Thinking about your iron levels lately? Like most people, we don’t always remember to stop and think about things like this.
But, if you’ve been a smoker for quite some time, you should definitely be asking yourself, “Does smoking affect my iron levels?”
Smokers are at the highest risk of suffering iron deficiency-related conditions due to smoking, along with a host of other problems it can cause in their heart, lungs, and stomach, along with their sexual needs and ability to conceive.
In this post, we’ll learn more about how smoking affects your iron levels and what you can do to potentially restore them.
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Why Are Iron Levels Important to Maintain?
Before diving deeper, it’s important to know about the importance of iron in the body.
The iron we absorb from the food we eat or supplements is essential for the formation of red blood cells and the transportation of oxygen throughout the body.
Basically, it improves your circulation and blood oxygenation, helping the heart do its job and blood deliver other essential nutrients everywhere in your body.
Most importantly, iron supports the immune system, so it’s a good guess that any factors that disrupt the balance of iron in the body can cause significant health issues and leave you vulnerable to them if you don’t stop smoking.
So, does smoking affect your iron levels? Yes, it does. The 7,000 dangerous chemicals in smoke of any kind, including cigarette smoke, will disrupt your iron intake enough to cause long-term harm.
Can Smoking Cause Anemia?
With chemicals from cigarette smoke disrupting your iron intake, your iron levels (and red blood cells) will likely take a nosedive.
Anemia is a condition characterized by a reduced number of red blood cells, a decreased amount of hemoglobin in the blood, or both.
Smoking has been shown to reduce the level of vitamin C in the body, a crucial nutrient that protects the body and increases iron level absorption. Furthermore, smokers were found to have reduced vitamin B12 and folate levels, which are essential for blood production.
Can Smoking Cause Iron Deficiency?
Clearly, we can easily see how smoking is directly linked to anemia and how it significantly reduces iron levels in the body.
Aside from reducing blood levels and affecting hemoglobin production, smoking also exposes the body to oxidative stress with the increased presence of free radicals in the body, which have an adverse effect on how the body absorbs iron.
Chemicals in cigarette smoke have also been linked to increased inflammation in the body. Inflammation is not only painful for smokers, but the body also uses what iron it has to reduce inflammation.
Lastly, smoking also raises the risk of stomach problems, which can worsen and cause internal bleeding if smokers don’t stop for good.
Other Effects of Iron Deficiency
If your iron levels don’t improve, your body will struggle to cope and may cause the following conditions – all of which can be greatly improved by quitting smoking.
Weaker Immune System: Iron is essential for the proper functioning of the immune system. Iron deficiency can compromise the body’s ability to fight off infections.
Increased Risk of Lung Complications: Smoking already poses a significant risk to lung health, and iron deficiency can worsen this condition. Insufficient iron delivered to the lungs can increase the symptoms of COPD and other critical lung illnesses.
Higher Risk of Heart Problems: As mentioned, your iron intake improves the transport of oxygen to the heart and other tissues. Poor iron levels will contribute to heart problems, aside from the other raised risk factors associated with smoking.
A High Risk of Complications Before and After Birth: We understand that smoking can be hard to quit even for pregnant women, but it’s important to know that iron deficiency in expectant mothers can lead to serious complications before and after childbirth.
Mothers with low iron levels during pregnancy have a higher risk of preterm birth and possibly low birth weight, and developmental problems in the infant.
How to Improve Iron Levels
If you are a smoker at risk of iron deficiency, it’s crucial to quit smoking and take steps to improve your iron levels. Here are some dietary choices that can help you maintain healthy iron levels:
Meat: Animal-based sources of iron, such as red meat, poultry, and fish, are rich in heme iron, which is more easily absorbed by the body compared to non-heme iron found in plant-based foods.
Dark Leafy Vegetables: Foods like spinach, kale, and broccoli are good sources of non-heme iron. To enhance absorption, pair them with vitamin C-rich foods, which help the body absorb iron more efficiently, especially if you’re a motivated smoker on a quit journey and want to be healthier.
Iron-Fortified Foods: Many cereals, grains, and even some beverages are fortified with iron. These can be a useful addition to your everyday meals, especially if you have difficulty meeting your iron requirements through other sources. But keep in mind they should not make up the bulk of your daily diet.
Vitamin C-Rich Foods: Foods like citrus fruits, strawberries, and capsicum are excellent sources of vitamin C, which, as mentioned, is greatly important for increasing iron absorption.
Does smoking affect your iron levels? Yes, and it can also weaken your immune system and even lead to anemia. But, by quitting smoking and improving your diet, you can improve your blood levels and iron intake, helping you live a fuller and longer life.
If you’re struggling to quit smoking but want to have a healthier lifestyle, we can help you.
Smokefree Clinic gives you access to many medically reviewed and trustworthy resources that can inform and aid you in your path to wellness, so have a look around!
If you’re ready to get started, Smokefree can connect you to bulk-billing Australian healthcare professionals who excel in helping patients quit smoking for good, including using responsible vaping products where appropriate.
Click here to book your bulk-billed telehealth consultation with an Australian healthcare professional and quit smoking today.