Iron is a workhorse nutrient: It makes your cells work properly, sharpens your concentration and memory, drives your body’s energy supplies, helps form hemoglobin in your red blood cells that carries oxygen to every part of your body, and may even ward off depression. Yet millions of women of reproductive age don’t have enough. “Probably 20 percent of menstruating North American women are deficient in iron,” notes family physician William Ehman, MD, an assistant professor in the faculty of medicine at the University of British Columbia, who regularly sees iron-deficient women in his practice. “The biggest misconception is that iron deficiency is always related to a poor diet, when the reality is, most women need to work to keep their iron levels up.” For example, if you menstruate heavily, your doctor might recommend birth control such as the pill or an IUD to lessen overall menstrual bleeding. Read on to discover the surprising facts about iron deficiency and how you can get—and keep—enough in your body.
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