It is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies that affect millions of people around the world. Here are some ways to catch it before it's too late.
The level of iron in your body can make you feel energetic and full of life, where you can take on the world, or it can make you feel extremely dull with zero motivation and energy to do anything during the day. Iron has an extremely crucial role to play in your body. When there aren’t enough red blood cells in your body, it is likely that you are developing iron deficiency anemia, and as the name suggests, it happens when there is a dip in the levels of iron in your body. And when you notice signs of a deficiency, you can take steps to stop yourself from experiencing the severity of the symptoms.
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute highlights how you might not even be able to notice the symptoms at first because they might appear in mild or moderate levels. Later on, more severe symptoms might start appearing.
People who have a higher risk of developing iron-deficiency anemia are pregnant women and women who experience heavy bleeding during their menstrual periods. According to the Office on Women’s Health, pregnant women need to pay extra attention to their iron intake for their child’s development, because one out of six pregnant women experiences iron deficiency. Moreover, iron deficiency anemia is also developed by 5% of women (who are around the childbearing age) because of heavy flow during their menstrual cycles.
Dr. Thierry Teil, Global Head Medical Affairs, Vifor Pharma, said in an interview that one of the most common nutritional deficiencies is iron deficiency, affecting three to five billion people across the world. It’s best to keep these symptoms at the back of your mind, or take a good hard look and check whether you are experiencing any of these symptoms and correct the levels of iron in your body in case they are not at healthy levels. Here are some of the major symptoms of iron deficiency:
When your body does not have enough iron content, it starts pulling out the moisture and the natural blush of your skin. The hemoglobin is responsible for adding the rosiness to your cheeks and color to your skin. If your iron intake is insufficient, then apart from paleness you may also notice that the redness of your gums and inside of your lips has reduced.
As you brush your hair every day, you might start noticing an increase in the hair getting tangled in your brush, or you might notice that your skin is becoming excessively dry. Both damaged hair and skin are effects that are caused by an iron deficiency. When there isn’t enough iron to produce hemoglobin in your red blood cells, it gets in the way of carrying oxygen to the nooks and crannies of your body. Because of insufficient oxygen, your body prioritizes the available oxygen for more important functions. Therefore, the oxygen directed towards your skin and hair is compromised so that your organs and bodily tissues are getting enough oxygen. This makes you experience both dry hair and dry skin.
One of the common medical conditions that have been associated with Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) is iron deficiency anemia. This is when you feel extremely restless because of unpleasant sensations that are occurring in your legs or other parts of your body. You find that you are experiencing the uncontrollable feeling of wanting to keep your legs moving constantly to ease the uncomfortable feeling. Dr. Mary Jane Brown also wrote that among the people who experience this condition, 25 percent of them are seen to have iron deficiency anemia. The symptoms can heighten depending on how severe the iron deficiency is.
One of the lesser known signs of an iron deficiency is having strange and unusual non-food cravings for things like mud, dirt, ice, etc. This is known as pica. The condition is known to be temporary and usually occurs in children and pregnant women.
If lately, you have been feeling extremely dull, you’ve been failing to concentrate on your tasks or been feeling cranky for no good reason, it could be because of an iron deficiency. One of the most common effects of iron deficiency is feeling overly tired and exhausted. Because of the drop in oxygen in your body, your muscles and tissues are not getting as much oxygen as they need. This makes you extra tired especially because your heart now has to go into overdrive to get enough oxygen across your body.
Earlier, you may have not noticed yourself panting after running up a flight of stairs. But lately, you have been noticing that you easily run out of breath even when you’re doing things that you usually do. Insufficient intake of iron can make you experience shortness of breath more often than usual because there isn’t enough oxygen for your body to work with.
This could be a sign of your body crying for more oxygen and crying for more iron as well. Low levels of hemoglobin mean that your heart has to work harder to pump oxygen in your body, which can result in heart palpitations, where your heart races unusually fast or abnormally.
Your tongue is no exception to the effects of low iron in your body. What you may notice as an effect of insufficient iron is the inflammation of your tongue, also known as Glossitis). Our body contains a protein called myoglobin which is an iron and oxygen-binding protein, found in the muscle tissue of the tongue. Lower levels of myoglobin can cause the tongue to become sore, smooth, and swollen. You may find that your tongue has an unusual redness or is feeling uncomfortably sore.
If you have been dealing with headaches more often than usual, it could be because of an iron deficiency. Along with headaches, you might also feel a little lightheaded and dizzy because your brain is not receiving the oxygen it needs to function properly. Without enough oxygen, your brain’s blood vessels might swell, and this increases the pressure and makes you experience headaches.
When your iron deficiency is growing more severe, the more rare symptoms start to emerge. Along with other parts of your body growing weak, your nails also start showing signs of an iron deficiency. When there isn’t enough iron in your body, you notice that your nails are extremely brittle and might easily crack at the slightest pressure. This condition is known as koilonychia.
A change in your diet can supply your body with the adequate amount of iron it needs. The most ideal amount of iron that women aged 19–50 require is 18 mg, while adults older than 51 would require 8 mg. Note that pregnant women would require a higher intake of 27 mg. While breastfeeding, teens would require 10 mg and older breastfeeding women would require 9 mg.
If you’re looking to add more iron into your diet, include seafood and healthy amounts of lean meat and poultry into your meals. For breakfast, you can choose to have iron-fortified breakfast cereals topped with some nuts and dried fruits. Lunch and dinner can include some white beans, lentils, spinach, kidney beans, and peas.