How Much Iron Do You Really Need?

Iron is an essential nutrient in blood that carries oxygen, and due to blood loss during menstruation, people who have periods are more susceptible to iron deficiency. In fact, if you have periods, we actually need to consume 18 mg per day of iron, while others only need only 8 mg per day.

It's important for all of us to be cautious about our iron levels, however if you experience heavy period bleeding – medically called “menorrhagia” – you might be at an even greater risk of developing iron deficiency compared to those with average period blood loss.

Menorrhagia Symptoms

One in five people with periods experience a heavy period flow. If you're not sure whether your flow is heavier than it should be, a clear indicator is if you typically soak through a single tampon or sanitary pad every two hours or less, for several consecutive hours. Additional signs include: 

  • Period lasting more than seven days
  • Flow with blood clots the size of a quarter or larger
  • Needing to use more than one sanitary pad at a time to manage blood loss
  • Needing to change sanitary pads or tampons during the night
  • Constant lower stomach pain during periods

If you think that your periods are abnormally heavy, speak with your doctor. And if your iron levels are low, it’s OK - there are ways to replace some of the iron lost through heavy periods. For one, the Lucky Iron Fish can be used throughout your entire cycle, keeping your iron stores high so they can better deal with times of stress, such as during your period.

Iron Deficiency Symptoms

If your iron levels are low, you’ll likely feel weak and constantly tired. While these don’t seem to be more than annoyances, if left too long, iron deficiency can develop into Iron Deficiency Anemia, which has much more severe symptoms. Other iron deficiency symptoms you could experience include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Heart palpitations
  • Pale complexion
  • Frequent nausea

Boosting your iron

To reach the recommended 18 mg per day of iron, it’s best to include iron-rich foods in your diet. Try foods like :

  • oatmeal (¾ cup = 4.5-6.6 mg)
  • cooked spinach (½ cup = 2-3.4 mg)
  • chicken liver (6.2-9.7 mg)
  • white beans (½ cup = 2.6-4.9 mg)
  • pumpkin seeds (¼ cup = 1.4-4.7 mg)

More iron-rich foods can be found here.

And, be sure to give a 2-hour gap between those foods and caffeine or alcohol to improve your chances of absorbing the iron.

A doctor may also suggest supplementing your diet with iron through pills or liquids. These can be taken daily and contain large doses of iron, sometimes resulting in side effects like nausea, constipation and black stool.

Alternatively, you can use the Lucky Iron Fish to increase the iron content in water or foods you’re already making to help keep your iron levels up, all month long.