Iron is an essential mineral that the body must have in order to function properly. There are very specific ranges for normal iron blood serum levels. Most healthy iron levels fall in that range. However, some people suffer from a deficiency or an overabundance in iron. There are signs that indicate each of these conditions. Iron can be added into the diet by supplementation and through food consumption.
A healthy person should have a normal iron serum level in the range of 60 to 170 micrograms per deciliter of blood. Iron is an essential mineral, as well as a component of the proteins are used for oxygen transportation and metabolism. Iron helps to synthesize dopamine, epinephrine and serotonin. Iron is stored in the body for use when dietary iron intake is low. The healthy body maintains normal iron levels by controlling how much iron is absorbed from food.
Low iron is called anemia. There are many symptoms of this condition. The anemic will feel tired. He may have shortness of breathe and chest pain. The skin may be pale, and the feet and hands can be cold. Headaches, dizziness, and a lack of concentration also may be experienced.
Low iron levels can be determined by a physician through testing, and an iron supplement or a multivitamin with iron may be recommended.
Too much iron in the blood can keep the body from performing properly and can cause disease. There are many symptoms that indicate there is too much iron in the blood; however, they are similar to the symptoms for low iron. Symptoms include joint pain, fatigue, abdominal pain, irregular heart beats, hair loss, changes in skin color and a lack of sex drive.
There are four tests available to determine a person's level of iron in the bloodstream: the Iron-Binding Capacity Test (TIBC), the Ferritin Test, the Transferring Test and the Serum Iron Test.
These tests are used to determine if someone is suffering from anemia or too much iron as well as what treatment is needed for a particular condition. Iron tests also can determine if there is any malnutrition or protein depletion in the blood. Many liver disorders also are determined through testing the iron levels. Other conditions that benefit from iron level testing are gastrointestinal bleeding, iron poisoning, thalassemia, hemosiderosis and hemochromatosis.
Iron can be found naturally in the forms of heme iron and non-heme iron. Heme iron comes from sources that have blood, while non-heme iron comes from plants. Meat proteins are good sources of heme iron: beef, fish, lamb, bison and poultry. The heme sources of iron are easily absorbed into the body and are the most beneficial natural iron sources. Non-heme iron food sources that are beneficial include dried fruit, beans, peas, lentils, flour, cereals, grains, asparagus, spinach, lettuce, other leafy greens, strawberries and nuts.
- Photo Credit A slide showing iron deficiency anemia. (c) E. Uthman, MD/ Wikimedia Commons
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