by ana theresa williams,bsn,rn
We may have heard of Marvel Comics’ Iron Man, but we just don’t know if his red blood cells has been circulating well and it’s as regular as possible to keep his vital organs function accordingly, most especially his kidneys.
We learned in our elementary and high school days, including in college, that iron is a very important mineral to keep us strong and healthy. It certainly plays a vital part in our body.
Iron can be found in several foods, likewise with supplements prescribed by your healthcare provider.
Do you know what the RBCs or red blood cells can do to your body? First, you need a normal level of iron in your body because iron helps make red blood cells. It carries the oxygen from your lungs to all parts of your body. If you have enough iron in your body, you have all the energy that you need for your daily activities. Much more, the kidneys will command your body to make more RBCs to make your cells healthy.
Obviously, with poor appetite (meaning, low in iron) and unhealthy lifestyle, you start to suffer from anemia – which means you don’t have enough RBCs. Consequently, your blood cannot carry enough oxygen through your body. That’s why, it’s very important to get enough iron from your food intake!
During blood tests like Complete Blood Count or Hemoglobin tests, you can measure and know if you’re anemic or not. Hemoglobin is part of your red blood cells; it is made up of oxygen and iron. The normal hemoglobin level in healthy people is about 12 to 15 g/dL (for women) while for men is between 13 and 17 g/dL. For me, it’s been always 12 or 13 g/dL or just enough to pass the normal level.
But for people with kidney problems, they may have lower levels. Better check with your nephrologists or kidney doctors regarding the normal level for your condition.
Therefore if you have low iron in your body, which means, you’re anemic, you certainly look pale, tired and weak, feel dizzy or light-headed, feel short of breath with activity, have a faster heartbeat because your heart tries to compensate with the very low RBCs, and you feel numbness or coldness in your hands and feet.
The National Kidney Foundation (NKF) shares the following suggestions if you have low iron and low hemoglobin as your diet treatment plan:
> Eat more foods that have iron such as red meat, beans and green vegetables. However, eating foods that are rich in iron may be hard due to your kidney diet. A dietitian can help you plan meals that include iron and other minerals.
> Take iron supplements by mouth in tablet or liquid form as prescribed by your healthcare provider. This includes a vitamin and mineral supplement with iron, vitamin B12, and folic acid. Your dietitian or healthcare provider will help you choose one that is right for people with kidney disease.
> It can be also through iron medicine given by injection into a vein during visits to your healthcare provider’s clinic.
But always remember that before you take any iron supplements, talk to your healthcare provider first because this will certainly affect other medicines you may be taking.
The NKF said most people on dialysis need extra iron because your diet may lack iron rich-rich foods. Foods that are rich in iron, like red meats and beans, may be limited in your dialysis diet. Without enough iron-rich foods, you are more at risk for low iron. Always check with your preferred dietitian before making any changes in your diet.
Also, NKF said you lose a little blood during hemodialysis treatments. At the end of each hemodialysis treatment, a small amount of blood is usually left behind in the dialyzer or artificial kidney. This can be a source of iron loss over time, they said.
However, if your kidney doctor finds that you are a good candidate for dialysate iron, you may be given this treatment during your dialysis to replenish this loss of iron during treatment. During my duty before at one of the Dialysis Centers in this city, I encountered several patients who needs dialysate iron – which means their hemoglobin level is too low; thus, the need for compensation through this treatment.
For further queries about your very low iron while undergoing dialysis treatment, talk to your kidney doctor for further assistance.
HEALTHWATCHING: For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 1 Corinthians 1:18