Iron deficiencies rank as the #1 nutritional disorder in the world, warns the World Health Organization. In the United States, a study published in the American Family Physician Journal found that millions of Americans are low in iron. This is troubling because iron plays a powerful role in your immunity and general health. Here’s what you need to know about iron and immunity — and, perhaps more importantly, what to do to keep your iron levels up.
Iron and Immunity: How This Mineral Boosts Your Health
1. It is Necessary for Immune System Development
When it comes to iron and immunity, go right to the beginning. Researchers have found that your body uses iron for growing immune cells. Those immune cells, especially lymphocytes (i.e. your main white blood cells), also need iron to reach their mature stage and respond to infections.
2. Iron Helps Your Body Destroy Pathogens
Not to get too scientific, but your body needs iron for various enzymes in your immune system. In fact, some white blood cells specifically use a complex iron-related process to surround and kill pathogens. In layperson’s language? You need iron to avoid getting sick.
3. Iron Improves Your Overall Wellness and Health
Beyond just iron and immunity, your body needs sufficient iron for numerous important functions, such as digesting your food and even regulating and moderating your body temperature!
Signs of Iron Deficiency
Adult men need at least 8 mg of iron a day while women need a minimum of 18 mg a day, reports the National Institutes of Health.
Whether you’re intrigued by the importance of iron and immunity, or you’re simply investing in your own preventative health, how do you know if you’re low on iron?
Ask your doctor for blood tests that can help you to identify your exact iron levels. In the meantime, symptoms of low iron may include:
- Fatigue and weakness
- Brittle hair and nails
- Difficulty breathing
- Circulation problems, such as cold hands and feet
Because low iron levels can lead to serious health problems, especially if you’re pregnant or have pre-existing health conditions, consult a medical professional if you have any concerns about your personal iron levels.
Iron and Immunity: How to Get More Iron
Some of the best sources of iron in your diet include lean meats. For example, a 100-gram serving of grass-fed ground beef nets you approximately 2 mg of iron.
But animal products aren’t your only options for boosting your iron levels and avoiding iron deficiencies.
Iron-rich foods to consider adding to your meals this week include:
- Fortified breakfast cereals and other fortified products
- Boiled lentils (3 mg in 1/2 cup)
- Tofu (3 mg in 1/2 cup)
- Canned sardines (2 mg in 3 ounces)
Interesting research has compared the iron levels of people who eat meat and other animal products, and those who follow a plant-based lifestyle. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, while vegans and meat-eaters consume the same amount of iron in their diet, iron levels tend to be a bit lower in those who avoid animal products completely.
If you don’t eat meat, you may want to consult with a dietitian and eat extra amounts of iron-rich, plant-based foods.
Those who are at risk of having low iron levels may also benefit from taking an iron supplement.
If you’re shopping for an iron supplement, you’ll notice they come in two forms: Either ferrous salts or ferric salts. The former, which may be listed as ferrous fumarate, ferrous sulfate, or ferrous gluconate, are your best choice because iron in this form is the best absorbed by your body.
Finally, if you’re taking iron specifically for immune system support, remember that it’s not the only important nutrient for strong immunity.
You may also want to support your immune system with thymic proteins. These proteins help your immune system respond to threats. BioProPlus-500 includes five bioidentical thymic proteins to support your immunity and also includes the micronutrient zinc that works toward supporting full-body wellness.
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