Iron and calcium levels must be controlled during the different physiological and hormonal stages of a woman’s life. These stages, naming the main ones, are menstruation, pregnancy, lactation and menopause.
Bringing a proper diet helps in preventing health problems. That is why it is important that before taking iron and calcium supplements, check your diet and make the necessary changes.
Iron is the most abundant trace element in the body. Of the total amount of iron you take daily, only 10% is absorbed and the rest is eliminated by feces. The functions of iron are very important, and they include the following:
- Transport oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body.
- Collaborate in metabolism, intervening in obtaining cellular energy.
- Be part of myoglobin in the muscle.
- Encourage enzymatic reactions.
An iron deficit can cause iron-deficiency anemia, which is the most common type of anemia. Anemia causes, among others, symptoms such as fatigue, weakness, cold hands and feet, headache and dizziness.
Calcium is the most important mineral in the human body along with phosphorus. We find it mainly in bones and teeth, thus forming more than 99% of their structure.
It is important to establish the amounts of calcium-based on height and not on age. It has been shown that the calcium content in the body is related to height and that there is an increase of 20 grams of calcium per centimeter of height.
There are two types of calcium sources: dairy and non-dairy. This second group includes fish and canned fish. You should be careful with coffee, alcohol and excess sodium, as some research indicates that consuming too much caffeine is harmful to bone health.
Iron and calcium in the different stages of women’s lives
1. During menstruation
Anyone loses about 1 milligram per day of iron in the form of sweat and urine. During menstruation, losses increase by 0.5 milligrams per day. For this reason, it is recommended that iron intake in healthy women during menstruation be 15 milligrams a day.
Calcium needs depend on height. Generally, the recommended daily intake at this stage is 1,000-1,300 milligrams per day.
2. Iron and calcium in pregnancy
In pregnancy, between 1,000 and 1,300 milligrams of calcium per day are recommended depending on your age. When maternal calcium intake is insufficient, bone demineralization is favored, although at the same time compensatory mechanisms are put in place.
In young mothers, special attention must be paid, since, as they have not yet acquired the peak of their bone mass, it is even more important to control the calcium intake. Young mothers should ingest significant amounts of calcium, preferably from dairy sources.
3. During breastfeeding
Childbirth and breastfeeding are two important situations of iron loss, and calcium intake should also be greater. The recommended daily intake of calcium in lactating women is 1,000 to 1,300 milligrams per day.
If you are a nursing mother, you should adjust your diet to this situation to compensate for the needs of milk production. You also avoid the possible deficiencies that can harm your health after completing the breastfeeding process.
However, keep in mind that the composition of breast milk varies depending on the nutritional status of the mother. A mother with a nutritional problem will affect her production in the mammary glands. Similarly, maternal hydration influences the amounts of milk.
4. Iron and calcium at menopause
Menopause is a complicated stage for women, but with proper nutrition, problems such as:
During menopause, calcium needs increase because bone resorption increases and bone mineral density decreases. At this stage it is important to take calcium supplements to prevent osteoporosis, the recommended dose being 1,200 milligrams of calcium with 800 milligrams of vitamin D.
It is necessary that you take the daily recommended amounts of iron and calcium at each stage. The ideal way to do this is with a balanced and healthy diet. If in doubt, a professional can advise you to achieve an adequate eating plan.
However, if circumstances make it necessary, you may have to take a supplement. Before acquiring them on your own and taking them, consult your doctor or pharmacist.