Iron is an essential mineral needed for growth and development in children.
Iron plays a role in energy production. Iron is part of hemoglobin, which is a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen into your body’s tissues. Every day, your body uses hemoglobin, which is your readily available iron, and that iron is drawn from your stored iron, ferritin. When iron is low, less oxygen is delivered to your cells.
15 Signs and Symptoms of Iron Deficiency
Because iron is involved in energy production, and growth and development, the signs and symptoms of iron deficiency are varied. The symptoms include:
01. Dark under-eye circles
02. Pale lining of eyelids, skin or lips
03. Behavioural changes including moodiness and tantrums
04. Reduced immunity — more flus, colds, and infections
05. Craving ice, dirt, or clay (pica)
06. Stunted height and growth; in infants slow weight gain or failure to thrive
08. Poor motor skills, slow to learn new physical tasks like crawling
09. Difficulty concentrating and learning
10. Sleep issues, tiredness
11. Cold hands and feet
12. Dizziness, fast heartbeat, rapid breathing
13. Grinding teeth
14. Thin, brittle, curved nails
15. Thin or brittle hair
If your child has more than one of these risk factors speak with your health care provider for further investigation.
How Do Infants and Children Become Iron Deficient?
Iron deficiency can start long before your child is born. The following risk factors can increase your child’s chances of iron deficiency:
– Born to a mother with iron deficiency or iron deficiency anemia
– Premature birth
– Low birthweight
– Blood loss during birth
– Being a twin or triplet
– Being born less than 24 months after an older sibling
– Being the last born of many children
– Babies formula fed with a ‘low-iron’ formula
– Babies exclusively breastfed past six months; breastmilk alone does not contain enough iron to keep up with baby’s needs after six months
– Babies given cow’s milk before the age of 12 months; cow’s milk interferes with iron absorption
– Digestive conditions such as Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, or ulcerative colitis
– Girls that have begun menstruation
– Highly active children (sports)
– Not addressing low iron quickly with iron supplementation
– Having a vegetarian or vegan diet. It is difficult to ensure nutritional needs are being met for children on these diets
By consuming a diet rich in iron-containing foods, we can help combat iron deficiency. There are two types of iron. Non-heme iron, which is found in plant foods and animal meats, is difficult to absorb. Heme iron, found only in the meat of animals, is more readily absorbed. If our children do not eat enough iron-containing foods to fill up their iron stores, then that supply of iron slowly drops, leading to many health conditions.
For babies, breast milk contains enough iron for the first 4 to 6 months, after which, iron-rich foods should be introduced. If you are bottle feeding, make sure the formula contains adequate iron.
Step 1: Offer foods that are high in iron including beef, turkey, pork, fish, lamb, chicken, liver, nuts, eggs including the yolk, seeds and lentils. Iron from animal sources is called heme iron and it is better absorbed than iron from plant sources called non-heme iron.
Step 2: Combine the iron-rich foods with foods rich in vitamin C, because this vitamin aids iron absorption. Foods high in vitamin C include red peppers, oranges, strawberries, kale, mangos, kiwi fruits.
Step 3: Limit the foods that block or hinder iron absorption. Drinking a lot of milk or consuming a lot of dairy products can inhibit iron absorption.
Step 4: Choose an excellent-quality iron supplement. Picky eaters and those children at risk of iron deficiency need iron supplements. Look for an iron supplement that is easy on the stomach and great tasting to help increase your child’s iron levels and to prevent iron deficiency. When looking for an iron supplement, remember to always check the ingredient list and read the non-medicinal list to ensure that the product does NOT contain sugar, alcohol, parabens, talc, titanium dioxide or artificial flavours, colours or preservatives.
This blog post was written by our guest writer, Caitlyn Vanderhaeghe, President and CEO of KIDSTAR™ Nutrients