Iron: are you getting enough?

 

Recent statistics show that 40% of women under the age of 34 have seriously low intakes of iron and are at risk of anaemia as a result. Up to 15% of children don’t get enough iron, and 1 in 8 children between 1 1/2 and 2 years are anaemic.

 

Anaemia can cause:

  • tiredness and weakness
  • decreased work and school performance
  • slow cognitive and social development during childhood
  • difficulty maintaining body temperature
  • decreased immune function, which increases susceptibility to infection
  • glossitis (an inflamed tongue)
  • palpatations
  • restless leg syndrome

Symptoms of iron deficiency anaemia could be caused by many different things. A blood test is needed to confirm the presence of iron deficiency anaemia.

People at risk of anaemia:

  • Infants over 6 months
  • Toddlers
  • Adolescents
  • Pregnant women
  • Pre menopausal women

 

How much iron do I need?

Gender Age Group Recommended intake (mg/day), number of
Children 1-3 years 7
Children 4-6 years 6
Children 7-10 years 9
Teenage boys 11-18 years 11
Teenage girls 11-18 years 15
Men 19-50 years 9
Women 19-50 years 15
Men 50+ years 9
Women 50+ years 9

   

Food sources of iron

  • Iron from animal sources is much better absorbed by the body than plant sources
  • Vitamin C helps with absorption. High vitamin C foods include: red peppers, broccoli, strawberries, kiwi fruit & oranges.
  • Tea and coffee reduce the absorption of iron, so don’t drink a cup too close to a meal

 Meat sources:

Food Average portion Stars
Liver 40g, thick slice ★★★
Liver pate 1 tbsp
Beef steak 150g, medium size ★★★
Sausage 2
Beef mince 125g, 4 tbsp cooked ★★★
Chicken 100g cooked
Pork chop 120g, 1 average
Sardines/salmon/mackerel 50g
Tuna 100g (1/2 tin)

 Other sources (less well absorbed):

Food Average portion Stars
Ready Brek 20g dry (1 small ptn) ★★★★★★
Branflakes 25g (4 tbsp) ★★★★
Weetabix 2 biscuits ★★★
Rice Krispies 30g (4 tbsp) ★★
Chickpeas 100g (4 tbsp) ★★
Lentils green/brown 75g (1/2 cup cooked) ★★
Lentils red 75g (1/2 cup cooked) ★★
Baked beans 120g (3 tbsp) ★★
Humus 50g (1 tbsp)
Eggs 1
Sunflower seeds 30g (1/4 cup) ★★
Sesame seeds 12g (1 tbsp)
Dried Apricots 8 ★★
Dried figs 4 ★★★
Raisins 35g (1 tbsp)
Spinach 120g (3 tbsp) boiled ★★
Avocado ½
Peas 75g (2.5 tbsp)
Broccoli 4 spears (200g)
Ovaltine 25g serving (4 tsp) ★★★
Milo (chocolate malt) 20g serving (4 tsp) ★★★★★★
Sainsburys: £3.99

Sainsburys: £3.99Tesco: £2.99  Tesco: £2.99

Iron Supplements

If you have iron deficiency anaemia, your doctor may prescribe you iron supplements, as even a diet rich in iron will not be enough to correct the deficiency.

If you experience a stomach upset with iron tablets, try taking a liquid form instead.

For further information on iron or for a dietary assessment to assess the amount of nutrients in your diet, use the contact form to get in touch.

Boosting immunity to stop getting sick

It’s an unfortunate inevitability that at some time or another, illness will descend upon any work place.

Gastroenteritis can be difficult to avoid and in environments where there is close contact, it can spread like wild fire. Washing hands is vital to avoid infection, alcohol gel can also be used, but is not as effective as thorough hand washing. Here’s what the NHS says on medical treatment.

From a food point of view, it is especially vital for athletes to try to maintain nutritional intake to prevent muscle wastage and maintain energy levels. Easier said than done when you can’t keep anything down! If possible, and even if there is no appetite, small amounts of plain food and higher calorie fluids eg. toast, fruit juice, breakfast cereal, plain biscuits, or any food that you feel you can tolerate should be eaten.

It is possible that following recovery from gastroenteritis, the gut may have become intolerant to lactose (milk sugar), causing continued diarrhoea, and possibly abdominal pain and bloating. This is because the enzyme, lactase, which breaks down the lactose has been affected. Normal milk can be replaced with Lactofree Milk, tolerance to other dairy products varies. A dietitian can advise further on lactose avoidance.

In a previous post, I discussed the numerous reasons for lowered immunity during training for athletes:

  • repeated cycles of heavy exertion
  • exposure to germs and bugs
  • mental stress
  • lack of sleep
  • poor nutrition
  • weight loss

The first two points, repeated cycles of heavy exertion, and exposure to bugs certainly apply to the London Irish squad in pre season training, hopefully less so the mental stress, lack of sleep, poor nutrition and weight loss.

So what can be done to reduce the possibility of becoming ill?

Nutritional immunology is a rapidly growing area, and four key principles have emerged:

1. Almost all nutrients in the diet play a crucial role in immunity. A varied, healthy diet provides all these nutrients in most healthy adults, and mega doses of vitamin/mineral supplements do not “boost” immunity above normal levels.

2. Poor energy and nutrient intake can reduce the immunity and susceptibility to germs and bugs. Poor protein intake reduces immune function and strongly increases risk of various types of infections.

3. Some nutrients (glutamine, arginine, fatty acids, vitamin E) provide additional benefits to immunocompromised persons (e.g. the frail elderly) or patients who suffer from various infections. Currently there is a lack of evidence to support the use of these in preventing exercise-induced immune suppression and protection from infection.

4. Some supplements may prove useful in countering immune suppression for healthy adults during unusual mental and physical stress e.g. omega-3 fatty acids from fish oils reduce inflammatory responses.

CARBOHYDRATES

Of the various nutritional countermeasures that have been evaluated so far, carbohydrates before, during, and after prolonged or intense exertion has emerged as the most effective way to ensure less of a negative effect on the immune system. Athletes intent on reducing body fat by avoiding carbohydrates should be aware that this may impact on their immunity.

shutterstock_85815004Strategies to ensure good carbohydrate stores to optimise immunity:

  • Have a carbohydrate-based snack before you start high intensity training, particularly hard morning training.  If you are unable to tolerate something before you start exercise, have a source of carbohydrate during the session such as a sports drink (6-8% carbohydrate)
  • Have a carbohydrate-based snack shortly after training to start the recovery process.  This is of particular importance for athletes training more than once a day with limited time to recover for the next session.
  • Base meals around nutrient-rich carbohydrate-containing foods and fluids.  Rice, pasta, bread, cereals, fruit, starchy vegetables and low-fat milk and yoghurt are nutrient-packed carbohydrate-containing
    Balanced meals with carbs, protein & veg

    Balanced meals with carbs, protein & veg

    choices. The aim is to match daily carbohydrate needs with an appropriate amount of carbohydrate-containing foods and fluids throughout the day.

PROBIOTICS

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Probiotics may benefit athletic performance indirectly by maintaining gut function and health, preventing the immunosuppressive effects of intense exercise, and reducing susceptibility to illness. Substantial evidence exists indicating that probiotics can reduce susceptibility to acute infectious diarrhoea (athletes may be particularly susceptible during foreign travel). Probiotics come in tablet or liquid form eg. Yakult. Tablets tend to be more potent, and are available from health food shops.

A balanced and nutrient rich diet is fundamental to avoiding illness for those undergoing intense physical exercise. Current opinion is that athletes should invest in nutrient-rich foods and fluids that provide sufficient energy and a wide range of vitamins, minerals and other important chemicals, such as phytochemicals, found naturally in foods. When this is not possible the use of supplements such as multi vitamins and omega-3 fish oils.