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You feel tired all the time, and lately, no food is as satisfying as a handful of crushed ice. What's going on? The answer could lie in your blood.

Iron plays a number of critical roles in your body, but one of the most important is making hemoglobin, which allows blood to carry oxygen throughout the body. The liver is the body's iron storehouse -- iron absorbed from food is harvested from the bloodstream and cached in the liver, which regulates iron's release to make hemoglobin.

Losing too much iron because of blood loss or failing to get enough of it from food can cause iron-deficiency anemia (IDA).

Why worry about IDA? The condition can cause a number of troublesome symptoms, and if allowed to progress, IDA may result in heart and other organ damage, infections, and pregnancy-related problems, such as premature birth. Here's what to do to recognize and prevent IDA:

• Don't ignore the unusual. You aren't typically a lethargic, ice-craving person, right? So if you experience fatigue and strange cravings, tell your physician. Don't ignore other unexplained, strange symptoms that could indicate IDA. These can include yellow skin, headache, overall weakness, shortness of breath, cold extremities, irregular heartbeat, sore tongue, brittle nails and hair loss.

• Get screened. Women at low risk for IDA should be screened for it every five to 10 years. Get tested if you are pregnant, and you should get screened annually if you have a history of anemia or experience heavy menstrual cycles.

Natasha Clayton, DNP, APRN, FNP-BC, of Siloam Springs Family Medicine, is accepting new patients of all ages -- infants, children and adults. Same-day appointments are available. To schedule an appointment today, call 479-215-3035. Siloam Springs Family Medicine is located at 3721 E. U.S. Highway 412 in Siloam Springs. Walk-ins are welcome.

• Increase your dietary iron intake. Non-pregnant women ages 19 to 50 should get 18 milligrams of dietary iron per day, according to the Institute of Medicine. Pregnant women need 27 milligrams daily. See "Dining to Prevent Iron Deficiency" for information about obtaining iron from food.

Treatments for IDA become more complex as the condition worsens. Don't delay seeking help if you think your body is demanding more iron.

Dining to prevent iron deficiency

When it comes to preventing IDA, remember that "you are what you eat." A balanced diet should include foods rich in iron. If you eat these foods only occasionally or exclude them from your diet altogether, IDA could be the result.

Where can you find good sources of iron in the grocery store? Start in the produce section. You can't go wrong with any leafy green vegetable, especially broccoli, spinach, and turnip and collard greens. Peas are good sources of iron, too, as are pinto and Lima beans, which you may have to find in the canned goods aisle. Finish your quest for iron in the meats section. Just about anything you choose there will be rich in iron, although lean meats, such as poultry, are better for overall health.

You may find other foods throughout the store that are fortified with iron, such as certain cereals. To complement your iron-laden processed foods, pick up some citrus fruits, tomatoes or potatoes. The vitamin C in these foods will help your body absorb iron. If you have trouble getting enough from food or need to build up your iron levels quickly, speak with your physician about taking an iron supplement.

General News on 01/29/2020

Print Headline: Do you have issues with iron?

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