Why Young Women Need Iron

Iron is just one of the important minerals that the body needs to function. Iron is particularly important to young women for a couple of reasons. Women lose iron through the monthly menstrual cycle; in addition, pregnant women require more iron. Iron deficiency in young women can have a number of effects; however, many young women may be iron deficient without realizing it.

Functions of Iron in the Body

Iron is important for a number of reasons. The main place in which iron is found in the body is in the blood. Iron helps the body to:

  • oxygenate red blood cells
  • grow
  • produce hemoglobin and myoglobin.

(source: Prescription for Nutritional Healing, James F Balch, Phyllis A Balch, 1997, US: Avery)

Menstruation and Iron

Women naturally lose an average of 15 to 20 milligrams of iron during menstruation (source: Illinois Department of Public Health: Facts About Women’s Wellness – Nutrition). Some women suffer a greater loss than others. You don’t have to be diagnosed as anemic to be iron-deficient; in fact, women who are iron-deficient and not anemic may have a more difficult time because they are unaware of their condition (source: Cornwell Chronicle: Study – Women With Low Iron Have Impaired Physical Performance).

Pregnancy and Iron

Pregnant women need more iron than the average woman because of the additional functions that the body needs to carry out; pregnant women need nearly 33 percent more intake of iron on a daily basis than women who are not pregnant. Iron is needed in pregnancy because:

  • extra iron for both a growing mom and baby during pregnancy
  • extra iron to make hemoglobin; pregnant women have up to 50 per cent more blood than usual
  • inadequate stores of iron pre-pregnancy.

(source: BabyCenter.com: Iron in Your Pregnancy Diet)

Signs of Iron Deficiency

Signs of iron deficiency may materialize in women in different ways and are very similar to signs of anemia.  Symptoms of iron deficiency include:

  • fatigue and headaches
  • impaired endurance in physical activities
  • dizziness
  • hair loss
  • digestive problems
  • brittle bones
  • nail abnormalities
  • nervous disorders.

(source: Prescription for Nutritional Healing, James F Balch, Phyllis A Balch, 1997, US: Avery)

Sources of Iron for Women

Fortunately there are several natural ways in which you can increase your iron intake. Iron is found in many food products, in addition to iron supplements. However, check with a physician before taking increased iron supplements to make sure that you need them; the body needs to be able to absorb iron efficiently with a sufficient supply of hydrochloric acid in the stomach, in addition to other vitamins and minerals such as vitamin A and manganese. Natural sources of iron include:

  • eggs
  • fish
  • meat
  • green leafy vegetables
  • dates
  • rice
  • herbs such as peppermint, chamomile, chicory and fennel seed
  • poultry
  • raisins
  • avocado.

Women With Iron Deficiency

Iron deficiency is less of a problem when women reach menopause because the body naturally increases its iron intake. Young women are most at risk of iron deficiency because of menstruation and pregnancy. Studies have also shown that physically active women and vegetarians are also at high risk of iron deficiency. Women are ten times more likely than men to be iron-deficient. In addition, iron deficiency is the number one micro nutrient deficiency in the world. (source: Cornwell Chronicle: Study – Women With Low Iron Have Impaired Physical Performance).

The amount of iron that you need varies, depending on absorption by the body and how much is used. Women with heavy menstrual cycles may be more at risk of iron deficiency. If you are a young women, you may not be anemic, but you could be at high risk of being iron deficient, so it maybe worth checking out your iron levels and intake.


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