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Iron is an important mineral that the body uses for a variety of different functions, including making red blood cells that transport oxygen throughout the body. Low iron levels are referred to as “iron deficiency” and can lead to anemia in people with chronic kidney disease (CKD). Some of the common causes of low iron levels in dialysis patients — particularly for people on hemodialysis and less for those on peritoneal dialysis (PD) — are:
Because iron-rich foods are often high in protein, dialysis patients who do not eat enough protein are at risk of iron deficiency. Women can be especially susceptible to low iron levels since iron is lost through menstruation.
Without enough iron you may have:
Blood tests will tell you if your iron levels are low, and they include:
If your iron levels are low, intravenous (IV) iron may be given during your dialysis treatment, or your doctor may prescribe iron pills. Here are tips on how to effectively use iron pills:
Iron is found in foods from both plants and animals, however, the body absorbs iron from animal food sources better than plant food sources. Vitamin C and foods with protein can help increase iron absorption from plant foods. To get vitamin C, choose kidney-friendly foods and drinks such as strawberries, tangerines and vitamin C-enriched cranberry juice. Also, read food labels and look for 20% or more iron per serving.
Iron is an important mineral that is necessary for good health. Make sure to get adequate amounts by following the guidelines above. If you notice any symptoms of iron deficiency consult your doctor. With diet changes and (if necessary) iron pills, you can help restore the proper levels of iron to your body.
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