Boosting Your Teen's Energy: Vital Information for Parents
Parents of menstruating teens, listen up! Many teens, especially those assigned female at birth, often experience overwhelming fatigue. It's a common concern for parents, but the culprit may surprise you: iron deficiency. A recent study in JAMA revealed that a staggering 40% of US individuals assigned female at birth aged 12 to 21 were deficient in iron. Let's dive into the details.
The Importance of Iron: What's the rub? Surprisingly, routine screening for iron deficiency isn't the norm for this age group. US guidelines recommend screening only for iron-deficient anemia every 5-10 years, but here's the kicker: this recent study found that only 6% of the participants had anemia, while 40% had iron deficiency. This means that iron deficiency can exist without anemia, making it easy to miss through routine screenings.
Iron's Role in Vitality: So, what's iron got to do with your teen's vitality? Well, our bone marrow needs iron to produce red blood cells, along with essential nutrients like B vitamins and copper. Within these red blood cells is a critical component called hemoglobin. Think of it as an Uber for oxygen, with iron at the center, serving as a seat for oxygen molecules. Hemoglobin transports oxygen from the lungs to the cells, boosting energy levels. Iron also plays a crucial role in converting inactive thyroid hormone into active forms, a key factor in feeling optimally energized.
Taking Action: Wondering what you can do? The best way to test for iron deficiency is through a blood test for ferritin. It's a simple procedure, but your healthcare provider should proactively order it and interpret the results correctly. I often recommend ferritin testing for fatigued teen girls.
Benefits for Your Kids: What's in it for your children? If ferritin levels are low, dietary changes and/or supplementation can usually correct the deficiency. This means your kids can have more energy for sports, studies, and enjoying life.
Considerations and Safety: Is there any downside to addressing iron deficiency? While it's crucial to correct it, too much iron can lead to toxicity, causing symptoms like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal discomfort. In severe cases, medical intervention may be necessary. Before starting any iron supplementation, it's essential to schedule a visit to test iron levels and rule out other potential causes of your child's fatigue.
Think your teen may have undiagnosed iron deficiency?
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Reference: For more details, check out the study in JAMA: "Prevalence of Iron Deficiency and Iron-Deficiency Anemia in US Females Aged 12-21 Years, 2003-2020" by Weyand AC, Chaitoff A, Freed GL, Sholzberg M, Choi SW, McGann PT, published in JAMA (2023;329(24):2191–2193).