Iron is a type of mineral present in blood. It is essential to maintain human life. Iron supports delivery of oxygen to body cells and also regulates their differentiation and growth. People who do not consume sufficient amount of iron may develop anemia and poor immunity. On the contrary, excessive iron is toxic and can be fatal. Foods rich in iron are oysters, chicken liver, clams and beef. You can check iron levels by getting a blood test at a medical laboratory. However, anemia can be checked at home by using a number of methods.
How to Check Iron Levels at Home
You should examine the tone of your skin regularly to notice if there is any change. Pale skin can indicate reduced iron and red blood cell count. A bronze colored skin that has not resulted from sun exposure may indicate excessive iron.
Check your fingernails for any signs of thinning and brittleness. The nail beds of people who suffer from anemia as a result of low iron levels are usually pale.
Listen your heartbeat and if it is irregular, skips a beat or rapid, it is often an indication of low iron, though, it may occur in several other conditions. If the irregularities in the heartbeat persist, contact your doctor immediately.
Observe your breathing and if it is uneven and quick, it may indicate iron deficiency anemia.
Consult your physician if you develop inflammation (swelling) of tongue, restless legs, or a craving for unusual things such as chalk and dirt, which is a common symptom of iron deficiency anemia.
How to check iron levels? Take notice of pain in any joint associated with abdominal pain, fatigue or lack of energy as this is an indication of hemochromatosis.
How Is Iron Deficiency Diagnosed?
If you suspect that there is iron deficiency in your child or yourself, visit your physician for a blood test to measure iron levels.
To diagnose deficiency of iron, your physician will normally do a blood test. Presence or absence of iron deficiency anemia or iron deficiency can be easily confirmed in a patient by this test. Physicians usually utilize the test referred to as the FBC or full blood count, in which, as the name implies, the cells are counted in a sample of blood.
How to check iron levels? The test is done by placing the blood sample in a machine, which calculates the number of white and red blood cells and platelets in the sample of blood. The machine also calculates the cell size, hemoglobin content, and percentage of blood that is composed of red blood cells (referred to as the haematocrit).
The test results are analyzed for determining whether a person has iron deficiency or not. However, the cause of iron deficiency cannot be found by this test; hence, further tests are needed for the diagnosis of iron deficiency and also to check the iron levels in the blood.
How to check iron levels? Iron is generally stored in the form of a protein known as ferritin, so physicians do a test to find the quantity of ferritin present in blood. This test helps in identifying cases of anemia due to iron deficiency.
How to Improve Iron Levels
Include Foods Rich in Iron in Your Diet
Iron in food is present in two forms:
Nonheme iron: This type is absorbed poorly in the body. It is present in broccoli, cereals, legumes, nuts, seeds and brown rice.
Heme iron: It is absorbed easily in the body. It is present in poultry, fish and lean red meat.
It is recommended that you should consume vitamin C rich foods along with foods rich in nonheme iron. This increases the absorption of iron from nonheme food sources.
Animal Foods Rich in Iron
Animal foods contain heme iron, which is absorbed easily in the body. It is the common dietary iron source that helps in increasing levels of iron in the body. Animal foods rich in iron are:
Canned sardines in oil
Seafood such as mussels, oysters or clams
Some other animal sources of iron that have significantly less quantity of iron per oz are fish, veal, ham and poultry.
Vegetable Foods Rich in Iron
Vegetable foods contain nonheme iron, which is absorbed poorly by the body. Vegetarians should take vitamin C supplements along with their diet. Vegetable foods rich in iron are:
Sesame or pumpkin seeds
Buy Food Enriched with Iron
You can increase your iron levels by eating foods enriched with iron. For instance, many breads and breakfast cereals are iron fortified and can provide a boost to your levels of iron.
It has been reported that foods enriched with iron are used in countries where anemia due to iron deficiency is a major concern. Iron fortified foods have helped in the reduction of anemia complications, especially in children.
Do Cooking in Utensils Made with Cast Iron
Another method to up your levels of iron naturally is to do cooking in utensils made with cast iron. When food is heated in a container made of metal, some part of the metal gets into the food.
It is recommended by the British Dietetic Association to cook food in iron pots so as to reduce deficiency of iron. Researchers have found that concentration of hemoglobin is increased in people suffering from iron deficiencies by cooking food in iron pots.
Take Supplements to Boost Levels of Iron
You can take iron supplements to increase levels of iron and prevent anemia. It has been reported that iron supplements can help pregnant females or who have anemia due to heavy bleeding during menses.
Check Your Levels of Vitamin B12
You can also develop anemia due to deficiency of vitamin B12 as this vitamin is necessary to produce red blood cells and to carry oxygen in the body. Apart from causing anemia, deficiency of vitamin B12 may also damage nerves and affect thinking and memory. Levels of vitamin B12 may become low due to some medicines and drinking alcohol.
Foods rich in vitamin B12 that may help in the prevention of anemia include clams, beef liver, chicken breast, rainbow trout, and cereals fortified with B12.