Friday, October 16, 2009

A couple things about iron

I was doing a bit of electronic organizing the other day -- yes, I have a million bits of WLS information saved on my computer and a flash drive I carry with me at all times. I came across some info about iron that I wanted to share.

Iron is a mineral that can be found in plants, animals, soil, air, water, meteorites, and rocks, including on the surface of the moon. Here on earth, plants absorb iron through their root systems; animals eat these plants. Humans consume these plants and animals. Many think iron is a heavy metal, which it is not. Iron is an essential micronutrient. Essential used in this way means that the body does not produce the nutrient; micronutrient means that the body only requires tiny amounts to function.

Iron is like money (simple to understand terms)

  • Hemacrit and hemaglobin are like cash. It's your readily expendable iron.
  • Transferrin is like the armored truck that delivers new cash to the bank from the Federal Reserve.
  • Iron saturation is like your savings account of iron. Stored for intermediate use.
  • Ferritin is your 401k of iron. It's your long term iron storage.

What is Iron All About Anyway? (a bit more technical explanation)

  • Hemaglobin (hgb) - a protein that transports oxygen to the body
  • Hematocrit (hct) - proportion of blood volume that is occupied by red blood cells
  • Transferrin - a protein that is the major transporter of iron and ideally is saturated with 25-35% iron; when working properly, transferrin binds to iron and transports it to all tissues, vital organs, and bone marrow so that normal metabolism, DNA synthesis, and red blood cell production can take place
  • Total Iron Binding Capacity (TIBC) - a measure of the maximum iron concentration that transferrin can bind. Increased TIBC levels may indicate iron-deficiency anemia; decreased TIBC may indicate cirrhosis 
  • Ferritin - a protein that acts like a large holding vessel; contains iron that we don't presently need

NOTE: someone who is anemic can still have normal hemaglobin and hematicrit numbers because their ferritin is being depleted in order to maintain those counts. But if the ferritin is in the toilet and no relief comes, the hgb and hct will eventually fall as well. 

Types of Iron
  1. Heme Iron - primarily comes from animals/meat. Heme iron is easily absorbed by the body and the best source of iron for people who are iron deficient. Meat, especially red meat is the best source of heme iron. Heme iron can be found in some iron supplements and is the best option for WLS folks.
  2. Nonheme iron - primarily comes from plants. This classification represents the majority of iron humans consume in their diets and is the type of iron in most supplements. It is inorganic and is found in grains such as rice, wheat and oats. It's also found in nuts, fruits, vegetables, most iron pills, fortificants, or contaminant iron such as from water, soil or cooking utensils. 

The Iron Rules

(This was posted on OH by a member who has struggled with iron deficiency, this is the system she uses to keep her iron levels in normal range) 
  • No multi vitamin or calcium supplement within 2 hours of iron…before or after. 
  • No dairy products of any kind within 2 hours of iron. That means no yogurt, milk, cottage cheese, sour cream, cheese, butter...nothing. 
  • No coffee or tea within 2 hours. It's the tannic acid, not the not even decaf. 
  • Take iron with acid to give it the best possible chance to absorb. 
  • Open the capsule or take it liquid form. 

Understanding the Types of Iron Supplements 

Sources: Iron Disorders Institute

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