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Menstrual Cycles and Iron Levels

Menstrual Cycle

Having a period is a normal and natural part of any woman’s life, but unfortunately, this monthly cycle is also often associated with one particular nutrient deficiency. All blood, including menstrual blood, contains iron, and a monthly loss of iron-rich blood means that women have to find ways to make up for this loss.

Here are the basics on how menstrual cycles and iron levels are connected and what you can do to stay healthy, energetic, and active no matter what time of the month it is.

Menstrual Bleeding & Iron Deficiencies

Most aperiods last between two and five days, and blood loss during this time can be anywhere from an ounce of blood to a cup of blood depending on the person. Women’s bodies are naturally equipped with a regulatory system that helps them supplement iron from their diets during times of blood loss. For example, if a woman’s normal absorption rate is one milligram, she may see an increase in that rate to two or three milligrams of absorption during her period.

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When a significant portion of blood is lost during menstruation, the iron being stored in the body becomes depleted. If there is not enough iron in blood, the body lacks the ability to produce enough hemoglobin and the result is fatigue, moodiness, or mental fogginess. This is even more common among women who are very physically active like competitive female athletes.

Iron Deficient Anemia from Heavy Bleeding

Women who have a light-to-moderate flow of menstrual blood are often naturally able to maintain their iron levels without any special diet or supplementation plan. However, prolonged instances of heavy bleeding put menstruating women at a higher risk of developing iron deficiency anemia. Having very heavy periods is one of the many reasons why women develop iron deficiencies.

One way to determine whether a period is heavier than average is to observe if the tampon or pad needs to be changed more often than every two hours on a regular basis. Studies show that up to 60 percent of women who have heavy periods have suffered from an iron deficiency.

In some women, taking hormonal birth control pills affects the amount of blood lost during each period, which can potentially lower the risk of developing anemia. However, an  intrauterine device (IUD), can actually cause more bleeding, which may increase chances of an iron deficiency.

Symptoms of Menstrual Bleeding Iron Deficiency

During menstruation, a woman may feel a wide variety of uncomfortable symptoms, including bloating, irritability, and acne breakouts. Some conditions may indicate a more serious problem that should be discussed with a doctor. These are some of the most common symptoms of menstrual bleeding iron deficiency in women of childbearing age.

  • Extreme and unexplainable fatigue
  • Pale skin
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Mental fogginess
  • Uncommon mood swings

Controlling Iron Levels while on Your Period

Although periods are a normal part of a woman’s life, living with the symptoms of iron deficiency doesn’t have to be. Women experiencing these symptoms should talk to a trusted medical professional about whether an iron deficiency supplement is needed. With just one easy-to-swallow tablet per day, many women can eliminate the symptoms that are wearing them down and get back to living their lives.

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