Matthew Burrell N.D.
Naturopath and Neuromuscular Therapist
Do you often have extreme fatigue or feel out of breath after climbing a flight of stairs?
Perhaps you have put it down to not being fit, but have you ever considered if this also could be due to low iron levels?
Iron is an essential mineral and a key component of haemoglobin. Haemoglobin is found in red blood cells and carries oxygen from the lungs to the muscles and tissues. It also plays a role in energy production, muscle function and DNA replication.
WHAT IS IRON DEFICIENCY?
The definition of iron deficiency is having a Ferritin level equal to or below 15 (1). Ferritin is a measure of iron stores and low levels can indicate iron deficiency. Iron deficiency is the most common cause of anaemia in the world. As a result of low iron, the body cannot produce healthy red blood cells to transport oxygen from the lungs to the tissues in the body resulting in low energy and endurance.
Alarmingly iron deficiency affects 12-15% of women between the ages of 15 and 50 years old (1).
WHAT ARE SOME SYMPTOMS OF IRON DEFICIENCY?
Iron deficiency can lead to a range of symptoms, which can vary in severity. Some common symptoms of iron deficiency include:
- Shortness of breath
- Restless legs
- Cold intolerance
- Dry mouth
- Hair loss
HOW DO WE BECOME IRON DEFICIENT?
We become iron deficient if:
- Our intake of iron is compromised;
- Poor diet
- Digestive issues
- Our iron storage mechanisms are adversely affected;
- Liver disease
- Spleen dysfunction
- If we lose iron
- Blood loss (i.e. heavy menstrual bleeding, injury)
- Excessive sweating (we lose about 0.5 of a mg of iron for every litre of sweat loss during physical exercise).
- Endurance activities that involve jarring (e.g. long distance running)
IS IRON DEFICIENCY REDUCING YOUR ATHLETIC PERFORMANCE?
Iron deficiency can result in various negative effects on athletic performance, including:
- Fatigue: Making it difficult to perform at optimal levels during training or competition.
- Decreased endurance: Reduced oxygen-carrying capacity can impair aerobic capacity, making it harder to sustain prolonged exercise. This can lead to decreased endurance and stamina.
- Reduced strength and power: Iron deficiency can affect muscle function, leading to decreased strength and power output. This can hinder performance in activities requiring strength, speed, and explosive movements.
- Impaired recovery: Iron is involved in the repair and regeneration of muscles. Insufficient iron levels can delay recovery from workouts or injuries, prolonging the time needed for the body to bounce back and adapt to training.
- Decreased focus and concentration: Iron deficiency can also affect cognitive function, including focus and concentration. This can impact an athlete’s ability to make quick decisions and execute strategies effectively.
It’s important, particularly for athletes to maintain adequate iron levels through a well-balanced diet that includes iron-rich foods such as lean meats, seafood, poultry, beans, lentils, spinach, and fortified cereals. If training stresses are high or if injury and illness prevails, sometimes iron supplementation may be necessary.
If you experience any of the above-mentioned issues and feel that it could be due to an iron deficiency, please feel free to make an appointment by calling 03 5221 8220.
Wishing you a great week ahead.
- Iron Deficiency- The Iron Clinic, July 2023, www.theironclinic.com/iron-deficiency