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Iron deficiency could be behind 'exhaustion epidemic' among women

Body

International experts are calling it the "exhaustion epidemic", what with a reported four out of five women all sharing the same inexplicable symptoms.

Chronic tiredness, poor concentration, constant exhaustion and difficulty in making decisions.

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File image: Woman sleeping. Pexels

Local health and wellness expert, Vanessa Ascencao, however, argues that this exhaustion could be linked to rising numbers of people – especially women – suffering from iron deficiency.

"It is a known nutritional disorder. The World Health Organisation (WHO) actually says iron deficiency is the top nutritional disorder in the world with reports estimating that almost 80% of the global population don’t have enough iron in their bodies," Ascencao said.

Further, the WHO says it is the only nutrient deficiency which is also significantly prevalent in industrialised countries. The numbers are staggering: 2 billion people – over 30% of the world’s population – are anaemic, many due to iron deficiency.

But what is it exactly?

"Iron is essential for the oxygen-carrying part of red blood cells, which is why tiredness is usually the first signs of a shortfall," celebrity UK practitioner Dr Hilary Jones explained in a recent interview.

"Without enough iron, your red blood cells simply can’t carry enough oxygen to your organs and tissue, which means they don’t work as efficiently."

In developing countries every second pregnant woman and about 40% of preschool children are estimated to be anaemic, the WHO contends.

In many developing countries, iron deficiency anaemia is aggravated by worm infections, malaria and other infectious diseases such as HIV and tuberculosis.

The major health consequences include poor pregnancy outcome, impaired physical and cognitive development, increased risk of morbidity in children and reduced work productivity in adults. Anaemia also contributes to 20% of all maternal deaths.

"Women especially lose a lot of blood during each month through their menstrual cycle. And while iron is usually present in many of the foods we eat like meat or spinach, it also depends how much of that you absorb. So some people will have a steak and glass of wine for supper – while the steak has iron, the wine is an absorption inhibitor so your body won't pick up enough of the iron", Ascencao explained.

She continued, "A lot of people will take an iron supplement then afterwards have coffee – coffee inhibits the absorption of iron... So people are trying to do the right things, but then also consume the wrong things afterwards."

To avoid suffering through iron deficiency, Ascencao advised:

– Eat a healthy, balanced diet: nutrition plays a big role in energy levels, mood and stress levels

– Increase intake of fruit and vegetables, avoid sugary foods and stay hydrated

– Exercise for at least 30 minutes a day. It’s good for body, mind and soul and helps improve sleep

– Get quality sleep – eight hours a night. This is essential to help the body replenish itself

– Manage stress and seek healthy ways to relax such as meditation or spending time in nature

– Increase intake of vitamins and minerals such as vitamin B, D and iron.

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