Why Iron is Important for people with Chronic Kidney Diseases
As Health Canada revises its food guidelines on introducing iron for babies as young as 6-months-old we take a look at the importance of this mineral on everybody’s health, especially to those with Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD).
Maintaining a healthy iron level is important for everybody because low levels lead to anemia. Iron helps make healthy red blood cells that carry oxygen from your lungs to all parts of the body. Anemia is caused by low red blood cells (RBC) count. A person with this illness would look pale, is usually weaker, have chest pains, faster heart beats, feel light headed, is more tired than usual and is depressed.
The kidneys make erythproprotein (EPO) that gives the signal to the body to make red blood cells. CKD diminishes the capability of the kidney to produce EPO which causes the RBC count to deplete and in turn develop into anemia. Some doctors prescribe erythropoiesis-stimulating agents (ESA) to help the EPO. When this happens (ESA prescription) more iron is needed to help the EPO.
Measuring Iron Levels
To measure the iron level of your body you need to know your hemoglobin level, which is made up of iron and oxygen. For women, the normal hemoglobin level is 12.0 and for men, it is at 13.5. A person’s iron level can also be measured through the transferrin saturation (TSAT) and ferritin tests. Normal TSAT level is at least 20 percent, while normal ferritin level is at 100 ng/ml. Doctors recommend the monthly testing of iron levels until the normal hemoglobin level is reached. When the target hemoglobin level is reached testing every three months is recommended.
Recommended Treatments for Low Iron
Your doctor will make a treatment plan if you have a low iron level. He will more likely recommend increasing your intake of iron-rich foods such as eggs, leafy green vegetables and red meat such as steak and tofu. A dietician can help develop meal plans suitable for your CKD condition. Another option is for your doctor to prescribe iron supplements either in tablet or liquid form, or prescribe a multivitamin and mineral supplement that has folic acid, iron and vitamin B. A third option is for your family physician to inject iron medicine into your vein. Just remember that iron supplements ingested by mouth may affect other medicines you are taking so always consult with your doctor or dietician for any contraindications.
There is continuous research for new medications to help iron deficiency in people with CKD.