Preventing iron deficiency through a healthy diet is harm reduction in pregnant women

11:43 am Health Care, Heart Care Foundation of India, Medicine, Social Health Community

The terms iron deficiency and anemia cannot be used interchangeably and are different

New Delhi, 22nd February 2019: As per a recent study, fortification coupled with supplementation may expose varying but significant proportions of women in 24 states or union territories to the risk of an excessive iron intake. The tolerable upper limit for women of reproductive age is 45 mg per day. Prolonged exposure to iron above this limit could put women at risk of experiencing symptoms such as gastric acidity, constipation, oxidative (physiological) stress or changes in their gut bacterial profile.

Iron deficiency (depleted iron stores in the body) and anemia, on the other hand, are often perceived as interchangeable terms. While iron deficiency is the most common cause of anemia, but the two are different. Deficiency of iron without anemia is much more prevalent than is detected. A person may have iron deficiency even if the hemoglobin is normal. The majority are unaware of their iron deficient state.

Speaking about this, Padma Shri Awardee, Dr KK Aggarwal, President, HCFI, said, “Iron deficiency anemia is the most common type of anemia, and occurs when the body doesn’t have enough of this mineral. In the absence of enough iron in the blood stream, the rest of your body cannot get the amount of oxygen it needs. What exacerbates this condition is that many people are unaware that they have iron deficiency anemia. At times, one may experience the symptoms for years without knowing what they are due to. A poor diet or certain intestinal diseases that affect iron absorption can also lead to this condition. This deficiency is usually treated with iron supplements or changes to diet.”

Some symptoms of moderate-to-severe iron deficiency anemia include general fatigue, weakness, pale skin, shortness of breath, dizziness, cravings for things such as dirt, a tingling or crawling feeling in the legs, soreness or swelling in the tongue, cold hands and feet, fast or irregular heartbeat, brittle nails, and headaches.

Adding further, Dr Aggarwal, who is also the Group Editor-in-Chief of IJCP, said, “Mostly, iron deficiency anemia is mild, and does not lead to any further complications, and can be corrected easily. However, if left untreated for a long time, it can cause other health problems. In pregnant women, this can lead to the birth of a premature or low-birth-weight baby. Consuming a healthy diet rich in all the essential nutrients is thus a way of reducing harm.”

Some tips from HCFI

• Eat foods rich in iron such as green and leafy vegetables, red meat, lentils, beans, and iron-fortified cereals and breads.

• Include vitamin C-rich foods and drinks in your diet as it will help the body in absorbing iron.

• Avoid drinking tea or coffee with meals, as this affects the absorption of iron.

• Include enough sources of vitamin B12 and folic acid in your diet.

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