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May
02
2011

A Bit on Iron Deficiency

Leafy GreensIron is a mineral that stabilizes our hemoglobin, the component of red blood cells that transports oxygen to our tissues.  Dietary sources include liver, lamb, beef, shellfish, beans, peas, yeast, and green leafy vegetables.

Iron deficiency is seen most commonly in women with heavy periods, pregnancy, vegetarians, athletes, and patients with digestive problems.

Symptoms of iron deficiency usually arise from anemia (inappropriately low red blood cell count) and include fatigue, poor concentration, shortness of breath, and heart palpitations.

For the vast majority, treatment of iron deficiency is simply by oral supplementation (pills).  Iron pills can, however, cause abdominal cramping, nausea, constipation, and black stools.

Taking iron following a meal can help prevent stomach cramping and nausea. To help prevent constipation, be sure to hydrate well, and get enough fiber in your diet.

Vitamin C helps our intestines to absorb iron while antacids and dairy products lessen iron absorption.  Remember that coffee (even decaffeinated), tea, heavy fiber, or calcium supplementation within two hours of taking iron may impair absorption; similarly, spinach salad and mandarin oranges with your fortified cereal will help!