For years I was chronically tired – so tired that I could easily sleep in until midday almost every day. It sounds strange, but I was so used to being tired that I began to think it was normal. It wasn’t until a friend of mine suggested that I should go see a doctor that I realised that my lack of energy was getting in the way of my productivity, my work and my happiness.
After seeing the doctor I was diagnosed with low iron and was prescribed a series of iron supplements to boost my iron levels back to a healthy level. Within a few weeks I began to feel different – I would wake up feeling refreshed, exercise was easier and I could concentrate better throughout the day.
While I thought that I was alone in my iron deficiency, I soon began to realise that a lot of women I know had experienced something similar. In fact, according to the last New Zealand Diet and Nutrition Survey, iron deficiency in New Zealand women doubled between 1997 and 2009, with an ever increasing amount of women finding themselves tired and sluggish due to iron deficiency.
The survey found that low iron levels among women were particularly common among teenagers, with one in three girls aged 15 to 18 having an inadequate iron intake. Almost 16 percent of women between the ages of 31 and 50 were found to be consuming inadequete amounts of iron in their diets.
While getting enough iron may not sound sexy or exciting, having low levels of iron can be detrimental to a person’s health. “Iron is required for the production of a number of proteins in the body, including haemoglobin which is needed to transport oxygen in the blood and make it available to tissues throughout the body,” reports the Science Media Centre. “Iron-deficiency anaemia is associated with decreased work capacity, fatigue, and some specific cognitive learning effects.”