Iron Supplements: Do You Need Them?


A poll result published on 26 Nov 2015 indicates that nearly 50% of females in Singapore may not be aware that they have iron deficiency. Doctors said that symptoms such as physical and mental fatigue, hair loss, brittle nails, may point to iron deficiency – but most people may put them down to stress and/or lack of sleep.

Iron deficiency is more often found in women who have heavy menstruations or are pregnant. While iron supplements may be readily available, doctors recommend a balanced diet as the best way to maintain healthy iron levels.

iron supplements

How about the reverse – iron overload?

In the article published by PhysiciansCommittee, iron is called a double-edged sword.

The body requires iron for healthy blood cells but beyond a certain level, iron becomes a dangerous substance as it acts as a catalyst for the formation of free radicals. Once the excess iron is absorbed by the digestive tract, the body stores it. Because of this, research studies have shown that higher amounts of iron in the blood mean higher risk of cancer.

In spite of advertising from health supplement manufacturers, iron overload exists and the tendency is higher for men and for women after menopause.


Major contributors to iron excess are taking vitamin and mineral supplements that contain iron. Some people may be taking certain multi-vitamins without knowing that there is iron in it. Other factors include eating excessive red meat and to some extent, processed foods that have iron added.

It was mentioned earlier that women with heavy menstruations may have iron deficiency. The reverse may be true for women after menopause or women who don’t menstruate regularly. Which explains why men have a higher tendency of iron overload – because they don’t menstruate!

Hence, it is prudent to have your doctor check your iron level before taking any supplements containing iron.

What are the symptoms of iron overload?

  • stomach pain
  • heart palpitations or chest pains
  • unexplained weakness
  • joint pain
  • unexplained fatigue

joint pain

The test used to check one’s iron level is known as ferritin. Ferritin is a protein that stores iron, releasing it when the body needs it. Ferritin is stored in the body’s cells until it’s time to make more red blood cells. Thus, if a person has an iron overload, it may take months before the normal level can be reached.

It’s an inexpensive test, likely costing less than a bottle of iron supplements, and it can help ensure that you do not over or under-consume iron.

For more information on integrated health management, visit www.vitalay.earth

Contributed by LayYong, Wellness Entrepreneur.


The Straits Times “Women not aware of iron deficiency”, Nov 26 2015

Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, Iron: The Double Edged Sword, www.pcrm.org

Photo credits: Pixabay and JustSaying.Asia

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Superfood Your Dessert with a DIY Acai Bowl

Superfoods is a recent term used on a whole group of foods that are high in nutritions but low in calories, perfect for getting your vitamins and proteins in without the popping of multiple pills. Not sure about you, but I much prefer to eat my vitamins and minerals.

The super berry Acai

The acai (pronounced as ah-sigh-ee) berry, is one such superfood and it comes from the Amazon forest. Prized as an important staple in the Amazonian diet for generations, did you know that the deep purple berry contains high natural antioxidants (the anthocyanin responsible for giving it the characteristic purple colour), essential amino acids, omega fatty acids, calcium, iron and even fibre. This means that the humble acai berry is capable of boosting one’s immunity and keep your body in balance.

acai bowl

Since we can’t get the fresh berries in Asia, the next best thing would be the freeze-dried powder as freeze drying still retains most of its nutritions. You can add the powder as a flavouring into your yoghurts, ice cream, smoothies or juices and the latest dessert trend is the delicious Acai Bowl. Making one is really not that tough and here’s the recipe which is vegan and vegetarian friendly:


1 medium sized frozen banana
1-2 heaped tablespoons Nature’s Superfoods Acai Berry Powder
1 tablespoon nut butter (cashew, almond etc)
1/3 cup iced water

For garnish:
Fresh cut fruit of your choice, sweet cacao nibs, pumpkin seeds or chia seeds


Blend the frozen banana with the berry powder, nut butter and iced water until you get a smooth consistency. Top it off with your choice of fresh cut fruit and seeds as well as the cacao nibs to give it a chocolatey flavour!


For our bowl, we added kombucha instead of iced water to give it some probiotics and topped it off with pine nuts, chlorophyll powder, chia seeds, passionfruit and cacao nibs. You can also add in protein powder (use the flavourless or vanilla flavoured ones) or maca powder to make it a complete meal. Enjoy!

Recipe from Nature’s Superfoods.

Photography by Melissa Fann.

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What is the Truth Behind Fish Oil?

We’ve talked about fish and the benefits that come with eating more fish as opposed to red meat or chicken. We’ve also talked about how different types of fish and fish oil can give you vitamins and proteins that can help with your health, from lowering your cholesterol to preventing cardiovascular disease.

One such type of fish were oily fishes such as the salmon or sardines, the oil secreted by these fishes contains high levels of Omega 3 fatty acids, which as stated above can help with cholesterol levels. There is more than one way of obtaining the Omega 3 effects that come from fish oil, with the most common one being supplements made with extracted fish oil.


The fish oil industry regularly sells these products as being necessary and beneficiary for a person’s health and wellness. However, the truth is far fishier than you’d usually think. It’s true that supplements made out of fish oils have become quite common, but not only could they not be as healthy as the fish oil industry wants you to think, but it might even be bad for your wellbeing and cause more problems and diseases.

This comes mostly from the fact that fish oil supplements are extracted from oily fishes such as sardines, usually in factories where sardines are processed through machines specialised in drawing the oil out of them. The problem with this approach is that, more often than not, this causes the oil to be exposed to oxygen for long amounts of times, and fish oil oxidises very quickly.

Oxidisation of fish oil is especially bad for these supplements. For one, oxidised oils contain high amounts of oxidised lipids and these fats can become harmful to the body and can trigger inflammatory responses in the body that, if untreated properly, can eventually lead to cardiovascular disease among other problems.


Dr Preston Mason, a Harvard University researcher, decided to test this out and had people compare the smells of off the counter supplements with that of prescription quality fish oils. What the subjects found was that not only did the supplements had a stronger odour but that they were a lot more oxidised than the prescription fish oils.

Dr Mason himself had already published a study that reviewed and investigated the levels of oxidation found in fish oil supplements. His result was consistent with many other studies, among them one from New Zealand which concluded that 83% of fish oil products failed to meet the industry’s standard for oxidisation after testing them.

Wanting to defend this, Adam Ismael, head of the GOED Fish Oil Trade Association had the company buy up to 47 products from the New Zealand market to check up on whether the oxidation levels were actually as high. The company was able to figure out that, while not as high as the previous New Zealand study stated, the standard of oxidation in fish oil products was around 20%, which while indeed shorter, is still pretty high when you consider that it’s people’s health that’s at risk.


That’s not the only problem that has arisen for fish oils. Even without the high oxidation levels, there is still the issue of whether fish oil products are as healthy as people want to treat them.

Epidemiologist, Dr Andrew Grey, decided to get to the bottom of this and compiled a list of articles and studies that all examined the benefits and makeup of fish oil products. What he found by looking through some of the most prestigious scientific journals was that there was no concrete evidence that fish oil supplements could prevent cardiovascular disease or heart attacks.

When this was brought to Adam Ismael in an interview he had with the Huffington Post, he was quick to mention the same studies that Grey had compiled as a way to defend fish oil. However, it seemed that he wasn’t aware of the fact that those studies either didn’t have enough evidence to back up their research or the evidence they did have could be considered faulty.


However, researchers agree that getting your fish oil from natural elements (from eating real fish) should still have benefits for the body and your health in regards to preventing cardiovascular disease and cholesterol levels. Even if the benefits are not quite as high as the fish industry wants you to believe at least, it’s something to keep in mind.


Photo Credits:  Organic Facts, The Conversation, Alibaba, The New York Times

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How to Deal with Inflammation

Everybody gets hurt – be it during sports or when we fall down. And when we get hurt, our body tries to cure itself, which leads to a familiar swelling or puffiness that’s called acute inflammation and is essentially the body’s way of repairing itself after it gets injured. Unfortunately, sometimes even the body doesn’t know when to turn this biological response off and it can lead to quite a few problems.


Even though inflammation is supposed to go down after a few days, sometimes it can remain. This is what’s known as Chronic Inflammation and, according to James Marion, M.D., a gastroenterologist, it happens when your brain keeps sending distress signals to the area of your body that was hurt. Even though the area has already recovered, your brain keeps thinking that it’s still hurt and thus, it never turns off the acute inflammation switch.

This could end up having the opposite effect on the body, as the constant inflammation can eventually cause problems for the organs in the body and even lead to infections. The worst part is that since everything happens inside your body, unless you’re constantly checking on the inflamed area, you won’t feel a thing about what’s going on.

Chronic Inflammation doesn’t come from just that though, it can also be a lead-in to other diseases like lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, and multiple sclerosis. All of this can lead to deterioration in the body’s health and then an even worse outcome.


But while it’s still up in the air as to how Chronic Inflammation can be prevented, there has been a lot of research done on how it can be diminished. Of course, the result of this can vary from person to person and, again, none of it has been fully established as viable solutions for every case.

So how can you reduce inflammation in your body?

One of the best ways to reduce the risk of inflammation is to try and get rid of vices like smoking, since those can also lead to chronic inflammation. Other than that, leading a healthy diet will also improve your chances of diminishing or protecting against it. Eating foods rich in probiotics (such as yoghurt, kimchi or kombucha etc) or antioxidants will help keep the balance within your body.


However, if you’re too busy to remember what to eat (or not to eat), there are supplements to help you. Especially for probiotics, where the amount of viable bacteria is essential to maintain gut health and therefore regulate your digestive system. Unless you eat yoghurt, kimchi and other fermented foods regularly, you might want to consume a supplement such as Bios Life’s Probionic. With 5 billion cells per 100g, you can be assured that you’re getting sufficient amounts to maintain good flora in your intestines.

The reason why vegetables help with inflammation is not the fibre per se but also the chlorophyll present. Chlorophyll cells mimics the body’s natural red blood cells and therefore, when consumed, the chlorophyll cells help to transport oxygen and waste through the blood to the organs for detoxification. Thus, if you’re having any sort of inflammation, it helps to boost the chlorophyll intake with Chlorophyll Powder and help fight any infections.

Antioxidants have been talked a lot, especially for its cancer prevention properties but similarly, antioxidants help alleviate inflammation by working on the inflamed muscle tissues. We really like Jeunesse’s Reserve, which is made up of completely natural ingredients such as cherries, grapeseed, aloe vera and grapes and delivered in a gel that is quickly absorbed because the receptors in our mouth think of the gel to be similar to that of our saliva.

While chronic inflammation can appear suddenly and there still isn’t a clear reason why, doctors advise to keep its effects in mind and as our experts have mentioned in our weekly Expert Views, stretching and exercise is also very important in the treatment of inflammation and pain. This is all the more reason why we have to constantly be mindful of what’s going on with our bodies so that we can react and take care of it before things become complicated. So, if you’re someone who suffers from chronic inflammation, we recommend taking a look at the products but also do consult your doctor on what foods to eat or what treatments could help you.

Photo Credit: Woman to Woman, Garma on Health, Jeunesse, Health.com

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Melissa’s Table Top Talk Episode 14: So You Don’t Think You Need To Detox?

There has been a lot of talk about going on detox diets by health ‘gurus’ or wellness-related companies but is there a medical or scientific basis to this? Also, quite a few medical doctors have said that it is not necessary to go for any detox diet because the body itself has a natural detoxification system.

This week, we discuss this topic with wellness coach Chong Su Lee as she gives her view on detox and why it is important to do so at least annually. We also received quite interesting comments from a viewer who informed us that livestock imported into Singapore does not contain any hormone injections!

Catch the ‘live’ version of Melissa’s Table Top Talk every Tue, 8.30pm (Singapore Time) at Wellness Insider’s Facebook page. To be updated on the latest episodes, you can also subscribe via our YouTube channel.

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