Iron is an essential mineral and plays a key role in health. It is available as a dietary supplement, is an additive in some foods and also is abundantly and naturally present in many foods. An important component of hemoglobin, a protein molecule in red blood cells that carry oxygen, Iron is responsible for transferring oxygen from the lungs to all tissues throughout the body. It also plays a vital part in keeping the immune system healthy and supplying the body's energy. Maintaining the recommended daily allowance of iron is important to maintaining good health; the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommended daily allowance varies significantly with sex and age.
Signs of Low Iron Levels
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), if you have low iron levels, you may feel any of the following conditions.1
- Fatigue and weakness
- Decreased ability to concentrate
- Increased susceptibility to infections
- Hair loss
- Brittle nails
- Apathy (lack of feeling, emotion, interest or concern)
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends eating a healthy diet that includes good sources of iron. "A healthful diet includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fat free or nonfat milk and milk products, lean meats, fish, dry beans, eggs, nuts, and is low in saturated fat, trans fats, cholesterol, salt and added sugars."2 In addition, eating foods with vitamin C helps your body absorb iron, especially when the food containing iron and the vitamin C rich food are eaten at the same meal.
For a list of foods rich in iron, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) have jointly published the Dietary Guidelines every five years since 1980 at www.health.gov.
Iron and Warfarin
Iron performs vital functions for a healthy body and historically has not presented problems with people also taking Warfarin. As supplements can sometimes affect the rate at which your body absorbs Warfarin, it is wise to always share all supplements, including herbal pills and vitamins, with your doctor. Maintaining a healthful diet as recommended by the CDC and thorough communication with your doctor about your dietary habits and all medications are necessary and beneficial steps to ensuring adequate intake of this important mineral.
- 1. Recommendations to Prevent and Control Iron Deficiency in the United States. MMWR 1998;47 (No. RR-3).
- 2. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Iron: Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet. National Institutes of Health. April 8, 2014. Retrieved from: http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Iron-HealthProfessional/.