Iron Deficiency – Symptoms, Testing and Increasing Iron Levels
Iron is important!
Iron is an important mineral that is used by the body in the making of red blood cells, more specifically; iron is used in the making of hemoglobin which is the most prominent protein in red blood cells. Hemoglobin transports oxygen throughout the body, so in the absence of iron, tissues, muscles and other systems of the body do not receive the right amount of oxygen and therefore cannot perform as they should. The right amounts of iron in the body will eliminate fatigue and muscle weakness as well as promote a healthy immune system.
What happens when iron is lacking in the body?
Unfortunately iron deficiency is the number one nutritional deficiency in the world! Remember how we said iron is needed to successfully produce hemoglobin, the red blood cell that transports oxygen all over the body? Well if you don't have enough iron your body needs to work a whole heck of a lot harder to get the energy it so desperately needs to function properly. This lack of iron, which leads to lack of oxygen, leaves people feeling tired, weak, irritable and unable to focus. Being that iron deficiency is so wide spread, this might give you some insight into why some of your friends and family members exhibit some of those symptoms. Hey consider this… Aunt Betty might not actually be a crabby, tired, unfocused woman; she could have an iron deficiency!
It's also important to note that women with heavy periods are also at a higher risk for an iron deficiency. There's a little something called the tampon test, if you find that you're changing tampons more than every two hours, chances are you are losing too much iron and should have your iron levels checked.
Iron deficiency and fatigue
With the fast paced life most people lead it's pretty normal to feel tired, however take a look at these warning signs of iron deficiency and check off the ones you feel pertain to you:
1. You are really fatigued for over a month.
2. You always feel cold.
3. Your skin looks paler than usual.
4. You can't focus at all.
5. You have substantial hair loss and brittle nails.
If you checked off one or more of the above symptoms, your overall fatigue level could be caused by an iron deficiency and you should head in to your doctor for a check.
Getting tested for an iron deficiency:
You might not know it, but when you go through your annual medical exam your doctor is most likely not looking for an iron deficiency. Normal blood work includes checks for blood pressure and cholesterol numbers, but not for iron unless you ask for it specifically. If you exhibit any of the symptoms stated before, ask for an iron test the next time you visit your doctor.
Increasing your intake of iron rich foods:
If you'd like to start increasing the levels of iron in your system right now you can up your intake of iron rich foods, or start on an iron supplement. Here is a list of iron rich foods you can start adding to your diet today:
- Red meat
- Egg yolks
- Dark, leafy greens (spinach, collards)
- Dried fruit (prunes, raisins)
- Iron-enriched cereals and grains (check the labels)
- Mollusks (oysters, clams, scallops)
- Turkey or chicken giblets
- Beans, lentils, chick peas and soybeans
Considering an iron supplement:
If you feel you could have an iron deficiency, there is also the option of an iron supplements such as Feosol which is designed to help increase the body's absorption of iron. However, before starting supplements you should speak to your health care professional to find out what is right for you and consider being tested for an iron deficiency.