: If you are looking for an iron supplement suitable for vegans in a liquid formulation Genestra Brands Liquid Iron is best suited for you. Formerly Liquid Iron Complex, this iron formulation, supports hemoglobin and myoglobin function, supports red blood cells, and natural raspberry and vanilla flavor. Great taste for excellent patient compliance, includes colloidal minerals. For adults and adolescents (9 years and older) the suggested dosage is to take 1 teaspoon 2 times daily with meals, a few hours before or after taking medications or other supplements, or as recommended by your health professional. For infants and children (0-8 years) the recommendation is to take ½ teaspoon 2 times daily with meals, a few hours before or after taking medications or other supplements, or as recommended by your health professional.

Ensuring a balanced diet that includes iron-rich foods is essential for harnessing the remarkable health benefits of this vital element. Remember, it's not just about getting enough iron, but also striking the right balance to maintain a healthy body and mind. Please keep in mind it is extremely important to consult with your healthcare provider before starting iron supplements. Pregnant and lactating women, young children and elderly must consult with their healthcare provider before taking iron supplements.