Iron Deficiency: Everything You Need To Know

Iron is a mineral whose primary function is to transport oxygen throughout the body in the hemoglobin of red blood cells to make energy. 

Iron also aids in the removal of carbon dioxide. 

A disorder known as iron deficiency anemia develops when the body’s iron levels become so low that not enough normal red blood cells can be formed to carry oxygen efficiently.

Although iron is commonly available in food, some people, such as adolescent girls and women aged 19 to 50, may not obtain enough regularly. 

It is also a source of concern for young children and pregnant or potentially pregnant women.

What Is Meant By Iron Deficiency?

Iron is a mineral required for producing red blood cells, which are necessary for a healthy immune system, brain function, muscle strength, and vitality. 

Its primary function is in red blood cells, where it aids in the formation of the protein hemoglobin. 

Hemoglobin transports oxygen from the lungs to all body cells, allowing them to function correctly.

When there isn’t enough iron in the body, it’s called an iron deficiency.

Because the body cannot produce iron, it must obtain it from food. Iron deficiency occurs when you do not consume as much iron as you use each day.

It’s critical to have the right quantity of iron in your body. 

Anemia can develop if you have a low iron level. It is harmful to have too much iron in your body. The most frequent nutritional condition in the world is iron deficiency.

What Symptoms Indicate You’re Iron Deficient?

Iron deficiency anemia can be so subtle at first that it goes unnoticed.

However, when the body’s iron deficiency worsens and anemia worsens, the signs and symptoms become more severe.

The following are some of the indications and symptoms of iron deficiency anemia:

  • Extreme exhaustion and weakness
  • Chest discomfort, rapid heartbeat, or shortness of breath 
  • Pale skin
  • Dizziness, light-headedness, or headache
  • Hands and feet are chilly
  • Tongue inflammation or discomfort
  • Nails are brittle
  • Cravings for non-nutritive substances 
  • Poor appetite

When Should You See A Doctor?

Consult your doctor if you or your kid develops signs and symptoms of iron deficiency anemia. 

It’s not a good idea to self-diagnose or treat at home. 

Rather than taking iron supplements on your own, consult your doctor for a diagnosis. 

Excess iron accumulation can harm your liver and cause other difficulties, so overdoing it with iron can be dangerous.

What Are The Causes Of Iron Deficiency?

Iron deficiency has three primary causes.

  1. Inadequate Intake Of Iron-Rich Foods 

Iron is a mineral that your body can store but not produce. 

Food is the only source of iron. Some people require a higher level of iron than others. 

Children, teenagers (particularly girls), females who have periods, pregnant women, and breastfeeding women are the persons who require the most iron. 

For the first year, babies require breast milk or iron-fortified formula. Iron deficiency is more frequent in babies who drink cow’s milk instead. 

Those who eat a vegetarian or vegan diet are likewise at a higher risk.

2. Iron Absorption Issues

The stomach and intestine absorb iron from meals. 

Coeliac illness, for example, affects how much iron is absorbed. You may not be able to absorb as much iron if you’ve had stomach surgery. 

3. Blood Loss

When you lose blood due to any bleeding, you also lose iron. 

Excess blood loss is most commonly caused by heavy menstrual cycles and stomach or intestinal bleeding, which can be caused by aspirin or other anti-inflammatory medications, ulcers, colon polyps, or cancer. 

Other factors include:

  • Giving blood too frequently.
  • Losing blood due to surgery.
  • Certain gastrointestinal disorders like inflammatory bowel disease.
  • Parasite infections like hookworms.

Who Are At Risk?

These individuals may be at a higher risk of iron deficiency anemia:

Women

Women are more likely to develop iron deficiency anemia because they lose blood during menstruation.

Children And Infants

Infants who do not obtain enough iron from breast milk or formula, especially those born preterm or with low birth weight, may be at risk of iron deficiency. 

During growth spurts, children require more iron. Your child may be at risk of anemia if they do not eat a healthy, diversified diet.

Vegetarians

If they don’t eat other iron-rich foods, people who don’t eat meat may have a higher risk of iron deficiency anemia.

Frequent Blood Donors 

Blood donation can deplete iron storage. Therefore people who donate blood frequently may be at a higher risk of iron deficiency anemia. 

Low hemoglobin levels associated with blood donation may be a transient issue resolved by consuming more iron-rich foods. 

Ask your doctor if you should be concerned if you’re told you can’t donate blood due to low hemoglobin.

How To Prevent Iron Deficiency?

By eating iron-rich foods, you can lower your risk of iron deficiency anemia.

Iron-rich foods include:

  • Pork, poultry, and red meat
  • Seafood
  • Beans
  • Spinach and other dark green leafy veggies
  • Raisins and apricots are examples of dried fruit
  • Cereals, bread, and pasta with added iron
  • Peas

Meat provides your body with more iron than other food sources.

If you don’t consume meat, you may need to increase your intake of iron-rich plant-based meals to absorb the same amount of iron as someone who does.

To improve iron absorption, eat meals high in vitamin C.

Drinking citrus juice or eating other vitamin C-rich foods simultaneously as eating high-iron foods will help your body absorb more iron. 

Citrus liquids, such as orange juice, contain vitamin C, which aids in absorbing dietary iron.

Vitamin C can be found in the following foods:

  • Broccoli
  • Grapefruit
  • Kiwi
  • Greens with lots of leaves
  • Melons
  • Oranges
  • Peppers
  • Strawberries
  • Tangerines
  • Tomatoes

What Is The Treatment For Iron Deficiency?

Your doctor may first do an investigation to determine the source of the iron shortage. 

This is to rule out the possibility of a severe disease being the source of the problem. If your doctor discovers a cause, you will require the appropriate treatment.

The next stage is to restore normal iron levels in the body. This can be accomplished in a variety of ways. 

For example, taking iron supplements in the form of tablets or liquids. 

Receive an intravenous iron infusion or a blood transfusion (in extreme situations).

If you take iron supplements, you’ll have to take them for at least a few months, if not longer. 

They may cause constipation and darken your feces (poo), so your doctor may advise you to use a stool softener to aid with this. 

Iron supplements should only be taken under medical supervision because taking more than the authorized dose can cause poisoning, and they can also interact with other minerals in your body as well as your immune system.

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