Question: I’m feeling really tired lately and no matter what I do I can’t seem to change it. I’ve tried going to bed earlier, I’ve tried reducing my coffee consumption but I feel tired to my bones. I’m a female and 32 years of age. Do you have any suggestions for what I should do? Thanks, Sharon.

Hi Sharon, there are many reasons why you could be experiencing this tiredness.

Without knowing more about your health history or your diet, looking at your iron status would be a great place to start.Iron deficiency is still the most common nutritional deficiency in the Western world. In Australia and New Zealand, 20 to 30 per cent of women of child-bearing age are iron deficient.

There are so many consequences to this and fatigue is just the beginning. Low iron levels can be caused by multiple factors, including poor dietary iron intake, poor absorption due to digestive insufficiencies, or too many competing factors blocking the absorption of iron.For example, calcium and iron compete for absorption and calcium always wins, as it is a bigger substance. So if you only eat iron-rich foods at t he same meal as calcium-rich foods, then you will absorb very little iron from that meal.

Another reason for low iron levels can be blood loss, most commonly from long-term, heavy menstruation. The flipside of this, however, is that some people accumulate iron and store too much of it, so it is wise to see your GP and have “iron studies” blood tests to know if you are deficient or not.

 

Email your questions for Dr Libby to [email protected]. Please note, only a selection of questions can be answered.

Dr Libby is a nutritional biochemist, best-selling author and speaker. The advice contained in this column is not intended to be a substitute for direct, personalised advice from a health professional. Dr Libby is touring New Zealand during October.