Causes Of Iron Deficiency In Adults
In adults, some of the common causes of iron deficiency include:
- Not getting enough iron in your diet . There are many reasons why someones dietary intake of iron could be too low, for example due to a poorly balanced vegetarian diet, chronic fad dieting or having limited access to a wide range of fresh foods.
- Blood loss iron deficiency easily occurs in situations of chronic blood loss. Common causes include heavy menstrual periods, regular blood donation, regular nosebleeds, other chronic conditions that involve bleeding , and certain medications, particularly aspirin.
- Increased need for iron if you are pregnant or breastfeeding your body needs more iron. If this increased need isnt met, iron deficiency can quickly occur.
- Exercise athletes are prone to iron deficiency because regular exercise increases the bodys need for iron in several ways. For example, hard training promotes red blood cell production , and iron is lost through sweating.
- Inability to absorb iron healthy adults absorb about 10 to 15% of dietary iron, but some peoples bodies are unable to absorb or use iron from food.
How Does The Body Process Iron
Iron is present in many foods and absorbed into the body through the stomach. During this process of absorption, oxygen combines with iron and is transported into the plasma portion of blood by binding to transferrin. From there, iron and transferrin are used in the production of hemoglobin, stored in the liver, spleen, and bone marrow, and utilized as needed by all body cells.
The following is a list of foods that are good sources of iron. Always consult your doctor regarding the recommended daily iron requirements for your particular situation.
How Common Is Iron Deficiency
The main reasons for low iron stores are:
- not eating enough iron-rich foods
- trouble absorbing iron
- blood loss.
The body is pretty good at conserving iron, but we still need a regular supply through our food. When our iron intake is consistently lower than our iron requirements, the body becomes slowly depleted of its stores. Low iron stores can progress to iron deficiency, and then to iron deficiency anaemia.
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Fast Or Irregular Heartbeat Feeling Anxious
Noticeable heartbeats, also known as heart palpitations, can be another symptom of iron-deficiency anaemia.
Haemoglobin is the protein in red blood cells that helps transport oxygen around the body. In iron deficiency, low levels of haemoglobin mean the heart has to work extra hard to carry oxygen.
The lack of oxygen available to body tissues in iron deficiency may also cause feelings of anxiety. However, this tends to improve or resolve as iron levels are corrected.
How To Increase Your Iron Levels
Professor Richards advises women looking to increase their iron intake to eat meat or to take iron supplement tablets.
Anne Finch, an accredited practising dietitian for the WA Cancer Council, says it important to know just how much iron you need and where to get it.
The recommended daily intake for iron is 15mg for girls aged 14-18, and 18mg for women aged 19-50, Ms Finch says.
“But it’s worth remembering that your individual needs may be quite different and are probably a bit lower women with heavy periods or athletes may have higher iron needs.
“During pregnancy, iron needs skyrocket to 27mg a day. At the same time, the body also gets much better at absorbing iron from food.”
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How To Stop Feeling Tired: A Holistic Approach
Addressing the nutrient deficiencies that are causing your fatigue can be overwhelming. You dont have time to change your whole diet and nutrition plan yourself. Plus, theres no guide on which foods you should be eating instead.
Instead of changing your whole diet at once, you need to first determine which deficiencies you might be experiencing. From there, a holistic treatment plan can address each specific deficiency through a simple, step-by-step plan. These are a few steps that a holistic approach may include:
If youre feeling tired after eating, pay attention to the food you ate beforehand. Its likely a sign that your food is low in the nutrients your body needs to produce energy. Using this holistic approach can determine which nutrients youre lacking and help increase your natural energy levels not just your caffeine-charged spurts of energy.
What If Iron Tablets Make You Nauseous
If you have been instructed to take iron tablets by your doctor, bear in mind that not everyone gets on with iron tablets. They’ve been linked to nausea, constipation and stomach pain. It means some people stop taking them if they get side-effects.
Fortunately there is hope as a new form of iron is now available called Active Iron which boost iron levels without troublesome stomach side effects. So if you don’t want to include more red meat in your diet and you’re having difficulty with traditional iron capsules, that could be worth a try.
Even though it’s common, you shouldn’t feel exhausted all the time. If you’re worried, see your GP for advice and to exclude other causes or illness.
What Are The Symptoms Of Iron Deficiency
Your body uses iron, a mineral, to make hemoglobin. This helps your blood carry oxygen throughout the body. If you arent getting enough iron, this can limit oxygen flow and anemia may develop.
If you show up at the doctors office looking pale, especially around the eyes, and complaining of constant chills and exhaustion, your doctor is likely to test for iron deficiency. Other symptoms include bruising, dry skin and a bloated feeling.
Causes Of Low Ferritin Research Findings
In a recent double-blind, placebo-controlled study, French and Swiss researchers decided to check low ferritin symptoms. They wanted to see whether iron supplementation would help women with fatigue symptoms who had either low or borderline ferritin levels but were not anemic .
Interestingly, the normal reference range for ferritin in women is typically 18 to 160 mcg/L, but the researchers considered any level below 50 mcg/L to be borderline low.
The researchers randomly assigned 198 women with unexplained fatigue to take either 80 milligrams of iron a day or a placebo. Over 12 weeks, women on iron supplements noticed a significant improvement in their fatigue. On average, scores on a standard measure of fatigue fell by nearly half from about 25 to 13, on a scale of zero to 40 among women getting the extra iron.
Those in the placebo group also improved, but not as much as those in the iron group. They concluded their study by stating that in women with unexplained prolonged fatigue, iron deficient should be considered when ferritin values are below 50 µg/L, even when hemoglobin values are above 12.0 g/dL.
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How Iron Deficiency Develops In Crohns
While low iron levels in your body can have a number of potential causes, in people with Crohns disease, the most common cause is bleeding in the digestive tract. When this happens, people are usually unaware that they are losing blood, says James F. Marion, MD, a gastroenterologist and IBD expert at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. Thats because the blood loss can happen gradually over a long period of time, without overt symptoms.
In people with Crohns disease, Dr. Marion says, this blood loss usually occurs because of disease activity. The digestive tract contains lots of blood vessels, he notes, which can rupture when Crohns-related ulcers and fissures penetrate beneath the inner mucosal layer of the intestines.
Anyone with Crohns disease can develop iron deficiency in this way. But Marion notes that people who already have a higher risk of iron deficiency to begin with namely women of childbearing age, who may lose a significant amount of iron each month in their menstrual blood are more likely to develop the condition, and to develop it more quickly.
People with Crohns disease can have anemia thats not related to iron deficiency. Other potential causes of low hemoglobin include vitamin B12 deficiency due to poor absorption in the intestines, as well as anemia of chronic inflammation a form of anemia, Marion notes, thats often seen in many chronic and inflammatory disorders.
Recommended Dietary Iron Intakes
The average person needs to absorb just a small amount of iron each day to stay healthy . To achieve this, however, we need to consume several times that amount. This is because our bodies absorb only a fraction of the iron contained in the foods we eat.The Australian Recommended Dietary Intake for iron is the amount of dietary iron required to meet the needs of most of the population. This amount is different for different age groups and life stages.
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Symptoms Of Anemia You Shouldnt Ignore
Anemia is a common blood disorder affecting more than 1.6 billion people worldwide. It occurs when the number of healthy red blood cells that carry oxygen through the body drops to an abnormal level, or if the cells dont contain enough hemoglobin.
The majority of the approximately 3.5 million Americans with anemia become anemic over time through inadequate iron or low vitamin B-12 levels . Both of these, along with folate , is necessary for the production of healthy red blood cells.
Those who are most susceptible to anemia are children, females with menorrhagia , and pregnant women. People who suffer chronic diseases like ulcers, or people who have recently undergone surgery, may also become anemic. People with African ancestry are especially susceptible to sickle cell anemia, in which the red blood cells are curved like sickles.
Breathing Issues Dizziness And Headaches
When youre healthy, abundant oxygen is conveyed to the heart, muscles, and organs. With anemia, the lungs overcompensate in order to bring in more oxygen, causing breathing difficulties.
Low levels of hemoglobin prevent adequate oxygen from reaching the brain. Blood vessels swell, blood pressure drops, and it can result in headaches, neurological issues, and vertigo.
Small exertions can cause shortness of breath or fainting spells.
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When To See A Doctor
Anyone experiencing symptoms of an iron deficiency should speak to a doctor. The doctor can provide a simple blood test to get quick answers.
If a persons iron levels are normal, there may be another problem causing their symptoms. It is best to work with a doctor to get a definitive diagnosis.
Restoring iron levels to normal can occur within 1 or 2 months of treatment. A doctor may recommend taking iron pills for longer to help create an iron store. In severe cases, however, more intensive treatments may be necessary.
Living With Iron Deficiency Anemia
You may have fatigue weakness, exercise intolerance, or headaches for up to six to eight weeks after you have begun iron replacement therapy. These symptoms are likely to affect your day-to-day function and your quality of life.
If you have not seen any substantial improvement in your symptoms after eight weeks or so, or if your symptoms seem particularly severe, let your doctor know. You may need treatment in addition to iron supplements. Keep reading to learn how to manage the emotional, physical, and social effects of IDA.
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What Can I Do About Increasing My Iron Intake If I Don’t Eat Meat
Although meat is one of the richest sources of dietary iron and the easiest for the body to absorb, there are other options for women who are vegetarian or want to avoid eating a lot of meat.
“If you’re focussing on plant sources, you’ll likely have to work a little harder to meet your needs,” Ms Finch says.
“Our vego diet workhorses lentils, kidney beans, tofu and chickpeas are all pretty decent sources of iron, and if you’re plant-based hopefully you’re including some of those foods already.”
Other foods that are rich in iron include the cabbage family of vegetables and surprisingly, Weetbix.
“It’s fortified with iron and packs a real punch. Two Weetbix has more iron than 100g of beef.”
Testing For Iron Deficiency
If you suspect you might have an iron deficiency, you should make an appointment with your medical professional to arrange a test before commencing iron supplementation. This is important because iron is a Goldilocks mineral not too much and not too little. Excess iron is damaging to your body. There is a very good reason oral iron supplements are required to have child safety lids!
Necessary testing to determine your iron status includes
- Iron studies
- Full blood count
Iron deficiency is both a cause and a symptom that may point to other imbalances in your body, so its important to track these down so the underlying cause can be corrected.
To learn more about optimising your intake of iron in your diet, check out this article.
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Help Boost Your Iron Absorption
If you want to get the most out of your iron supplement, try to avoid taking it along with antacids or milk, as these can limit iron absorption.
Its also recommended to avoid or limit high fiber foods or foods containing caffeine when you take your supplement, as these can also interfere with absorption .
If you think you have an iron deficiency, talk with a doctor. They may recommend that you consume more iron-rich foods or possibly take iron supplements.
Talk with a doctor if you have symptoms of iron deficiency. If left untreated, it can develop into iron deficiency anemia. This could eventually result in complications, including:
- heart problems
Take iron supplements only if your doctor prescribes them. Too much iron can damage your heart, liver, and pancreas.
Types Of Iron In Our Diets
The 2 types of iron found in our diets are:
- Haem iron found in animal tissue such as beef, lamb, kangaroo, chicken and fish. Offal products such as liver and kidney are particularly rich in haem iron . This form of iron is most easily absorbed by the body.
- Non-haem iron found in animal tissue, animal-based products and plant foods such as dried beans and lentils. Good vegetarian sources of non-haem iron include iron-fortified breakfast cereals, wholegrains and legumes . If you are vegetarian and have no animal tissue in your diet, you may need almost twice as much dietary iron each day as non-vegetarians. Plant-based sources of iron include: dark green leafy vegetables such as broccoli, raisins, nuts, prunes, dried apricots, seeds, dried beans and peas, and iron-fortified cereals, breads and pastas.
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Muscle Pain And Iron Deficiency
In some cases, people suffering from iron deficiency experience pain from trigger points in their muscles, according to American Society of Hematology. The pain results from a lack of oxygen in the muscles.
Also, red blood cells remove carbon dioxide and waste products from the muscles. When red blood cells are low, toxins accumulate, which may also contribute to muscle pain. Although effective treatment for anemia can relieve muscle pain, some people may continue to experience these aches even after they are no longer anemic, says the American Society of Hematology.
Nutrient Deficiencies That Cause Fatigue
Your body operates like a well-oiled machine, and nutrients are the gas that keep your engines running. When youre low on these essential vitamins and minerals, your body cant function as effectively cue struggling to keep your eyes open in those back-to-back Zoom meetings!
Many of these nutrients arent produced by your body naturally, so you have to ingest them through food. But since the food you eat isnt as nutrient-dense these days, you might not be getting the nutrients that give you energy.
To fix that, here are 6 of the most common nutrient deficiencies that could be causing your fatigue:
Vitamin D. The cholesterol in your skin produces this important nutrient when its exposed to sunlight. But lets face it: youre not getting a ton of sunlight these days inside at your desk. So you might be lacking the sweet Vitamin D that keeps your energy levels up and supports your immune system and gut health.
Magnesium. This key mineral is important for building bone and teeth structure, relaxing muscles, promoting sleep, helping digestion, and so much more. But its also essential for converting your food into energy. Thats why fatigue is often a sign of magnesium deficiency.
Iron. An iron deficiency can also cause anemia which impairs your blood cells ability to carry oxygen. Iron deficiency anemia makes you feel tired and weak and its so common it affects a quarter of the population.
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