Tea and coffee affect iron absorption

Iron absorption

Tannins in tea and coffee affect iron absorption


Tea, coffee, red wine, dark chocolate, most berries and other food sources contain substances called tannins.  Tannins cause the dry feeling in your mouth after having these drinks and foods.  There are two types of tannins and one of the types stops our body from absorbing non-heme iron because it latches on to it.  Non-heme iron is the type of iron that comes from iron supplements and plant foods.

What does this mean for iron absorption?

What all of this means is that having a cup of tea or coffee with a meal or iron supplement can reduce the amount of non-heme iron we absorb from this by up to 70%.  I used to be guilty of taking my vitamins with a cup of tea until I discovered this.

What you should do to improve iron absorption

It was discovered in a study that adding milk to tea or coffee made no difference to iron absorption.  It was, however, found that adding lemon reduced or took away the effect of tannins on iron.  This is due to the vitamin C in lemon.  Vitamin C in food or supplement form helps our body to absorb iron.  Some iron supplements contain vitamin C for this reason.  It is also suggested to take an iron supplement with orange juice.

For those of us that love our tea and coffee it is advisable to drink this between meals and not with meals.  Having an hour between meals/supplements and a cup of our brew is a good idea.  Black tea contains the most tannins though green tea contains a small amount.  Herbal teas that are high in vitamin C probably don’t affect iron absorption.



Eczema prevention and treatment


Most of us have probably seen what eczema looks like.  Eczema is more common in young children and people who also suffer with asthma and allergies.   Children who suffer with eczema may outgrow it.  Another name for eczema is atopic dermatitis.  Dermatitis means inflammation of the skin and atopy means having a predisposition to allergic things.

Eczema symptoms

Eczema symptoms include; redness, itching and dryness.  These symptoms usually occur in patches in the creases of the elbows, behind the knees, around the ankles, neck and wrists and may occur on the face and head.

Eczema sufferers often have dry and sensitive skin generally.  When eczema gets worse this is called a “flare up”.

Causes of eczema flare ups

  • Skin dryness
  • Skin irritants such as soap, bubblebath, chemicals, woollen clothes, perfume
  • Over heating
  • Stress
  • Contact with some fabrics
  • Contact with sand, grass, chlorine in pools
  • Contact with dust mites, animals

Preventing eczema flare ups

The most important thing anyone can do to keep their skin healthy and prevent flare ups is to keep the skin well moisturised.  This is important for everyone, not just eczema sufferers.  Using a soap free wash or aqueous cream to clean our skin without removing the skins natural oils is the first important step.  The second step is to moisturise after bathing as our skin absorbs so much more when our pores are open.  It is important to use a moisturiser without additives.

Treating eczema flare ups

Your Doctor or Pharmacist can provide creams for flare ups.  It’s a good idea to treat flare ups quickly so that they resolve quicker.  Corticosteroid creams are the most common type of cream and when used appropriately are unlikely to have side effects.  It is important to keep using a moisturiser even if an extra cream has been prescribed for treatment.

If the skin is really dry using a skin oil available from the pharmacy really helps and can be added to bath water or sprayed on the skin after showering.

If the skin is especially itchy use an oatmeal based wash or put half a cup of oats in a stocking, tie it up and place in the bath.

See the MiEssence Body Care range for products suitable for eczema prone skin.

Let’s look at………antihistamines




Now that Spring is upon us let’s take a closer look at antihistamines.  Histamine is a substance that our body releases when we are exposed to an allergen.  An allergen is something that we are allergic to.  Histamine makes our nose, ears, throat, eyes and skin itchy and sometimes swollen as well as making us sneeze and our nose run.  These symptoms are our body’s way of getting the allergen out of us.

As the name suggests antihistamines act against histamine.


Types of antihistamines

There are two types of antihistamines; the newer style non-sedating antihistamines and older sedating antihistamines.  Sedate means to make drowsy.


When can antihistamines be taken?

If you are experiencing symptoms such as those above then you can take an antihistamine.  It will make the symptoms less severe as our body copes with the allergy.

Hay fever is one condition that can cause these symptoms.  Others include hives (itchy swollen skin) and insect bites and stings.

Older sedating antihistamines are also commonly used to treat insomnia and prevent and treat travel sickness.


When should antihistamines not be taken?

If someone suffers with severe allergies (anaphylaxis) antihistamines are not effective enough and an EpiPen (prescribed by a Doctor) should be used instead.

There is only one antihistamine that is Category A (safe) in the first two trimesters of pregnancy which is one of the sedating antihistamines, Polaramine.

Anyone with the rare disorder acute porphyria should not take an antihistamine.

Some people with kidney and liver problems should not take antihistamines.

Other reasons not to take antihistamines exist so always check with you Doctor or Pharmacist if you are not sure.


How to take antihistamines

There are many brands available of antihistamines so I will list the ingredient name as well as the original brand name.  The most common non-sedating antihistamines fexofenadine (Telfast), loratadine (Claratyne) and cetirizine (Zyrtec) are taken once daily as they last 24 hours.  Children over the age of one (Telfast and Claratyne) and two (Zyrtec) can be given these antihistamines.

The main sedating antihistamines are promethazine (Phenergan) and dexchlorpheniramine (Polaramine).  These may be needed more than once per day.  Children over the age of two can be given these antihistamines.

Of the other sedating antihistamines the one most commonly used for insomnia is doxylamine (Restavit).


Side effects of antihistamines

Drowsiness is the main side effect and can happen even with non-sedating antihistamines in some people.  Dry mouth and headache are also possible.  These side effects usually don’t last long.