Friday, November 02, 2007

Women, Iron Deficiencies, and Chronic Coughs

tidbits that tantalizeIt's The Iron?

It's that time of year...

Trips to the drugstore to replenish the cough drops become as routine as your morning stops at Starbucks. Sure, the leaves are changing color and beginning to swirl softly to the ground. But, it's the ever-present tickle in your throat and constant coughing that tells you fall is here and winter is on its way.

Or, at least, that's how it may seem for some otherwise healthy women.

Which begs the question: why do women more frequently suffer from unexplained chronic coughs than men?

Dr. Caterina Bucca, of the University of Turin, suggests the persistent coughs experienced by women may have nothing to do with their respiratory system as such. She studied a group of 16 women, all healthy and without complicating factors, to assess the reason for their chronic coughs. The women had normal lung function, and no asthma or other respiratory disease.

What did she find?

It's all about the iron.

In all 16 women, Dr. Bucca found an iron deficiency. This resulted in inflamed mucous membranes, as well as sensitive vocal cords and, of course, the previously unexplained chronic cough.

Dr. Bucca points out that women are naturally more susceptible to iron deficiencies due to pregnancy and menstruation. Fortunately, the fix is quite simple - a bit of iron supplementation should do the trick. After 2 months of iron supplements, the coughing and inflammation of the vocal cords completely resolved, or greatly improved, in the 16 women.

So, next time you find yourself struggling with a chronic cough, ask your doctor about "pumping a little iron." It may be just the tonic your throat needs...

To read more about the study, see this from Reuters. To read more about the signs and symptoms of iron deficiency, see this from the Mayo Clinic.


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