Chronic Fatigue, excessive hair fall, and breathlessness are few of the highly troubling low iron symptoms.
Low iron level not only delays the physical development of babies/children, it also poorly affects the health of the adults. Iron deficiency hampers our body’s growth, cognitive abilities, and proper functioning of the brain.
Iron deficiency can suck the energy out of your system and create conditions of chronic fatigue and restlessness.
Persistent deficiency of iron can lead to anemia, coronary disorders (heart diseases), complications in pregnancy and even in recovery after delivery.
Understanding Iron Deficiency
Iron deficiency is one of the most common nutritional disorders with nearly 2 billion people or 30% of world’s population under its umbrella.
Vegetarians, women, children, and developing countries population constitute the highest numbers suffering from low iron levels.
National Academy of Sciences defines Iron deficiency as
“A relative or absolute deficiency of iron which may be due to lower or no absorption of iron from food in the gastrointestinal GI tract, loss due to acute or chronic hemorrhages (bleeding), or lack of iron-rich foods in the diet.”
A hemoglobin test is most commonly used to test iron levels. With Hemoglobin concentrations lower than 13 g/dL in men and 12 g/dL in women, anemia is inferred.
Low Iron Symptoms
Identification of iron deficiency symptoms is the first step towards addressing the issue. More often than not, our body is not able to absorb sufficient iron per its increased needs or sometimes even cover the basic needs.
Some of the most common Iron deficiency symptoms are reflected with health issues such as fatigue, restlessness, and unnecessary anxiety.
Chronic Fatigue and Anxiety
One of the most common symptoms and yet, one of the most difficult to detect!! Iron deficiency causes less oxygen to reach your tissues, so your body is deprived of the energy it needs, leading you to be very tired. A lack of oxygen also revs up your body’s sympathetic nervous system, causing anxiety and stress.
You lose breath easily
If the oxygen levels are low, no matter how deeply you breathe, you would be out of air. If normal activities like climbing a flight of stairs, make you lose breath, iron deficiency is the one to blame.
You have a pounding heart
Iron deficiency causes the oxygen levels to drop. As a result, the heart tries to pump more blood. This results in an over-worked up heart. Get your cardio checks done regularly to identify health problems and take immediate medical actions.
Restless leg syndrome
Can’t stop fidgeting? A prominent sign of restless leg syndrome. The lower the iron levels, the worse the symptoms.
You crave clay, dirt, and ice!
PICA, craving for non-food substances can be a sign of iron deficiency!! Iron-deficient people may be tempted to chow down on chalk, clay, dirt, and paper. As weird as it sounds!!
Iron Deficiency – Risk Group and Causes
Iron is a mineral that plays a vital role in health and well-being. Without it, many bodily functions would malfunction. If your body doesn’t have enough iron, it cannot produce enough healthy oxygen-carrying red blood cells.
Iron deficiency can cause anemia, which means you have too little hemoglobin!! Observe the symptoms in the early stages and take remedial actions!!
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.
Health Tips to naturally boost your Iron Level
Low iron level or sometimes iron deficiency is a common nutritional disorder affecting 2 billion people or 30% of the world’s population. Vegetarians, women, children, and developing countries population constitute the highest numbers suffering from it.
A person suffering from iron deficiency has the most common symptoms of fatigue, tiredness, and lost interest/focus.
In our previous articles within this series, we covered topics on the identification of the symptoms of iron deficiency and also to learn about the major causes of iron deficiency.
In this article, we will focus on the natural foods and lifestyle changes that you can employ to boost naturally boost your iron level and overcome related health issues. As always FOOD and LIFESTYLE go hand in hand and at Medhya we are here to help you in both ways, so learn more here!!
How to naturally boost your Iron level?
When looking at ways to increase iron level, then one needs to focus on increasing both iron INTAKE and iron ABSORPTION in the body. At any time naturally occurring foods or an iron-rich diet is a much better source of iron over synthetic supplements.
Synthetic sources cause peripheral health issues such as constipation, bloating, much lower absorption of iron, and possibly interaction with other health conditions.
On the other hand, nature has provided a balanced state of nutrients in both plant and animal based sources leading to no peripheral impact and much better absorption of nutrients.
Intake of Iron-rich foods
Here are some examples of iron-rich foods that you can incorporate on your diet on regular basis to upkeep with your iron level requirements.
Beetroot contains calcium, iron, Vitamins A, Vitamin C, and folic acid. It is also a very good source of fibre, manganese, and potassium. Betacyanin is the pigment that gives beetroot its colour and has powerful antioxidant properties.
Dark green leafy vegetables such as moringa oleifera (drumstick leaves), curry leaves, collard greens, kale and spinach are good sources of iron. All these vegetables are packed with vitamins A, Vitamin C and Vitamin K, folate, & fibre along with Iron & Calcium to help increase the absorption of Iron.
Nuts are packed full of protein and are a good source of healthy fats, iron and anti-oxidants. Cashews help the body utilize iron, eliminate free radicals, develop bone and connective tissue, and produce the skin and hair pigment melanin.
Seeds Pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, cocoa seeds, have much higher iron content per gram basis when compared across a realm of foods. Regular intake of seeds either with meals or as snacks can help to replenish not only iron but other vital minerals too. Learn about the benefits of seeds.
Legumes are high in iron, zinc, calcium, as well as an excellent source of protein for vegetarians. Hence, legumes and beans are considered a good replacement for red meat.
The liver is full of iron. It is generally prescribed as a cure to a low iron level related health issues. Liver contains a high level of vitamin A which is beneficial in a number of ways like preventing asthma in children, prevent kidney stones, and regulate blood sugar and fats.
Boost your Iron level from Meals
Apart from dietary intake, one should also focus on enhancing the factors that would increase iron absorption and avoiding factors that suppress iron absorption.
- Caffeine in the form of coffee and tea greatly reduces iron absorption.
- High fibre, calcium, and eggs also suppress iron absorption. So, one should avoid combining their iron-rich foods with above listed and instead consume them at different times of the day.
- When suffering from iron deficiency, avoid blood donation as it will further lower iron levels in the body.
- Stop or reduce taking antacids as they will further suppress iron absorption by reducing the acidity levels of the stomach.
- Vitamin C is well revered to enhance iron absorption, hence combining iron-rich foods with Vitamin C rich foods is an excellent step to ensure higher bioavailability of iron and boost your levels naturally.
- National Institutes of Health
- Iron disorder Institute