“I no longer donate my blood, because I am iron-anaemic.” “I take my iron supplement with vitamin C every morning.” “Have you tried the drink? I tolerate it better than tablets … ” While talking to the editorial staff for 20 minutes, over a simple cup of coffee, we realized that iron deficiency is more common than we thought. An unrecognized female health problem?
“It’s a trivial problem,” offers Marcel Escho, GP. Who believes, however, that doctors, gynecologists and midwives quickly take care of him when a patient develops unusual fatigue. The 2014-2016 Esteban study (on 2472 adults and 794 children) indicated that 20% of women of childbearing age do not have sufficient iron stores, and 7% of them suffer from anemia. “The youngest women (18-39 years old) had the most deficient: almost a quarter of them depleted their iron reserves,” recalls this article from Vidal.
Iron is necessary for the body to function
But what is iron? It is necessary for the formation of hemoglobin, which is present in red blood cells that carry oxygen. In other words, your body needs it most. What is the difference between disability and anemia? “When you have a deficit, it means that you have low iron reserves, as Marcel Escho identifies. As long as there is no bleeding or sports activity, we will be able to compensate for the renewal of red blood cells every two or three months. But if there is a significant loss of blood This leads to acute or even chronic anemia.”
How do you know that you suffer from iron deficiency? The two main symptoms are abnormal fatigue and shortness of breath, the GP summarizes. But this can lead to dizziness, pallor of the skin, a very white background of the eyes, hair loss … The symptoms will be proportional to the disability: they can range from slight disturbances to severe fatigue. »
If your doctor suspects anemia, he or she will order a fasting blood test to check both hemoglobin — the level of red blood cells — and ferritin, the protein that stores iron in the body. “If you have about 10 to 12 g/dL of hemoglobin, that’s OK. Between 8 and 10, it starts to get serious. Below, we can consider a blood transfusion more risky,” the GP warns.
Why are women affected more than men?
Marcel Escho summarizes “Iron deficiency affects women more than men because they have lower iron stores, have menstruation and often have a less meat-rich diet.”
Some women need to be especially careful with this dose. Nicolas Doutriot, a liberal midwife and member of the National College of Midwives of France (CNSF), warns, “For those who have experienced frequent pregnancies and prolonged breastfeeding, use caution. In general, it takes an average of eighteen months to allow time to replenish its reserves after conception. Likewise, women who have undergone bariatric surgery should be screened regularly, as they will suffer from a deficiency in the absorption of this iron.”
“Normal menstruation is not supposed to affect anemic patients”
Let’s go back to the first reason: the rules. Nicholas Doutrio reassures that the normal menstrual cycle is not supposed to affect patients with anemia. On the other hand, you should be careful if you are experiencing bleeding outside of your period or periods of bleeding. Knowing that we are talking about bleeding periods in which a woman changes her health protection at least five times a day. Especially if it lasts five days… For these women, taking the pill continuously – thus skipping the period – can be a solution.
“We often blame the rules, but when we assess patients, we often realize that they bleed a lot for two days and that the anemia is not related to this but to their double day, nuance Nicolas Doutriot. In this case I tell them ‘Tell me about your life, you have the right to be You get tired.” Blaming the feminine side is the easy way out. »
Which foods do you prefer?
Another reason to explore is the food. “Iron deficiency is also a problem with junk food,” Nicholas Dutreau frets. But this phenomenon can increase in recent years for another reason. “A lot of people would like to switch to a meat-less or vegetarian diet,” the midwife continues. However, you need to learn more about how to get the equivalent of eating red steak…” And for vegan women, regular blood tests are a must.
In the event that the anemia persists significantly, the doctor will prescribe iron supplements in the form of tablets or syrup. Some women can also take supplements or natural products such as spirulina, an iron-rich algae. “Medications can cause gastrointestinal disturbances, constipation or diarrhea, even alternately,” Nicolas Doutriot. But dietary supplements, uncontrolled, between the advertised price and the available price, there may be differences. It is better to take the spirulina well than the medicine that you stop after three days because you can not tolerate it. There is no ready-made recipe! »
If you do not have a balanced diet. “You have to eat better instead of swallowing pills, it costs less,” asks Nicolas Doutrio. Specifically, what are your favorite foods? For non-vegetarians, red meat, offal … Otherwise, legumes, especially lentils, dried fruits (walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts) and eggs … “On the other hand, spinach is an acceptable idea. Marcel Escho laughs: “There are a lot of Iron in red meat and lentils.
“But also be sure to favor vitamin C (found in bell peppers, guava, orange, kiwi, strawberries, broccoli, etc.) and vitamin B12 (milk, eggs, etc.), which allow iron to be incorporated into your body,” adds Nicolas Doutrio. He also remembers that tea complicates iron absorption. “We see a lot of deficient women who eat well but drink tea a lot. Normally, if you are taking iron supplements, you can also avoid taking them with a liter of tea at breakfast.” You can prefer to have your iron while eating or snacking with fresh fruit Seasonal and complete, that’s even better! »