Iron is an important element in good health.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, iron deficiency can increase the risk that pregnant women will bear small or early-term babies. It can also cause developmental delays in infants. In adults it can cause fatigue. And in teens it can affect memory and other mental functions.
Menstruating women are probably at the greatest risk of iron deficiency, particularly if they experience heavy periods. There’s undoubtedly a sexist joke to be made here, but I’m single and I still hold a faint hope that I might get another date—or, better yet, have sex again—sometime before I die, so I won’t bother trying to come up with one.
Now that I think about it, there is one group that is at a greater risk than menstruating women. Men or women who have had most of their blood drain out of their bodies through a knife or gunshot wound will be seriously iron deficient. However, they have graver medical problems that should be attended to first.
As I found out first-hand, men can also experience iron deficiency even if they aren’t crime victims. When I go for my annual physical every 14- to 24-months, my doctor sends me to have blood work done. A few years ago, the results came back saying that I was iron deficient.
My doctor was about to send me for a battery of tests. Then he looked at my chart. He saw that I had told him on a previous visit that I donate blood fairly regularly. Seeing this, he said, “Oh, well, that explains it. Never mind. Just eat more red meat—once or twice a week should be enough—and that should correct the problem.”
My initial response was, as the kids today would ask, “WTF?” Or, as more mature, less lazy people would ask, “What the fuck? Eat more red meat?”
I was perplexed because, many years back, a number of breathless reports made it sound as if a single bite of beef would immediately cause my arteries to fill in completely and harden to a rock-solid state, not to mention instantaneously result in the generation of massive cancers.
I should have realized that these reports were somewhat exaggerated. For several years during my young-adult days I thought that a thick, juicy bacon cheeseburger, topped with lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, mustard and relish and served on a thick bun was, from a health standpoint, the most perfect food on the planet. How could it not be? It contained hearty representation from all of the major food groups.
I believed that, being the most healthful food choice available, I should consume garnished bacon cheeseburgers as often as humanly possible. Yet, despite all of this artery-clogging and ?hardening red-meat consumption, I was still around to read news stories about those red-meat-is-Satan medical studies.
Nevertheless, I did cut way back on my red meat consumption when the reports hit the news media. I often went for a few weeks without eating any red meat and very rarely ate it more than once a week.
Now, years later, here was a doctor telling me that I should increase my consumption of red meat. You’ve got to love food science. If you look hard enough, it will provide you with a valid health reason to follow any diet you damn well please.
Increasing your iron content is easy and painless, but first you have to know if there is a good reason to get yourself tested for iron deficiency. Fortunately, if you are an adult, you can monitor yourself for the primary sign of iron deficiency, fatigue.
Teenagers face a more difficult problem. Because memory loss is one of the symptoms of iron deficiency in teens, teens may forget what they are supposed to be looking for. Their parents should help them with this.
If you have one of the symptoms of iron deficiency, trundle off to your doctor to get it checked out. Don’t just assume it’s iron deficiency and start gobbling down steaks to correct it. There are other causes of fatigue and memory loss, some of which are much more serious.
Many people are aware that iron deficiency can be a problem, but did you know that too much iron is toxic? It is. Hemochromatosis occurs when your body absorbs too much iron. One of the primary symptoms of hemochromatosis is fatigue. Unfortunately, that is also a symptom of iron deficiency, sleep apnea, partying all night, and a number of other things, making it difficult to know if your fatigue is a result of hemochromatosis.
So what should you watch for that is specifically a symptom of iron overload? As you might imagine, I have some suggestions.
The following are some signs that the iron level in your body might be too high:
- You are inexplicably attracted to magnets.
- Your children and/or spouse hang fridge magnets on you.
- You become magnetized when you pass a large electrical transformer.
- Aiming for abs of steel, you settle instead for abs of iron.
- If you’re a man, your doctor advises you not to get an erection during a electrical storm as it might become a lightning rod.
- Despite not having any metallic implants, such as a knee replacement, you can’t pass through a metal detector without setting it off, even when you are naked.
- You pee rust.
- When the nurse or phlebotomist tests your iron level before you donate blood, the meter explodes.
- A metal scrap yard offers to pay for your eventual funeral and handle all of the arrangements.
- A large, state-owned Chinese mining company bids for the mineral rights to your blood supply.
Know the warning signs. An attractive personality may just mean that you’ve become magnetized. Seek medical attention when appropriate.
Categorised as: health