When most people think of iron, they picture the metal that is used in construction.
This same exact metal is also essential for creating healthy cells throughout the human body.
Unfortunately, iron deficiency is the most common type of nutritional deficiency in the United States according to MedicineNet.
Iron deficiency can lead to a lot of health problems, so it is important to recognize it and start treating it as soon as possible.
If you are wondering whether or not you have an iron deficiency, keep reading this article.
We will tell you all the symptoms of iron deficiency and show you how to add more iron to your diet.
Why Does Your Body Need Iron?
Iron is an essential part of good health because it is used to create a variety of cells and bodily functions.
One of the iron’s most important functions is to bind oxygen to red blood cells so they can be carried throughout the body.
According to the experts at Nelsons Healthcare, iron also helps to make the enzymes that are used to manufacturer important hormones and amino acids throughout the body.
The body needs iron to properly convert glucose into energy, so you need iron just to move around easily.
What Makes Iron Deficiency Happen?
The human body cannot produce iron naturally, and iron is constantly being lost when you sweat, urinate, defecate, or bleed.
The American Family Physician Journal finds that people lose a milligram of iron a day on average.
Therefore, people need to get enough iron in their diet to meet their body’s needs.
Iron deficiency can happen even when you are eating enough iron if your body is not able to properly absorb all the iron.
Compounds in dairy products, caffeinated beverages, and legumes can all impair iron absorption.
You may also get a deficiency if you have a parasite, are pregnant, are taking antacids, or frequently lose a lot of blood.
What Conditions Are Caused by Iron Deficiency?
Iron deficiency is so dangerous because it keeps the body from working properly.
Without iron, people develop iron deficiency anemia which means their body is not getting the oxygen it needs.
According to the World Health Organization, iron deficiency anemia can greatly reduce overall health and heighten a person’s chances of developing other serious health conditions.
Iron deficiency can be particularly dangerous for pregnant women, infants, and children.
Without enough iron to produce everything the body needs, children are far more likely to suffer from physical or cognitive development.
What Are the Symptoms of an Iron Deficiency?
Most of the signs of an iron deficiency are signs that the body is not getting enough oxygen. People who have anemia due to iron deficiency may look pale and blue.
They will frequently feel tired and weak, and they might get dizzy or nauseous. Those with iron deficiencies are often very short of breath.
Other common symptoms of iron deficiency anemia are trouble concentrating during work or school and unusually cold body temperature.
This is particularly noticeable in the hands and feet which may feel icey.
Some people may notice that the whites of their eyes look slightly blue, and the membranes around the eyes, mouth, and nose may be very pale.
There are also some other symptoms of iron deficiency that appear even among people who are not anemic.
These symptoms include tongue inflammations, a higher rate of infections, more frequent illnesses, impaired healing time, and slow development during childhood. Nails and hair may become brittle.
What Should You Do If You Suspect an Iron Deficiency?
If you think you have an iron deficiency, it is helpful to get an idea of how much iron you eat each day.
The current government guidelines for iron intakes are about 14 milligrams a day for children until the age of 11, 16 milligrams a day until the age of 19, 20 milligrams a day for men, and 19 milligrams a day for women.
You will need to visit your doctor to discuss your health problems with them. The doctor can test your current iron levels to confirm whether or not there is a deficiency.
If you seem to be eating enough iron each day, the doctor may need to do additional tests and exams to see why your body is either not absorbing iron or using more iron than normal.
Once your iron deficiency is confirmed, you will need to follow your doctor’s recommendation to improve iron levels. For severe cases, an immediate transfusion may be needed.
Those with anemia may need to take iron supplements that contain higher than normal doses of iron for a few months. In very mild cases, all you might need to do is improve your diet.
How Can You Get More Iron in Your Diet?
Some of the best sources of iron include beef liver, chicken liver, clams, mussels, and oysters.
You can also get reasonably high amounts of iron from beef, turkey, chicken, pork, and fish.
Vegetarian sources of iron are typically leafy greens and legumes. Beans, tofu, pumpkin seeds, dried apricots, chickpeas, broccoli, spinach, cashews, almonds, and brown rice also contain a decent amount of iron.
Many breakfast cereals, bread, and other grain products are also enhanced with iron supplements to provide a little more nutrition.
Of course, eating all this iron will not be helpful unless your body can actually absorb it.
According to US National Library of Medicine, A study found that vitamin C greatly increases iron absorption when it is taken alongside iron.
Vitamin C helps to convert iron to forms that are more easily used by the body.
To increase your iron absorption rate, it is necessary to understand the different types of iron.
All iron is either heme iron, found only in animal products, or nonheme iron that is found in plant and animal-based products. The body absorbs heme iron far more easily.
Watch this video to learn more about the difference between heme and nonheme iron.
If you get most of your iron from nonheme iron, you will need a higher overall iron intake.