Iron deficiency is one of the most prevalent nutritional deficiencies. High-risk groups include women (adolescent and pregnant) and young children due to either increased body needs or increased loss of blood. The depletion of iron stores in the body can eventually lead to iron deficiency anemia.
Iron, being an important dietary mineral helps in the transport of oxygen in the blood and other body functions. Low iron symptoms include chronic fatigue, tiredness, and decreased immunity.
Through our current series, we are focussing on one of the most important and prevalent minerals in the body – IRON. Our earlier post covered major symptoms of iron deficiency, the current post covers key reasons, and an upcoming post will cover on natural ways to boost iron levels!
Who is most at risk for iron deficiency?
- Young children and pregnant women are at higher risk of iron deficiency because of rapid growth and higher iron needs.
- Adolescent girls and women of childbearing age are at risk due to menstruation.
- Among children, iron deficiency is seen most often between six months and three years of age due to rapid growth and inadequate intake of dietary iron.
Main causes of iron deficiency!
Inadequate dietary intake
There are two types of dietary iron, heme iron, and non-heme iron. The body absorbs heme iron easily than non-heme iron. There are several reasons for the dietary intake of iron to be inadequate, including a poorly balanced vegetarian diet, chronic fad dieting or limited access to a wide range of fresh foods.
Vegetarians usually suffer from low iron levels as plant-based iron-rich foods and fortified foods primarily contains non-heme iron, which is difficult to absorb. On the other hand, meat, poultry, and fish contain heme iron that is easy to absorb for the body.
Iron deficiency occurs in situations of chronic blood loss. Common causes include heavy menstrual periods, regular blood donation, regular nosebleeds, chronic disorders that involve bleeding and certain medications, particularly aspirin as well as with stomach conditions such as food allergies and hookworms.
Increased need for Iron
The adolescent growth spurt, pregnancy, and breastfeeding are situations when the body requires more iron. Infants and toddlers need more iron than older children because of their rapid growth. Sometimes it’s hard for them to get enough iron from their normal diet.
Athletes are prone to iron deficiency because regular exercise increases the body’s need for iron in a number of ways. For example, hard training promotes red blood cell production, while the iron is lost through sweating.
Inability to absorb iron
Healthy adults absorb about ten to 15 percent of dietary iron, but some people’s bodies are unable to absorb or use iron from food. Elderly people suffer from low HCl levels in the stomach.
As HCl helps in the separation of metal ions from food and further their absorption in the body, hence low HCl levels can cause iron deficiency.
Consumption of caffeine
Polyphenols and calcium present in foods such as tea, coffee, whole grains, legumes, and milk or dairy products can decrease the amount of non-heme iron absorbed at a meal.
Calcium can also decrease the amount of heme-iron absorbed at a meal. However, for healthy individuals who consume a varied diet, suffer less.
How can you prevent an iron deficiency?
In general, a diet that includes iron-rich foods is recommended. A balanced and iron-rich diet regime including fruits and vegetables, meat, and citrus products is good.
These foods help your body to absorb iron better. Citrus fruits, Amalaki, and Vitamin C rich vegetables can help boost the absorption of non-heme iron.