A little bit goes a long way – even though iron is a trace element that only makes up a tiny percentage of our bodies, it's essential for keeping our vital functions running. Iron is a building block in red blood cells and responsible for supplying oxygen to all of our cells and organs. This gives our muscles a boost and enables them to endure heavier loads.
SymptomsBut what to do when this already minimal amount of iron in the body dwindles even further – such as when women lose blood due to heavy periods? The result is an impaired supply of oxygen which can cause noticeable fatigue, reduced productivity, severe headaches, listlessness and dizziness. As the body is running on reduced resources when it doesn't have enough iron, any iron available is used for its most essential function in the body: producing red blood cells. Hair and nails are forced to take a back seat, which is why hair loss and brittle nails are also frequently a problem when your iron levels are low.
TreatmentNot sure whether you're suffering from an iron deficiency? A blood analysis will provide a definitive answer. Once you've been diagnosed, iron supplements in the form of tablets, drops or a liquid can help to replenish your body's supply of iron – ideally in combination with vitamin C, but not with grapefruit juice as it hinders absorption. If you experience side effects in your gastrointestinal tract you may want to switch to iron infusions. Treatment with a doctor or at a doctor's surgery usually lasts between three and six months. During this period the increased iron level in your blood should be monitored so that you don't overdose on iron. Excess iron can disrupt the function of the heart, liver and other organs. If your iron level doesn't increase or your symptoms don't improve, then other causes need to be investigated.
Adding iron to your diet
How do you prevent an iron deficiency? The answer is through nutrition – and the following tips provide the information you need:
- Food with plenty of iron such as meat, whole grain products and pulses. Vegetarians and vegans need to be extra vigilant with regard to their iron intake.
- Taking vitamin C to improve iron absorption in the body.
- When eating iron-rich meals, avoid caffeinated drinks such as black or green tea and coffee but also other iron-inhibiting drinks such as cola or red wine. These drinks reduce iron absorption from food.
- When eating an iron-rich meal you should also avoid dairy products, which can impede iron absorption due to their high calcium content.
In the event of further health-related questions, SWICA customers can contact the santé24 telemedicine service free of charge on +41 44 404 86 86. A telemedicine practice licence allows santé24 physicians to provide additional medical services in cases that are suited to a telemedicine approach. SWICA customers can also use the BENECURA medical app to carry out a digital SymptomCheck and receive recommendations about what to do next. During a subsequent phone call with santé24, customers can decide for themselves whether to release their information from SymptomCheck to santé24.