Iron and women Deficiency all too common


Women, who menstruate for three days or more, almost always need a supplement of iron to compensate for the blood loss.

Dr. Lars Ehn, MD, from Stockholm uses a simple method: ”I ask my female patients who complain of tiredness, general uneasiness and concentration problems how many days they bleed during menstruation. If they answer four or more I´m pretty sure that they need iron supplementation. In reality no-one can replenish such losses with normal diet alone.”

Of course the diagnosis should be confirmed with a Hb- and serum ferritin level test. Today ferritin, which gives an indication of reserve iron stores is usually taken. This was not always the case. In earlier times the Hb would suffice, instead of taking a deeper approach.

Hidden deficiency

”You have to remember that general symptoms start to occur only when reserves are empty and the Hb-levels drop drastically. That´s why it´s very important to check serum ferritin levels as well.” says Dr Lars Ehn. This is a question for workplace health care mainly. If and when a hard-working woman gets fatigued from iron deficiency without being aware of it the results can be quite serious. Stress and burn-outs all too common these days.

Today he works in the company health care sector where there are a large number of iron deficient female patients. Many have a hidden iron deficiency i.e. normal Hb but very small or no body iron reserves. This especially if she bleeds more than three days in menstruation. The iron depots are tested by measuring serum ferritin levels.

Fertile women

High prevalence of low iron counts

Over 30 % of all fertile women worldwide (even higher prevalence among teenagers and in the developing countries), especially those with menstruation for more than three days, have a latent anemia with increased uptake of cadmium instead of iron.

Iron deficiency is the most common explanation for anemia in women of childbearing age, but the causes vary.

Blood loss and pregnancy or lack of meat in the diet are the leading causes of iron deficiency in women. Other more rare reasons include problems of absorption (acquired or inherited), nutritional deficiencies (iron, Vitamin B12, folate, zinc); or disease (fibroids, cancer, inherited anemias or bleeding disorders)

Menstruation and childbirth

Blood loss

Heavy menstruation and childbirth are significant sources of blood loss for women of childbearing age. Chronic blood loss can also be due to endometriosis or fibroids, which require a great amount of blood. Fibroids are usually benign, but can grow to the size of a baseball or grapefruit before they are detected. Fibroids of the uterus can interfere with delivery during childbirth, requiring Cesarean-section delivery. von Willibrand's disease is another overlooked cause of heavy menstrual bleeding in women.

The average menstrual period lasts anywhere from two to five days. Blood loss during this time is estimated to be as little as one ounce—a light or average period—and as much as 1 cup—a heavy period.

The amount of blood lost during childbirth is about 500 cc (about a pint) or approximately two cups of blood. Thereby 200 – 250 milligrams of iron is lost. In addition, the iron contained in the newborn baby’s blood and tissues contain another 500 - 800 milligrams of iron which originally came from the mother.

Absorption rate increases

A woman’s natural iron regulatory system takes care to increase absorption of iron from her diet during these times of blood loss. Her normal absorption rate of 1 milligram is stepped up to 1.5 – 3 milligrams per day—the female body’s natural response to blood loss.

Acute blood loss can also happen as a result of trauma or surgery, as a result of taking aspirin or certain medications, especially those used to relieve arthritic pain, and abusing alcohol. Another cause of blood loss is esophageal bleeding in a condition called Mallory-Weiss syndrome.

In Mallory-Weiss, the lining of the esophagus is torn, usually from repeated vomiting, which can be seen in females who are bulimic.

A tendency to bleed much

Do hereditary factors matter?

We know today that every third woman has too low iron counts. Body iron storage is on a 75 percent level. Those who have a tendency to bleed much often have the same problem in earlier generations as well, since low iron counts are often inherited.

One might answer yes to the question: Are your bleedings normal? Menstruation bleedings are perceived as normal since they don´t vary from time to time. Which they are, of course, for the particular person. The difference being that some bleed normally for two days, other for four days.

Wasted therapies

Since iron deficiency is so common for girls many have experience from the regular iron supplements from the pharmacy.

They are usually of the non-heme variant. This means the iron is bound chemically so it won't decay. Unfortunately the uptake is low and unpleasant side-effects are the norm.

Because of side-effects many therapies are abandoned and a deficiency situation continues. This is negative in many ways. In order to live a full life with high quality a good supplementation is important.

A low quality of life

Iron is an essential trace element that has important metabolic functions, including oxygen transport and storage and many redox reactions.

Insufficient intake results in the deficiency condition anemia, adverse outcomes of pregnancy, impaired psychomotor development and cognitive performance and reduced immune function.

There are better alternatives

What is Optifer®?

Optifer® is a series of affordable heme iron supplements. Heme iron is natural, non-synthetic and is the preferred source of iron for your body.

Benefits of Optifer®

  • High absorption
  • Natural Heme Iron
  • No unpleasant Side-effects
  • Can be taken with or without food
  • Other food, drink or medication do not matter
  • Efficacy and tolerance will not change even over longer time
Created By
Michael Collan NutriCare Division, MediTec Group


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