Fixing Low Iron May Help Thyroid Patients Beat Fatigue, Hair Loss

Red meat is one of the richest food-based sources of iron.
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If you're one of the many people with a thyroid problem who experiences fatigue, or hair loss, a quiz for iron deficiency --- followed by a blood test -- could be the first steps on the road to getting more energy, and coping with hair loss.

According to Dr. Cathy Carlson-Rink, "Fatigue is the most common symptom of iron deficiency -- a deficiency that affects 25% of all women in North America."

To determine whether you have an iron deficiency, answer "yes" or "no" to the following questions:

  • Are you fatigued, or lacking energy?
  • Are you pale?
  • Do you have dark circles under your eyes?
  • Do you have a decreased ability to exercise?
  • Do you have ridged finger nails and/or brittle hair?
  • Do you have shortness of breath with exertion?
  • Does it feel like your pulse is pounding or your heart racing?
  • Do you have a hard time concentrating?
  • Do you suffer from dizziness or buzzing in your ears?
  • Are your tongue, gums and/or inner lips less red than usual?
  • Do you have increased infections?
  • Is your tongue sore, inflamed, or unusually smooth?
  • Do you crave or even eat starch, ice, clay or dirt?
  • Has your appetite decreased?
  • Do you suffer from dull headaches or restless legs?
  • Do you eat less that four cups of vegetables per day?
  • Are you a vegetarian or vegan?
  • Have you been on frequent weight loss diets?
  • Do you have extremely heavy menstrual periods?
  • Do you have regular anxiety?
  • Do you have chronic headaches?

If you answered "yes" to three or more questions, you should have your iron and ferritin (a stored form of iron) levels checked.

And any thyroid patient who is pregnant, or who is losing hair, diffusely (throughout your head, or even your body), should have iron and ferritin checked. (Ferritin should be in the top 25th percentile of the reference range to help avoid iron-deficiency related hair loss.)

Iron deficiency makes you tired because iron is needed for your body to make hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is a component of red blood cells that helps distribute oxygen throughout the body. If you have low iron levels, hemoglobin is reduced, and there's less oxygen available, which can make you tired.

Adding Iron to Your Diet

The highest sources of iron are red meat and organ meat, such as liver and giblets. Other iron-rich foods that you can add to your diet to help iron levels include: 

  • pork
  • poultry
  • seafood (oysters, mussels, clams)
  • eggs
  • chickpeas
  • pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds
  • lentils
  • dried fruit like raisins/apricots
  • iron-fortified bread, pasta and cereal

Two iron-rich foods -- oybeans and spinach -- may not be so thyroid-friendly. Watch overconsumption of soy products, as they can slow thyroid function. And be sure to steam or cook spinach to avoid its goitrogenic (goiter-promoting and thyroid-slowing) capabilities.

If your iron levels are not increasing and you have tried to add the above items into your diet, make sure you are not drinking coffee/tea with your food. Also, do not consume calcium rich foods with your iron-rich foods, as the calcium rich foods will impede the absorption of iron.

Supplementing With Iron

Sometimes adding iron rich foods isn't enough and a supplement may be required. Speak to your doctor regarding proper dosages of iron.

You may want to take your iron supplements with vitamin C. This helps bind to the iron in food. Having sufficient vitamin B-6, B-12, folic acid and copper levels helps the body to absorb iron.

Iron supplements can cause constipation, vomiting or diarrhea, but some people find that the liquid forms of iron, in particular, a liquid form known as Floradix, may help with iron-related stomach distress.

Above all, remember that you need to allow at least three to four hours between taking any iron supplements and taking your thyroid hormone replacement medication. When taken too close together, iron supplements can block the body's ability to absorb thyroid hormone replacement drugs.

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