The PMS Diet and How Iron-Rich Foods and Supplements Can Help

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Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) affects many menstruating women to varying degrees of severity. While some women only have minor bloating and irritability, others experience extreme mood swings, food cravings, and even depression.

PMS is felt differently in every woman’s body, but it is important to remember that PMS symptoms do not need to control one’s life.

These symptoms can often be lessened and prevented by following a healthy PMS diet and making positive lifestyle changes. Here is some information about iron deficiency PMS, as well as how to prevent PMS and treat its various symptoms each month.

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What Causes PMS?

PMS is caused by changes in a woman’s hormones, which also signal changes in brain chemistry. PMS can have an impact on serotonin levels in the brain, which can affect a woman’s moods, food cravings, sleep habits, and tendencies towards depression. The most common physical symptoms of PMS are pains in the muscles and joints, fatigue, headache, bloating, tender breasts, and flare-ups of acne. The emotional symptoms of PMS include depressed moods, increased crying, social withdrawn, libido changes, and anxiety.

The Iron Deficiency PMS Connection  

There are strong connections between what a woman eats in the days leading up to her monthly period and the occurrence and severity of PMS symptoms. Women’s bodies need a wide range of minerals for good menstrual health, especially iron and zinc. Iron, for example, is involved in many bodily processes and are also believed to help reduce the physical pain and emotional symptoms of PMS. This is because iron is instrumental in the production of serotonin, which means that low levels of this mineral can make women more susceptible to PMS and make symptoms worse.

Why an Iron-Rich PMS Diet Can Help

Scientists and researchers have found that non-heme iron foods and supplements can reduce a woman’s chances of developing PMS. The University of Massachusetts at Amherst researchers conducted a study on this topic and found that women who consumed more than 20 milligrams of iron per day had a 35 percent lower chance of being diagnosed with PMS. This study involved approximately 3,000 women that completed food intake questionnaires over a 10-year period.

It is important to note that non-heme, or plant-based, iron is recommended for the prevention of PMS. This is the type of iron that was proven effective for this purpose in the study, and plant-based foods also help reduce oxidative stress and inflammation more effectively than meats. In addition to consuming more plant-based iron sources, such as spinach and legumes, women can fuel their body with iron supplements like Fergon.

More Solutions for How to Prevent PMS

In addition to consuming more iron to control PMS symptoms, there are many other things that women can to do prepare their body for their monthly cycles. Women can try eating smaller and more frequent meals throughout the day to reduce bloating and limit their intake of salty foods, caffeine, and alcohol. These are essential parts of the PMS diet. Foods rich in calcium and zinc are also great for PMS prevention.

Other tips on how to prevent PMS include exercising for at least 30 minutes per day, getting enough sleep, and practicing yoga or meditation to relieve stress. Try writing down notes each month about PMS symptoms and triggers to help isolate what may be causing PMS and then relay that information to a doctor if symptoms become more severe in the future.

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What Women Should Know About Perimenopause Iron Deficiency

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In regard to maintaining consistent iron levels among women, the focus is often on teenage girls, pregnant women, and menopausal women. However, perimenopausal women are certainly not immune to the challenges of keeping their iron levels up either.

Many changes are going on in a woman’s body during the premenopausal years, but the symptoms are often overlooked or misinterpreted.

This article will describe what perimenopause is, when premenopausal symptoms typically begin, and why iron levels can become lower during this time of a woman’s life. It will also explain how perimenopausal women can monitor their iron levels and when it time to consider iron supplements as an option.

What Is Perimenopause?

Perimenopause is a transitional time between menstruation and menopause, and it is characterized by hormonal shifts at the beginning of the end of a woman’s reproductive years. Although women typically experience lower fertility during perimenopause, they still ovulate and are still able to become pregnant.

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When Do Premenopausal Symptoms Begin?

Premenopausal symptoms begin in most women in the late 40s, but some women can begin to notice significant changes in their 30s. This transitional period may last a few months or a few years and be more noticeable in some women than others. Most women experience the perimenopause transition for about four years leading up to full menopause.

The production of progesterone and estrogen naturally decrease in the female body with age. But women who have a family history of early menopause, who smoke cigarettes, or who have never been pregnant may experience premenopausal symptoms earlier than their peers.

Can Perimenopause Cause Fatigue?

Fatigue is one of the most common premenopausal symptoms that women in their 30s and 40s experience because of hormone fluctuations. In addition to fatigue, other common symptoms include mood swings, irritability, irregular menstrual cycles, headaches, insomnia, vaginal dryness, and hot flashes. A physician can typically diagnose perimenopause based on a description of the symptoms and by taking a blood test to determine hormone levels.

Managing Perimenopause Iron Deficiency

Because perimenopausal women commonly experience irregular periods and an unusually heavy blood flow, more iron is lost in each monthly cycle. This phenomenon may lead perimenopausal women to become iron deficient, even if they have never had an issue with retaining an adequate supply of iron in the past. Perimenopausal women should get their iron levels tested by a trusted medical professional at least once per year to determine if a perimenopause iron deficiency is to blame for fatigue and other symptoms. Fergon, a high potency iron supplement, may be recommended for perimenopause iron deficiency.

The Optimal Perimenopause Diet

One of the most highly recommended diets for perimenopausal women is the anti-inflammatory diet, which includes plant-based proteins, fatty fish, fruits, vegetables, and fresh herbs and spices. Some of the best foods to incorporate in a perimenopause diet are beans, nuts, salmon, oatmeal, spinach, and cherries. In addition to diet, getting aerobic exercise, practicing strength training exercise, and engaging in stress-reduction techniques can help offset the effects of perimenopause symptoms.

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The Connection Between Iron Deficiency and Nail Brittleness

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There are many different symptoms that result from an iron deficiency in the body, but one of the lesser known ones is brittle nails.

Split nails and weak nails are particularly common among women who have low iron levels. Not only are brittle nails unsightly, but they can also be very painful and get in the way of daily activities.

The purpose of this article is to explain why brittle nails occur as a result of iron deficiency and tips on how to strengthen weak nails with improved nutrition. Oftentimes, treating one’s iron deficiency will result in healthy, beautiful, and fully functional fingernails and toenails.

What Causes Brittle Nails?

Research has revealed that about 20 percent of people experience brittle nails and that the percentage is even higher among women. Nails can become brittle for a variety of reasons, including exposure to chemicals, poor diet, work that involves submerging the hands in water, and iron deficiency. Brittle nails that are caused by low iron are usually accompanied by other iron deficiency-type symptoms, such as pale skin and fatigue.

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Why Nails Require Iron

Nails are made up of a substance called keratin, which includes layers of protein that protect the soft tissues of the nail beds. The nails require oxygen to remain healthy, and oxygen transport is hindered when the body isn’t producing enough hemoglobin.

Iron is an essential nutrient for healthy nails and preventing concave-shaped weak nails. A condition called koilonychia is marked by an abnormality of the fingernail shape with raised ridges and an inward curve. Koilonychia is a disorder associated with iron deficiency.

Vitamins for Fingernails Splitting

Vitamins and supplements may be recommended for individuals who are experiencing split nails and who are not receiving adequate nutrients through food alone. The best vitamins for fingernails splitting are iron, zinc, vitamin C, and biotin. Iron supplements, like Fergon, are often recommended the iron deficiency symptom of brittle nails, and other vitamins come in convenient capsule form as well.

Foods for Healthy Nails

Fortunately, there are many delicious and nutritious foods that help maintain healthy nails. These foods are rich in iron, as well as other key vitamins and nutrients. Dried fruits, beans, liver, eggs, lean red meats, fish, and iron-fortified cereals are all great options to boost iron levels and strengthen weak nails. Seafood and lean meats are also great sources of zinc. Individuals with brittle nails can get vitamin C from berries and citrus fruits, while biotin levels can get a boost from cauliflower and carrots.

Lifestyle Tips for Healthy Nails

In addition to diet and supplementation, certain lifestyle habits may help promote healthy nails when practiced regularly. It may help to apply a clear, protective layer of nail hardener to the nails to prevent splitting and cracking. Throughout the day and at night, try rubbing lotion into the nails and cuticles to prevent them from drying out. And while doing cleaning chores with water or chemicals, make sure to wear cotton-lined rubber gloves to protect and strengthen weak nails.

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A Guide to Healthy Iron Levels for Women

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Iron deficiencies are very common in the U.S. and around the world; however, certain populations are more prone to them than others.

The prevalence of this condition is estimated to be between nine and 12 percent in non-Hispanic White women and up to 20 percent in Black and Mexican American women. This is compared to only about two percent in adult men. This means that women need to pay special attention to their iron level range to prevent problematic symptoms that will cause discomfort and slow them down.

This article will serve as a guide about the healthy iron level range for women and how women can achieve high iron levels for optimal health.

Why Low Iron Levels Affect Women

The various stages of a woman’s life, such as menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause, have a profound effect on her iron levels and cause fluctuation within the iron level range. Both men and women lose iron through urine, feces, and even the skin. However, women lose more iron when they are menstruating because of the extra blood loss and during pregnancy to support the iron needs of an unborn child.

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The Recommended Iron Level Range for Women

There are several different tests that a physician may order to determine whether a woman has an iron deficiency. One of these is a hemoglobin test, and the normal hemoglobin range for women is between 12.0 and 15.5 grams per deciliter.

Another test checks hematocrit levels, which is the percentage of blood volume that is comprised of red blood cells. The recommended hematocrit range for women is between 34.9 and 44.5 percent. Levels below these figures may suggest the presence of an iron deficiency.

Iron Level Range for Women: A Practical Iron Levels Chart

Although these iron level ranges can only be checked by conducting a blood test, women can take control of their iron intake through food and supplementation. The Food and Nutrition Board at the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies developed the following iron levels chart to show the recommended iron intakes for women of various ages and also during pregnancy and lactation.

It should be noted that the recommended amounts of iron are three to four milligrams higher for women than men between the ages of 14 and 50. Women who are pregnant, who have heavy menstrual flows, or who have uterine fibroids often require higher iron levels beyond the normal iron level range recommendations.

Age Female Pregnancy Lactation
Birth to 6 months 0.27 mg
7–12 months 11 mg
1–3 years 7 mg
4–8 years 10 mg  –
9–13 years 8 mg
14–18 years 15 mg 27 mg 10 mg
19–50 years 18 mg 27 mg 9 mg
51+ years 8 mg

How to Achieve High Iron Levels

Although maintaining high iron levels can be a challenge for women during certain life phases, it is certainly not impossible. Iron supplements, such as Fergon, help women maintain their active lifestyles without being weighed down by fatigue and low energy. Iron supplements are effective when taken on an empty stomach about an hour before a meal or a couple hours after a meal. Although it’s important to avoid taking calcium supplements or antacids at the same time as iron supplements because these can hinder the body’s ability to absorb iron.

Women should also eat plenty of iron rich foods on a daily basis, such as spinach, lentils, dried apricots, and beef or chicken liver. It is also a good idea to get one’s iron levels checked if unexplained symptoms arise or as part of an annual checkup.

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How Alternative Food Source Affect Iron Levels in Women

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The rise in popularity of certain diets and lifestyle choices, like vegetarianism, veganism, and paleo diets, has created new concerns among women.

It can be difficult for women who adhere to any type of diet to maintain healthy levels of iron in their systems. But when diets are restrictive and prohibit certain types of foods, it can be even more difficult to get this valuable mineral on a daily basis.

However, these three diets can offer significant health benefits for many people and are worthy of consideration. To make up for food restrictions, there are easy ways to add more iron into these diet plans while staying true to their principles. Here are some strategies for adding more iron into vegetarian, vegan, and paleo diets.

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Vegetarianism and Iron Levels

Vegetarianism is a diet that requires abstaining from meat and some other animal products, often for health, moral, and religious reasons. Although iron is most often associated with eating meat, vegetarians will be relieved to discover that some of the best iron sources on the planet are plant-based. Legumes, like lentils and tofu, and grains, like quinoa and brown rice, are good vegetarian sources of iron. Pumpkin, squash, nuts, seeds, and tomato sauce are also good sources of iron.

Veganism and Iron Levels

Veganism is vegetarianism taken one step further because vegans abstain from all animal products, including dairy, eggs, honey, gelatin, wool, lanolin, fur, silk leather, and anything else that involved an animal to produce. The meat-free foods listed above can be consumed by vegans as well as vegetarians. Vegans may also want to add a source of vitamin C at meals to aid iron absorption. It is also advised to avoid drinking coffee and tea at meals and to cook water-based acidic foods, like tomato sauce, in a cast iron skillet.

Paleo Diet and Iron Levels

Unlike vegetarianism and veganism, which shun meat, paleo diets revolve around animal-based products. The principle behind the paleo diet is that humans today should eat like the cavemen used to eat during prehistoric times. This means that individuals on a paleo diet can eat anything that can be hunted (meats and fish) or gathered (leafy greens, local vegetables, nuts, and seeds).

Since paleo diets are typically meat-heavy, it shouldn’t be too difficult to get enough iron through meals. However, paleo dieters who focus on fish or poultry instead of red meat may still be at a risk for iron deficiency. Having heavy menstrual cycles, being pregnant, regularly donating blood, and having low stomach acid may also affect women’s iron levels while on a paleo diet.

Supplements for Specialized Diets

Vegetarians, vegans, and individuals on paleo diets may benefit from taking iron supplements like Fergon to add more iron into daily meals. Doctors may recommend supplements if a person’s iron needs can not be met by a specialized diet alone.

However, individuals on each of these diets should make sure to carefully read the ingredient list on any supplement they take to ensure that they are sticking to their diet-of-choice, even with supplemental tablets. For dietary reference, these are the ingredients contained in Fergon: Ferrous Gluconate, Sucrose, Corn Starch, Hypromellose, Talc, Magnesium Stearate, Silicon Dioxide, Titanium Dioxide (color), Polyethylene Glycol, FD&C Yellow #5 (tartrazine) Aluminum Lake, FD&C Blue #1 Aluminum Lake, Carnauba Wax.

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Postpartum Consequences of Low Iron Levels During Pregnancy

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There are effective ways for women to prevent iron deficiencies during pregnancy and also during the postpartum period after giving birth. Low iron during pregnancy can lead to negative birthing outcomes like hemorrhage and sepsis. But the impact of inadequate maternal iron intake can also have effects on a child’s health after birth, well into the first few years of life, and into adulthood.

That’s why it is so important for pregnant women to understand that adequate iron doesn’t just affect how they feel, but also how their babies develop early in life. This article addresses how an iron deficiency during pregnancy may affect a child in the early stages of development. These are the postpartum consequences that pregnant women should consider while monitoring their iron levels.

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Low Birth Weight

Because newborn babies of iron deficient mothers have missed out on essential iron accrual before birth, they are more susceptible to premature birth and low birth rate. This is especially problematic if the mother did not consume enough iron during the third trimester. Low birth rates come with a range of complications and potential health issues in babies.

Stunted Physical Growth

Not only can low iron levels impact a baby’s weight at birth, but the weight could remain stunted for years to come. Slow physical growth can affect a child’s performance in school, during activities, and on self-esteem.

Delayed Brain Development

A baby’s brain begins to develop rapidly in the third trimester, and if the mother does not have enough iron, her baby’s brain development could be delayed. The hippocampus is the part of the brain that is closely associated with learning and memory, and this part requires iron to develop to its fullest potential before birth.

Research shows that a child’s brain typically reaches 80 percent to 90 percent of the adult volume during the first two years of life. Low iron has been linked to poor mental development before the age of 10.

Language and Motor Skills

With delayed brain development, language and motor development difficulties can result as well. Low iron stores in newborn babies often persist for up to a year and result in iron deficiency in the child.

Not only can low iron levels lead to delayed cognitive functioning in young children but also their social and emotional development. However, breastfeeding may help to protect newborn babies and supply them with the iron they need to overcome a deficiency.

Early Mortality

Research surveys have shown that the risk of infant mortality in the first year of life is often greater when the mother did not have enough iron during her pregnancy. Of course, there are many factors involved in mortality risk, but low iron stores play a role.

Iron Supplementation for Pregnant Women

Since pregnant women share the vitamins and nutrients they consume with their unborn babies, it is important to discuss all deficiencies and supplement treatment plans with a trusted obstetrician. Iron supplements like Fergon may be recommended to make up for iron loss during pregnancy. However, each woman’s body is unique and responds differently to nutrient types and concentrations.

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Connections between Iron Deficiency and Hair Loss

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Iron deficiencies cause a variety of symptoms in men, women, and children. But one of the lesser-known side effects of low iron is hair loss.

Here are some details about how iron deficiencies can cause hair loss and how a condition called telogen effluvium can be triggered by low iron levels as well.

How Iron Deficiencies Cause Hair Loss

When the body doesn’t have enough iron to produce hemoglobin, a deficiency results and oxygen cannot be transferred to the bodily cells for growth and repair.

Hair follicles are made up of cells that require hemoglobin as well, which means that low iron levels often result in hair falling out and slow hair growth.

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Since hair loss is less common among women, one common reason that women start losing more hair is due to low iron. In cases of iron deficiency, hair loss is often one of several symptoms and accompanied by fatigue, pale skin, brittle nails, or a cold body temperature. Women in particular are more susceptible to low iron because of their menstrual periods. Women who eat a poor-quality diet, frequently donate blood, or who take certain medications may be at an even higher risk for iron deficiency-related hair loss.

What is Telogen Effluvium?

The average person loses about 100 hairs per day. But in healthy individuals, a majority of the hairs on one’s head are still growing. Telogen effluvium is a condition in which more hairs enter a resting period known as the telogen phase. This means that existing hairs stop growing before they fall out. Someone who has telogen effluvium may lose more like 300 hairs per day instead of 100.

This condition is often caused by an iron deficiency, but that is not the only cause. For example, a major trauma, psychological stress, surgery, and some medications can cause this condition as well. People who have telogen effluvium often notice more hairs coming out in their brushes and combs and a reduced density of hairs on the head. Although these results tend to be subtle, they can be emotionally scarring and cause devastating losses of confidence and self-esteem.

Prevention Strategies for Women

Hair loss is most often associated with men, but women also frequently lose their hair at various stages of life. Iron supplements like Fergon can help women prevent iron deficiency-related hair loss before it becomes a major issue in daily life.

This high-potency supplement can be easily digested and replenishes the iron in the blood cells quickly. Iron-rich foods like liver and beef can help replenish iron supplies in the body too. Healthy non-meat sources of iron include lentils, tofu, chickpeas, and raisins. Since vitamin C helps the body absorb iron, it is also important to eat citrus fruits, berries, and leafy greens to get an adequate supply of this vitamin.

However, it should be noted that there are many other serious medical conditions that can cause hair loss in women and men. Always seek an accurate diagnosis from a trusted doctor before taking any supplement to treat a perceived condition.

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Iron Deficiency in Women Going Through Menopause

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The most common deficiency associated with menopause is estrogen, but studies have shown that women going through menopause are also often iron deficient, which can lead to a variety of health risks. These are some things to consider if you are approaching menopause or going through the change right now.

Iron Needs before Menopause

Iron deficiencies are common in pre-menopausal women who get their menstrual periods each month. This is because iron is lost through the blood on regular cycles. Since post-menopausal women eventually no longer get their periods, many do not lose as much iron as they did before over time. However, other changes going on in the body can still lead to an iron deficiency.

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Iron Needs after Menopause

Once a woman reaches menopause, a lack of iron can lead to many other conditions that are uncomfortable, embarrassing, and even degenerative. Some studies have linked iron to hot flashes, and people with iron deficiencies often report poor cold intolerance and body temperature regulation.

Osteoporosis is another major concern among women of menopausal age, and an iron deficiency can affect bone density. This is essential to keeping bones healthy and strong throughout the aging process. Women going through menopause often experience fatigue, and this could be due to an iron deficiency as well.

These are some of the most common symptoms of women who have an iron deficiency

  • Poor body temperature regulation
  • Overall fatigue
  • Hair loss
  • Brittle nails
  • Skin paleness and dullness

How Menopause May Lead to Iron Deficiency

Both iron and estrogen are crucial growth nutrients in the development of a woman’s body. While estrogen is connected with tissue growth and function, iron helps transport oxygen, produce energy, and synthesize DNA.

Women can have an increased menstrual blood flow during the time leading up to menopause and even during menopause. This means that more iron is being released through the blood and leaving the body deficient of iron. It may take many years for a woman to reach the same iron levels as a man her age after going through menopause.

Other health conditions that you may have, such as ulcers, hemorrhoids, celiac disease, or cancer, can also cause your iron levels to be low at this time. Another nutrient that menopausal women need to be mindful of losing during this time is vitamin B12.

Iron Rich Foods for Your Diet

Fortunately, there are many delicious foods that are rich in iron and can help menopausal women keep their iron levels up. Here are some iron-rich foods to stock up on next time you go to the market.

  • Lean red meat, especially liver
  • Seafood, especially oysters
  • Beans
  • Chickpeas
  • Dark leafy greens, like spinach and kale
  • Dried fruits, like apricots and raisins
  • Pumpkin seeds

Supplementation During Menopause

However, sometimes the iron needs of women during menopause are more than what can be obtained from food alone. After all, there are only so many healthy foods that you can cram into your daily meals and stay within your desired calorie range and target weight.

Fergon iron deficiency supplements are preferred by menopausal women because they’re easily digestible and don’t upset the stomach like some other products. Menopause is a huge time of change and transformation for the female body, so make sure to discuss all of your symptoms and concerns with your doctor to find menopause solutions that are right for you.

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