What to Do If You Are Low in Iron

You may put your fatigue down to a busy job, or the demands of a growing family. But it could also be due to iron deficiency – and it’s easily fixed.

Feeling wiped out? Finding it hard to concentrate? Picking up every bug going around? Or maybe you can’t exercise at the intensity you used to, find yourself getting breathless walking up a gentle hill, or notice you’re often a little dizzy or lightheaded. It’s time to see your GP, as these are all signs of iron deficiency.


What does iron do?

You learnt at school that iron transports oxygen around the body in your blood, but it’s also involved in energy production and immune function. So if you’re not getting enough iron – due to insufficient intake from your diet or a problem absorbing it – you can end up with a whole range of symptoms from fatigue, brittle nails and pale skin to dizziness, cold hands and feet and trouble concentrating. You can even develop unusual cravings for substances such as ice or dirt, a condition known as pica.


Who is most likely to be lacking in iron?

Worldwide, iron deficiency is the most common nutritional disorder. Those most at risk include menstruating women (because of blood loss), pregnant and lactating women, babies and toddlers, teenage girls and female athletes.

There’s also some evidence that globally, vegetarians and vegans are more at risk too, because they don’t eat any meat or fish – foods that contain the more absorbable form of iron called haem iron. However, vegetarians who eat a well-balanced diet are no more likely to have iron deficiency anaemia than non-vegetarians.


If I think I’m low in iron, should I take a supplement?

It’s important to hold off on the supplements until you know iron is the problem.

The only reliable way of telling if you are iron deficient is through a blood test, so always visit your doctor to get checked out. All those symptoms such as fatigue, dizziness and breathlessness can indicate other health conditions, too. Incorrectly self-diagnosing can be dangerous and may delay you getting the treatment you need.

Another reason not to rush into buying iron supplements is that even if you are iron deficient it may not be a problem with your diet. You could have difficulties absorbing iron due to a gastrointestinal disorder such as coeliac disease, or you’ve been a bit heavy handed with zinc supplements, which can affect iron absorption too.

Taking additional iron when you don’t need to can also interfere with your body’s absorption of other vital minerals, such as zinc and copper.

And if you do need supplements, always take them exactly as your doctor advises. That’s because the human body isn’t particularly good at excreting iron, and you could poison yourself if you take more than the recommended dose.

Children are especially at risk of iron toxicity, so always keep iron supplements tightly capped and out of children’s reach.


Should I eat more red meat?

Depending on your level of deficiency, you may be able to restore your iron levels through eating more iron-rich foods. While red meat is a particularly good source of iron, some actually get most of their iron from non-meat sources, such as wholegrains.

Good source of iron include:

  • Meat, poultry, organ meats like liver, and seafood. These contain the more absorbable heme iron.
  • Wholegrains, and iron-fortified breakfast cereals and breads.
  • Dark green leafy vegetables such as broccoli, spinach and kale; dried fruits including raisins, prunes and dried apricots; nuts and seeds; and legumes such as dried beans, peas, lentils, and soy beans (including tofu).

Vitamin C increases iron absorption, so eat plenty of brightly coloured fruits and vegetables with your meals.

Avoid tea and coffee around mealtimes as the tannins in them can bind to iron, making it harder for your body to absorb.

Keeping Your Workplace Safe from Fire

We always think it won’t happen to us. When we see stories of fire on the news, how often do we look around our own homes and workplaces to access our risk?

Imagine the impact of a fire at your workplace – at the very least it will threaten employee safety, and potentially destroy expensive equipment and affect production.

To decrease the risk of fire at your workplace, follow these vital steps:

1. Keep your workspace clean and tidy.

Clutter increases the ‘fire load’ of an area or building, which means there are more items that can catch and fuel fire. Clutter in corridors, stairs and fire exits can prevent the swift evacuation of people, so these should be always kept clear.

2. Store flammable materials safely.

All stock should be safely stored, but particular care should be given to any flammable materials and liquids. These should always be kept in appropriate containers, so read the label for instructions. Never store oily or solvent soaked rags - these should be placed in a covered metal container and disposed of regularly.

3. Keep an eye on electrical equipment.

Electrical equipment is often the cause of workplace fires. Old wires with frayed ends, overloaded plug sockets that overheat, and faulty electrical equipment can quickly become fire hazards. Always report any suspect or faulty equipment.

4. Only smoke in designated areas.

Observe any ‘no smoking’ signs and always dispose of cigarettes in the bins provided.


If you see smoke or fire

Recommended procedure:

1. Remain calm, do not panic or shout, and remember RACE

  • RESCUE: Rescue any people in immediate danger – if it’s safe to do so.
  • ALARM: Raise the alarm – ring the Fire Department; notify your switchboard; notify the staff member in charge
  • CONTAIN: if practicable, close all doors and windows to contain the fire – only if safe to do so.
  • EXTINGUISH: Try to extinguish the fire using appropriate firefighting equipment only if you are trained and it is safe to do so.

2. After carrying out RACE:

  • Follow the instructions of your Fire Warden
  • Prepare to evacuate if necessary
  • Leave the light on
  • Save records if possible


4 Ways to Help Beat the Blues

Some days we feel flat for no obvious reason. And that’s OK. It’s impossible to feel happy and positive every day.

We all feel moody at times, it’s part and parcel of our emotional rhythm. If you find yourself suffering from a temporary case of the blues, here are four steps you can take.

1. Start moving.

Want an instant mood lift? Exercise can have an immediate impact on how you feel. While researchers aren’t sure exactly why it makes us feel better, exercise is believed to increase the brain chemical serotonin, which helps your brain regulate mood. It also boosts your level of natural mood lifting endorphins.

Exercise increases energy levels, limits the effect of stress on your brain, gives you a focused activity that helps you feel more in control, and helps with your sleep. Studies have shown that people who exercise regularly experience fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety than those who don’t.

2. Head to a local park.

Nature can have a powerful effect on our mental state, says Dr Jason Strauss, instructor in psychiatry at Harvard-affiliated Cambridge Health Alliance. There’s a strong connection between time spent in nature and reduced stress, anxiety and depression. While exercising in nature brings double benefits, simply listening to natural sounds or looking at something pleasant like trees and greenery can distract your mind from negative thinking.

3. Challenge your thinking.

When you feel low you can tend to overthink. If you think that everything is going wrong, ask yourself if that’s really true, suggests psychologist Alice Boyes. It’s easy to feel that all you experience is bad luck, she says, but if you do a more honest analysis of what’s going wrong and what’s going right, you’ll see that the ratio of good to bad things in your life might be more 50:50 than 10:90.

4. Try something new.

Sometimes when we feel low, we’re simply bored with the same old activities, people, perspectives, and routines, says Boyes. If this rings true for you, try something new. It could be a visit to somewhere you’ve never been, or something as simple as a walk in a different area or cooking a new recipe.

Sometimes a low mood can signal a more serious medical condition such as depression. If you’re finding it hard to work, socialise or function, make sure you see your doctor or a healthcare professional.