If you have had severe headaches, you feel anxious, fatigued, you are losing your hair, you have cold hands and feet, or you have shortness of breath when you are doing regular tasks, chances are, your iron levels are low.
Iron deficiency is one of the most common nutritional deficiency in the world.
The reason is simple, people are more commonly opting for fast food, instead of cooked, nutritional meal that contains high amounts of iron.
All those steaks, beef and pork chops you are getting at the restaurant contain some amount of iron, but the way they are prepared and cooked usually results in less iron.
And with the increased use of pesticides for our fruits and veggies, a number of iron decreases.
Now, one thing you can do is try to consume more iron-rich foods.
The biggest problem with iron deficiency is that the symptoms are very common for almost every other disease.
A lot of people do not know they have iron deficiency until they perform a test.
How to Diagnose Iron Deficiency
The best way to diagnose iron deficiency is with the standard, complete blood cell test or CBC test.
The CBC test measures all components in your blood, including red blood and white blood cells, as well as hemoglobin, platelets, and hematocrit.
When you have iron deficiency and anemia, your hemoglobin and hematocrit levels are low, way lower than the standard amount needed for you to perform as usual.
Causes for Iron Deficiency
There are many factors that can contribute to you being iron deficient.
First and foremost is inadequate iron intake, or consuming too little iron-rich foods.
Meat, leafy greens, eggs, all of those foods are extremely rich in iron and you want them in your daily diet. Iron is one of the essential minerals that our body needs, so make sure to provide enough.
Other factors contributing to iron deficiency is pregnancy and blood loss due to menstruation.
One of the reasons why women are more prone to anemia and iron deficiency symptoms is because they lose blood due to menstruation every month. Internal bleeding can also cause iron deficiency.
Last, but not least, some people are simply unable to absorb iron properly.
Certain disorders that affect our intestines can disrupt the ability of the body to absorb iron.
For example, even if you consume lots of foods high in iron, celiac disease, and intestinal surgery will disrupt your body’s ability to absorb iron, and lead to iron deficiency.
Symptoms of Iron Deficiency
Finally, we are getting to the symptoms of iron deficiency, which as I previously mentioned, are quite common for other diseases and illnesses as well.
First of the common symptoms is fatigue.
It is also the most difficult to detect, as people can be fatigued because of many other reasons (increased physical activity, too much stress at work and so on).
Fatigue and stress have become an integral part of our live to the point that we dismiss being tired as part of our life.
What happens when you have iron deficiency is that less oxygen is reaching your tissues, which essentially deprives your body from energy.
And since you are not getting the required energy you need for proper functioning, you are feeling fatigued.
I mentioned menstruation as one of the causes for iron deficiency.
Well, your menstrual period is also a symptom for the condition as well.
For women, one of the best symptoms is heavy periods. When you are iron deficient, you simply lose too much blood, and you cannot replace it until the next period.
One way to check is to try a tampon test.
If you have to switch your tampons for more frequently every two hours or so, chances are you need to check your blood for iron.
Pale skin is another common symptom of iron deficiency, as you are deprived from red blood cells.
Hemoglobin and red blood cells are what gives your skin its red color, and without them, it turns to rosy hue and pale.
The best areas to check for iron deficiency are the inside of your lips, the inside of your bottom eyelids and your gums.
When they are less red than normal, have your blood tested.
Shortness of breath is another common symptom, and as you probably know, shortness of breath can also be linked to several other diseases (low blood pressure, high blood pressure, cardiovascular diseases and so on).
As with fatigue, iron deficiency causes less oxygen to be absorbed into your body, no matter how deeply you breathe.
As I mentioned at the beginning, headaches and migraines are very common when you have low amounts of iron in your body.
Your brain is not getting the oxygen it needs, and the arteries in your brain swell.
The result is a common headache that can sometimes be extremely painful.
Restless leg syndrome is one of the symptoms that is common only for iron deficiency.
According to some statistics, one fifth of people who have restless leg syndrome actually have iron deficiency.
Hair loss is another sign to look for when you have iron deficiency.
Since your hemoglobin levels are low, your body is sent into survival mode.
As a response, your body sends oxygen only to the vital organs, and some functions of your body simply stop working. As a result, your hair starts to fall off.
Last but not least, anxiety is a symptom that can be extremely irritating. As if your life wasn’t stressful enough, low amounts of iron can send you into even deeper depression and anxiety.
Potential Health Risks of Iron Deficiency
I know most of you think iron deficiency is not something to stress too much about. But, this is where people make the biggest mistake.
Iron deficiency can cause lots of problems, especially for pregnant women.
Some of the risks associated with iron deficiency are irregular heartbeat, complications during pregnancy, and delayed growth of infants and children.
If those are not reasons enough to ramp up your iron intake, then I don’t know what to say anymore