What is Iron?
Iron is an essential mineral needed for mental, physical, and emotional development in children. In both adults and children, iron is an essential component of hemoglobin which transfers oxygen from the lungs to the body’s tissues. Iron also provides us with much-needed energy. Iron is utilized by the brain to make several neurotransmitters including, serotonin our happy hormone, and melatonin our sleep hormone. Iron is necessary for a healthy immune system.
Many people will start to see symptoms of low iron and iron deficiency long before a test diagnoses them with anemia.
Signs and Symptoms of Low Iron:
- Dark under-eye circles
- Shortness of breath
- Moodiness or irritability
- Pale skin, lips, and eyelids
- Increased infections, colds, and flus
- Becoming tired quickly
- Craving and eating ice, dirt, clay, or other non-food items (pica)
- Restless legs
- Heart palpitations
- Teeth grinding
How Much Iron do We Need?
To prevent iron deficiency anemia, supplement with the following dose:
- Children 7 months to 13 years – 10 mg iron daily
- Girls 14 to 18 years – 15 mg daily
- Boys 14 to 18 years – 10 mg daily
- Women 19 to 50 years – 18 mg daily
- Postmenopausal women – 8 mg daily
- Men 19 years and up – 8 mg daily
- Pregnancy – 30 mg daily
- Lactating – 10 mg daily
The doses recommended above are for elemental iron. Elemental iron is the total amount of iron available for absorption by your body. Always look for the elemental amount of iron when choosing an iron supplement.
To ensure your iron levels are at a healthy level ferritin levels should be tested. Ferritin ranges will let you know if you or your child is anemic, however non-anemic iron deficiency, which is much more common, is also a serious health problem and can cause lasting issues, especially in the very young. The lower ferritin levels are, even when they are within the normal reference range, the more likely a deficiency. Note that for adults normal ferritin/iron stores are levels greater than 100 ug/L and less than 600 ug/L.
If you or your child is diagnosed with iron deficiency anemia your health care provider will recommend a therapeutic dose as a treatment for anemia. Therapeutic doses will be higher than is recommended above.