How Can I Care For Myself With Iron Deficiency
Your body absorbs only a small amount of iron at any one time, so you need to eat a variety of iron-rich foods every day.
Foods containing iron include:
- meat and fish beef, lamb , veal, pork, chicken, mussels, oysters, sardines and tuna
- fruits dried fruits such as prunes, apricots, raisins, currants or peaches, and prune or blackberry juice
- vegetables and legumes greens , beans and peas, pumpkin and sweet potatoes
- grains oats, iron-fortified breakfast cereals and wholegrain breads.
The iron in meat, fish and chicken is called haem iron. There is more of it and it is more easily absorbed than the iron in vegetables, fruits and grains, which is called non-haem iron. It is best to get iron from a variety of sources haem iron also helps your gut absorb non-haem iron.
The table below shows the iron content in 100g of different foods:
To get the most out of iron-rich foods:
- eat foods rich in vitamin C to help iron absorption
- don’t drink milk with meals or when you take your iron tablets as the calcium in it can interfere with iron absorption
- don’t drink tea or coffee with meals as this also reduces iron uptake.
Talk to your doctor if you need a referral to a dietitian for dietary advice.
Read more about iron.
Infants and young children
At around 6 months, solid foods should be introduced to help babies get enough iron to meet their growing demands. Meat purees or iron-fortified cereals are good choices.
How Is Iron Deficiency Treated
First your doctor may investigate to find the cause of the iron deficiency. This is to check whether a serious disease could potentially be causing the problem. If your doctor finds a cause, you will need the right treatment for that cause.
The second step is to bring the iron levels back to normal. This can be done a number of different ways. Depending on your needs, your doctor may recommend that you:
- eat more foods containing vitamin C to help you absorb iron better
- consume less foods and drinks that stop you absorbing iron, like calcium, fibre, tea, coffee and wine
- take iron tablets or liquid iron supplements
- have an intravenous infusion of iron or a blood transfusion
If you take iron supplements, you will need to take them for several months and possibly longer. They may make your stools dark, and can also cause constipation, so your doctor may suggest you take a stool-softener to help with this. You should only take iron supplements under medical supervision as you could poison yourself if you take more than the recommended dose and they can also interfere with other minerals in your body as well as your immune system.
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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Next Step: Your Doctors Assessment
Your doctor will examine your complexion to see if youre looking pale. Ill also pull down the patients lower eyelid, says Dr. Boling. Shes looking for deep pink or red coloring. If its much lighter, that could be a sign of anemia, she says. Pale gums can be another clue.
The explanation: Hemoglobin gives your blood its bright red color. When levels dip, you can lose your rosy glow.
If your doctor suspects iron-deficiency anemia, its time to roll up a sleeve. Youll have blood drawn for a simple test called a complete blood count, or CBC. The lab report will show your levels of iron and other minerals. The number, size and shape of the red blood cells in your sample will also be examined.
Treatments For Iron Deficiency Anemia
In most cases, treating the underlying cause of iron deficiency anemiaa lack of iron in your bodyhelps control and correct the symptoms of the condition, including extreme fatigue. But keep in mind that its important to have your doctor oversee your treatment, since increasing iron levels in your body by too much can have consequences of its own. Your doctor will need to monitor your blood iron levels to ensure you stay as healthy as possible.
Your anemia treatment will depend on how severe your condition is. If your anemia is mild, your doctor may recommend over-the-counter iron supplements as a way to safely increase the level of iron in your body.
If you have a more severe case of iron deficiency anemia, your doctor may recommend one of several procedures, including:
Intravenous iron therapy to increase blood iron levels
Red blood cell transfusion to quickly increase the amount of healthy red blood cells in your body
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What Are The Common Causes Of Iron Deficiency
Although diet is the main concern for iron deficiency, there are many other reasons why a person can become deficient in iron. They are:
- Failing to eat an iron-rich diet during rapid growing stage such as young children and pregnant women
- Inadequate consumption of iron-rich food such as meat, eggs and green leafy vegetables
- Blood loss during childbirth and periods in women
- Certain medical conditions where iron is not absorbed optimally such as Celiac Disease
- Internal bleeding due to ulcer in your stomach, Endometriosis and Colon Cancer
Heavy Periods In Women Can Be A Sign Of Iron Deficiency
According to experts, iron deficiency is the number one cause of heavy periods in women. Especially in the case of Iron Deficiency Anaemia, a condition characterised by a lack of healthy red blood cells, it can cause heavy blood loss, depleting your bodys iron stores.
If you suffer from heavy loss of blood accompanied by severe cramps, you must visit your doctor to be screened for iron deficiency anaemia. A blood test can check the level of red blood cells and iron in your body.
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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.
How Can Iron Infusion Benefit In Iron
If youre anaemic or have trouble tolerating iron supplements, Iron Infusion can come as a saviour.
This intravenously administered treatment places a needle into the vein and attached to a drip containing iron mixed with saline. As the combination mixes with the blood, it restores iron to a healthy level much faster than any supplements or dietary changes.
At our Iron Infusion Centre at Victoria Point, our doctors are highly experienced in administering Intravenous Iron Infusions. They will also recommend further blood tests if another infusion would be required.
If youre suffering with symptoms of anaemia, consult our doctors. You can book an online appointment or call us at for further information.
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Swelling And Soreness Of The Tongue And Mouth
According to Healthline, just looking inside or around your mouth can give you an indication of whether you are suffering from iron-deficiency anaemia.
Signs can include a swollen, inflamed, pale or strangely smooth tongue. Low haemoglobin in iron deficiency can cause the tongue to become pale, while lower levels of myoglobin can cause it to become sore, smooth and swollen. Besides sapping the colour out of your tongue, low iron counts can reduce levels of myoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that supports muscle health, like the muscle that makes up the tongue. As a result, many people who are iron deficient complain of a sore, inflamed, and strangely smooth tongue.
Iron deficiency can also cause dry mouth, sore red cracks at the corners of the mouth or mouth ulcers.
Youre Lacking In Vitamin D
If youve got a job that keeps you indoors most of the day, chances are you may be part of the 42 percent of Americans with a vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D is created by your body when sunlight hits the skin and is found in fatty fishes like salmon and tuna, eggs, and mushrooms.
Most people associate low vitamin D with wintertime and seasonal depression, but it can hit at any time of year. A thorough review of studies analyzing depression and vitamin D concluded that lower vitamin D levels were found in people with depression compared to controls.
Scientists also found that when depressed individuals received vitamin D supplementation for one year, they had significant improvements in symptoms of depression compared with depressed people taking a placebo. The area of the brain associated with depression is also a site of vitamin D receptors, posing one possible explanation for the link between the two.
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Tired & Weak You May Have An Iron Deficiency
Do you feel weak and tire easily? Are you short of breath? Look pale?
When I see patients with these symptoms, I suspect they may be suffering from anemia caused by an iron deficiency. Iron deficiency is due to too little iron in your body. It is the most common nutritional deficiency and the leading cause of anemia in the United States, especially among women.
Iron is important because your blood needs it to carry oxygen through your body. If you do not have enough iron, your body makes fewer and smaller red blood cells, and you cannot get enough oxygen.
In my practice, Ive seen people develop iron deficiency for different reasons:
- Adolescent girls and women of childbearing age due to menstruation
- Young children and pregnant women because of rapid growth and higher iron needs
- People with internal bleeding due to ulcers, hemorrhoids or cancer
- Those with medical conditions that prevent absorption of iron, such as celiac disease or having part of their stomach or small intestine removed
- People whose diets do not provide enough iron sources
You may not notice the symptoms of anemia at first because it develops slowly. But as anemia gets worse, you may:
- Feel weak and tire out more easily
- Feel short of breath
Your B12 Levels Are Low
Vitamin B12 is found in animal products, so vegans and vegetarians are most at risk for being deficient, as well as people with gastrointestinal issues, who may have difficulty absorbing the vitamin, and people on heartburn and reflux medications. The important vitamin is needed in order to make red blood cells and DNA and plays a major role in nerve function and mood. B12 helps to maintain the myelin sheath surrounding nerve cells, which make it possible for cells to communicate.
But when levels are low, this communication becomes compromised, which can lead to neurological changes. B12 is also involved in the production of serotonin and other neurotransmitters that regulate mood, so low levels could cause changes in the nervous system.
One study in the journal BMC Psychiatry followed 115 people with depression for six months and found that those with higher levels of B12 had a greater chance of recovery from depression, leading scientists to believe there is an association between B12 and mental health. Low levels of B12 have even been linked to .
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Getting More Iron Through Your Food Intake
Most people can get enough iron by eating a balanced and varied diet that includes foods from the five food groups. If your iron levels are low, it can be useful to look at whether you are eating enough iron-rich foods across the day.
Animal-based food sources of iron are more easily absorbed by our body. These include:
- Red meat, like beef and kangaroo meat
- Offal, particularly liver
- White meat, like chicken and turkey
Plant sources of iron include:
- Green vegetables like spinach, silverbeet and broccoli
- Legumes and beans like lentils and kidney beans
- Nuts and seeds
- Grains, including wholegrains and iron-fortified breads and cereals
- Dried fruit, especially apricots.
While these foods are important sources of iron, remember to eat them as part of a balanced and varied diet. Check out HealthDirects iron foods infographic with examples on how to add iron-rich foods into your diet.
You can boost your bodys ability to absorb iron by eating important sources of iron alongside sources of vitamin C. Fruits and vegetables are the best sources of vitamin C, particularly if eaten raw. You could add capsicum to your beef stir fry, orange wedges to your chickpea salad, tomato to your breakfast eggs, or strawberries to your bowl of cereal. The combos are endless!
If youd like help addressing your dietary iron intake, speak with an Accredited Practising Dietitian.
Connection Between Iron Deficiency And Vitamin C Deficiency
Your body needs vitamin C to absorb some kinds of iron properly. So, low vitamin C levels can make it difficult for the body to absorb iron, thereby leading to low iron levels.
It is rare for people in the United States to have vitamin C deficiency, but people who dont eat fruits and vegetables regularly may have more difficulty absorbing iron because of low vitamin C levels.
If your healthcare provider recommends an iron supplement for you, they may ask you to take it with a meal containing fruits and vegetables or with a vitamin C supplement.
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How Do You Treat Low Iron
Some of us can replenish our iron from a well rounded diet. However, the American diet has changed significantly over the last few decades. Our healthier diet, geared towards prevention of heart disease, now contains significantly less red meat than it once did. Most of us are eating red meat on much rarer occasion than we used to. Fabulous as this may be for our cholesterol and heart health, it has actually contributed to widespread iron deficiency. Red meat is not the only dietary source of iron, but it is one of the best.
While some fruits and vegetables do contain Iron sources, they have lower amounts and are not as well absorbed. Therefore, vegetarians are at high risk for Iron deficiency. Contributing to this confusion are antacids and stomach medications which can also decrease the absorption of your Iron intake. That means you may not actually be getting credit for the Iron that you do take in.
It has been our experience that Iron as Carbonyl is far less likely to cause any GI side effects. For this reason, people who are taking iron for energy can continue taking it and slowly build up their iron stores. No vitamin regimen is effective if you dont take continue to take the vitamins!
Why Is Taking Iron For Energy So Important
Iron is one of the essential vitamins to take for energy. It is mainly found in your red blood cells as Hemoglobin. Your body uses iron to hold on to oxygen in your blood and transport it to your tissues. At the cellular level, iron is used then to make energy and to fuel enzymes. Therefore, if you have low iron, you are essentially depriving all of your bodys cells of oxygen. No wonder you feel so terrible!
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Taking Those Pills Can Mask Serious Underlying Health Problems
Q. Im feeling tired all the time. Should I take iron supplements and see if that makes me feel better?
A. Not without seeing your doctor first.
Your body needs iron to produce hemoglobin, the protein molecule in red blood cells that carries oxygen to every part of your body.
When iron levels are low, your cells dont get the oxygen they need, which can leave you feeling tired. And its not uncommon: In the U.S., iron deficiency affects up to one in six older adults, including 16 percent of menstruating women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It also affects 7 percent of children.
But dont take iron supplements unless a doctor has recommended them, says Consumer Reports chief medical adviser Marvin M. Lipman, M.D.
Thats because there are many possible reasons, other than low iron levels, for fatigue. These include disorders that interfere with your sleep , and conditions that can zap your energy, like hypothyroidism, or even boredom and stress. So your doctors first step, Lipman says, should be to take a thorough medical history to look for other health issues that might be making you listless.
If the history doesnt suggest a reason for your exhaustion, then a blood test makes sense. The test will count your red blood cells. If they are low , thats a good indication that your iron levels are low, too, and your doctor may order a specific iron test.