Iron is an essential mineral that plays a vital role in the body. It’s an essential component in the production of red blood cells that carry oxygen to various parts of the body. Iron deficiency is a common nutritional deficiency that affects millions of people worldwide, particularly women. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll discuss everything to know about iron deficiency, including its signs, symptoms, causes, and treatment.
Signs and Symptoms
Some of the signs and symptoms of iron deficiency include:
2. Dizziness and lightheadedness
3. Shortness of breath
4. Cold hands and feet
5. Pale skin color
6. Fast or irregular heartbeat
7. Brittle nails
8. Cravings for non-nutritive substances, such as dirt or ice (pica)
9. Headache, leg cramps, restless legs or tingling in the legs
10. Poor appetite
Iron deficiency is a common nutritional disorder that can occur due to various factors, including inadequate dietary intake, increased iron losses, malabsorption, and increased iron demand. Here are some real-world examples of how lifestyle factors and disease states can lead to iron deficiency:
Inadequate dietary intake: A diet lacking in iron-rich foods can often lead to iron deficiency. This is particularly true for vegetarians and vegans who may not consume enough iron-rich plant-based foods. Also, infants and young children who are not receiving adequate iron through their diet may develop iron deficiency.
Increased iron losses due to bleeding: Women are more susceptible to iron deficiency due to menstrual blood loss, which can result in a loss of 30-40 milliliters of blood per cycle, leading to iron depletion and anemia if not compensated by adequate iron intake.
Malabsorption: Certain medical conditions such as celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and gastric bypass surgery can interfere with the absorption of iron from food, leading to iron deficiency.
Increased iron demand during pregnancy: Pregnant women require higher levels of iron to support the growth and development of the fetus. Failure to meet these demands can lead to iron deficiency and anemia in pregnant women.
Blood loss due to injury or surgery: Blood loss due to injury or surgery can lead to iron deficiency anemia, especially if the individual has inadequate iron stores.
Treatment for iron deficiency includes dietary changes and iron supplements. Iron-rich foods include lean meat, seafood, fortified cereals, and leafy green vegetables. Iron supplements can help increase iron levels in the body. However, it is important to consult a healthcare provider, as excessive iron intake can be harmful. Occasionally, sever iron deficiency may require an intravenous infusion.
There are many different iron supplements to choose from. Guidance under a Naturopathic Doctor or Nutritionist can help direct an informed decision. In my experience a heme iron polypeptide is best tolerated.
Recommendation: NFH Heme Iron SAP
The best way to prevent iron deficiency is by consuming an adequate amount of iron-rich foods. Some iron-rich foods include lean meats, fish, eggs, fortified cereals, beans, lentils, tofu, and nuts. It is important to include these foods in one’s diet to maintain healthy iron levels in the body.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the recommended daily allowance of iron for women aged 19-50 is 18 milligrams per day. During pregnancy, the recommended daily allowance increases to 27 milligrams. It is important to note that too much iron can also be harmful, so it is essential to consult a healthcare provider before taking any iron supplements.
Another way to increase the absorption of iron in the body is by consuming vitamin-C rich foods, such as citrus fruits, berries, kiwi, and tomatoes. Vitamin C enhances the absorption of non-heme iron, which is the type of iron found in plant-based foods and no heme based iron supplements.
It is also a good idea to have iron levels checked regularly by your physician or naturopath. This is especially important for women during their menstrual years.
Iron deficiency can be a serious condition, but it’s preventable and treatable. Have your iron level checked regularly and If you experience any signs of iron deficiency, it is important to seek medical attention. You can increase your iron levels through dietary changes and iron supplements. Understanding the importance of iron in our body is vital, particularly for women who are more susceptible to iron deficiency. By raising awareness about iron deficiency, we can safeguard our health and improve our quality of life.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021). Iron and Iron Deficiency. https://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/iron/index.html
- National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. (2021). Iron. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Iron-HealthProfessional/
- World Health Organization. (2019). Iron deficiency anaemia. https://www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/iron-deficiency-anaemia