Cold Hands Aren’t Just Because of Winter
Feeling cold in your extremities could mean you are low on Iron.
It’s getting close to my favourite time of year. No, not Christmas (but I’m definitely no Scrooge) and not New Years either.
Even though most of us can’t wait to see the back of 2020, the strange and terrible events of this year do not stop the changing of the seasons. Whether the process of the changing of the seasons is itself changing is an argument for the elephant in the room called Climate Change, but I’ll leave those arguments for someone more qualified and eloquent than lil’ old me.
Yes, even the events caused by he-who-must-not-be-named won’t stop the air getting colder and the leaves turning red and gold. This change in the environmental color pallet signals that it’s time.
Time to get out the winter closet!
I love my winter collection, I seem to have more cosy sweaters and winter coats than the rest of my clothes put together! Obviously there are a range of gloves and scarfs to choose from as well.
Why am I rambling about my extensive collection of knitwear? Is it because I enjoy talking about it? Probably. BUT it is also related to a common health problem and this time of year is when it could be most obvious to see its symptoms.
You see, even though I love wrapping up warm and putting on my winter clothes, I do at least wait until the weather is appropriate instead of sweating it out under unnecessary layers just because they feel good.
When fall arrives and the trees start shedding leaves, many people start adding more layers to themselves. But just as not all the trees lose all their leaves at the same time, different people don their winter collection for the street catwalk at varying times as well.
Feeling the cold?
Are you the kind of person who is still walking around in a t-shirt wondering how that person in a hat and coat isn’t boiling themselves alive underneath?
Or are you the one wearing gloves everywhere, you’ve actually been wearing wooly socks for weeks now and you can’t understand how your friends are still walking around in skirts or sleeveless tops?
Now, it is true that we all feel the cold differently to some degree and there are multiple reasons why this might be the case. For instance, there have been studies that show that feeling cold more acutely can be caused by a hereditary gene.¹
Other examples include:
- Your body shape — a larger surface area loses more heat faster than a smaller one
- Your age — after roughly the age of 60 our bodies start to lose the ability to conserve heat and recognise cold.²
A further difference highlighted is that of your sex. Studies have found women to be colder more often than men (in temperature, keep it clean) one of the main reasons being that women lose iron through the loss of blood that happens during menstruation³.
Why is iron important?
Iron is crucial for the circulation of blood flow because it is required to make the hemoglobin in red blood cells, which carry oxygen around the body. This is why, if you are deficient in iron, your hands and feet are likely to feel cold because the supply of blood has been reduced.
This is why women have a higher RDI for iron than men.⁴ On the lower estimates, women lose around 10% of their iron per day of bleeding but this can reach as high as loses over their full RDI if the flow is particularly heavy.⁵
This can also have the effect of making your skin look pale or yellowish, and in extreme cases is often linked with Anemia.
Men aren’t exceptions either as the World Health Organisation recognises iron deficiency as the top nutritional disorder world-wide.⁶ So, there must be more ways we’re losing iron, mustn’t there?
Foods such as red meat are particularly high in iron⁷ but if you are a vegetarian or vegan you could be at risk of having a low-iron diet.
Obviously there are plenty of plant-based foods that are high is iron, such as lentils, chickpeas, beans and nuts to name a few⁸, but it is important to make sure your diet consists of enough of these types of foods if you are vegetarian or vegan.
I’m not trying to single anyone out here, sudies have shown that:
“Vegetarians have a high prevalence of depleted iron stores,[and that a] higher proportion of vegetarians, compared to nonvegetarians, had iron deficiency anemia⁹.”
Iron and Exercise
It could be considered ironic that “pumping iron” actually contributes to you losing iron from your body. This is because another way we lose iron is from sweating.
“Exercise, particularly high intensity and endurance types, increases iron losses by as much as 70% when compared to sedentary populations.”¹⁰
This means that athletes are especially susceptible to iron deficiencies and need more than the general population.¹¹Another symptom of iron deficiency is tiredness and a lack of energy¹², so if you never want to take your gloves off for training and your training itself is also suffering, it could be worth checking your iron levels.
Making sure you get enough iron through your diet naturally is obviously preferential but if you need a boost then an iron supplement is already a very popular solution. 14–18% of Americans use a supplement containing iron¹³ but there are varying strengths you should be aware of.
Some contain as little as 6% for children and the strongest are over 70% for pregnant women. For men over 18 the RDI of iron is around 9mg, and for women over 18 it is as much as 15mg.¹² This shows that you need to be aware of how much iron you need vs. how much you are taking.
Natural Iron Increase
You may actually be ingesting enough iron already and it could be that your body’s uptake of this iron is just too little. To increase the bioavailability of the iron in your system you can increase your intake of Vitamin C.
“Vitamin C acts as a reducing agent to facilitate iron absorption from the GI tract and to enable its mobilization from storage.”¹⁴
More Vitamin C = more iron.
As with most supplements, increasing just one element of your diet won’t necessarily solve your deficiency on its own and combined with other sources or simply having a more balanced diet ensures that your body is more likely to get all the nutrients it needs to function at its full potential.
GRIT Rejuvenation Lemon
Because low iron is such a wide-spread condition, we have made sure to include a healthy amount in our products and our Rejuvenation Lemon Bites do exactly what they say on the tin (packet).
We include 60% of your iron (11mg) for you as an athlete and also 200% of your Vitamin C, which ensures the maximum uptake of this iron for your body.
Our products are created with you in mind and we have made an excellent way to regularly fuel your body in a healthier and more sustainable way than supplements alone. Plus, they taste great!
Next time you reach for a pair of gloves, ask yourself how many other people you see wearing them and whether this could be a sign of more than just winter approaching.
GRIT is a company passionate about improving human performance through food & science.
Our knowledge is ever expanding with the latest research in nutrition and pharmacology so that we can create food that provides your brain and body with everything they need to ensure optimal performance.
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