If you’re a woman and you are tired all the time, an iron supplement might be one of the best natural ways to boost energy. A recent study* whose results were published in the CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal) showed that premenopausal women suffering from “unexplained” fatigue who had low blood levels of iron experienced significant improvement after 12 weeks of iron supplementation.
For the study, Dr Bernard Favrat and his associates of the Department of Ambulatory Care and Community Medicine at the University of Lausanne enrolled 198 women, aged 18 to 53 in this double-blinded, randomized trial. Participants’ serum ferritin (iron) levels were less than 50 micrograms per liter and their hemoglobin levels were above 12 grams per deciliter (these levels are considered deficient) at the launch of the study. Subjects were divided to receive oral, timed-release ferrous sulfate containing 80 mg of elemental iron or a placebo daily for 12 weeks. The participants’ fatigue was evaluated and their blood analyzed for hemoglobin, ferritin and other factors at the beginning of the study (baseline), at 6 weeks and then again at 12 weeks.
For the women receiving the actual iron and not the placebo, hemoglobin, ferritin, and other factors increased after 6 weeks and continued to be improved at 12 weeks. Conversely, the participants in the placebo group had declining values in these areas by the end of the study.
The researchers found that in menstruating, iron-deficient, non-anemic women, iron supplementation for 12 weeks decreased fatigue by almost 59% from baseline; a significant difference of 19% compared with placebo.
The researchers believe that iron deficiency is an under-recognized cause of fatigue in menstruating women, and that this study underscores the importance of testing for iron deficiency in women with unexplained fatigue. The problem is easily treated, and for the woman, she might be spared the time, expense and frustration of being told it’s “an emotional problem.”
Iron supplements are widely available in tablet and liquid forms at most health food stores and supermarkets. It is important to note, however, that while the right amount of iron is excellent for your health, too much can lead to free radical damage and degenerative diseases. Before you begin an iron regimen, talk to your health care professional about the appropriate dosage for YOU.