Are you constantly feeling tired, sluggish, and low in energy? Have people around you noticed that you look pale? If this sounds like you, it could be because your body is deficient in iron. Iron is an essential mineral for blood production. In its main role in the body, iron is a critical component of hemoglobin — the oxygen carrier of red blood cells — and low levels of iron lead to poor oxygen transport, or iron deficiency anemia.
Iron is a double-edged sword in nutrition. While many people do not get enough, having too much can be toxic to a wide variety of cells.
In today’s video, we’ll cover the top 12 iron deficiency anemia symptoms, and the best iron-rich foods you can add to your diet. We’ll also explore what causes iron deficiency – and how to prevent iron overload.
It may come as a surprise that iron deficiency is increasing in the United states. Worldwide, up to 80% of people are potentially short on iron.
Make sure you watch this video until the end; cause you may be unaware of these symptoms! As always, this video is educational and does not constitute medical advice, we are not doctors.
First, why is iron important?
Iron helps your body produce hemoglobin – a protein in the red blood cells that carries vital oxygenated blood from your lungs to the brain, tissues, muscles, and cells. Iron is essential for healthy metabolism. It helps us absorb nutrients, balance hormone levels, think clearly, and manage our moods. It’s essential for physical growth, neurological development, and cellular functioning.
Next, what are the tell-tale symptoms of iron deficiency anemia?
Number 12. Fatigue or General Weakness.
Low hemoglobin production means your body cannot meet its oxygen-transport needs. This causes people with anemia to lack energy.
Vitamin B-12 is also required to make hemoglobin. Poor absorption of vitamin B-12 gives rise to pernicious anemia. See our video “Top 11 Vitamin B-12 Deficiency Symptoms”.
Number 11. Heart Palpitations.
The irregularities in the heartbeat happen because your body has to work extra hard, and pump more blood to make up for the lack of oxygen.
Number 10. Shortness of Breath.
Similarly, because of the lack of oxygen, your lungs overcompensate and work harder than usual to bring in more oxygen, which lead to difficulties in breathing.
Number 9. Paleness and Skin Issues.
Heme in hemoglobin is what gives human blood its red color, and paleness may be due to inadequate amounts of oxygen-carrying hemoglobin near the skin surface. People with anemia may develop itchy and flaky skin, and red spots on their skin folds.
Number 8. Swelling of the Tongue and Mouth.
Anemic individuals may experience a swollen and inflamed tongue with changes in colors and surface texture (glossitis). This is because low iron levels result in low myoglobin – a protein in “red blood cells”, that plays an important role in muscle health, including your tongue.
Number 7. Unusual Cravings.
An interesting phenomenon that some anemic individuals experience is called pica — a weirdly strong craving to chew non-food items like dirt, ice, chalk, paper, or clay.
Number 6. Headaches and Cognitive Problems.
The lack of oxygen in the brain may lead to dizziness, headaches and migraines; and impair memory and cognitive function.
Number 5. Cold Hands and Feet.
Because of insufficient red blood cells to transport oxygen, people with anemia have poor blood circulation and cold limbs.
Number 4. Restless Legs Syndrome.
Iron deficiency may cause an imbalance of dopamine – a neurotransmitter that controls muscle activity – and trigger an irresistible urge to move the legs. There may also be sharp pain, or numbness and tingling in the legs.
Number 3. Hair Loss.
Ferritin is a type of protein in the blood that stores iron. When the body is iron deficient, it can “borrow” ferritin from hair follicles – where it is less vital to the body. Low ferritin leads to hair loss similar to the pattern of androgenic alopecia.
Number 2. Brittle and Thin Nails.
Low levels of iron can cause brittle or spoon-shaped fingernails – a condition known as koilonychia.
Number 1. Loss of Appetite.
Iron deficiency is associated with decreased appetite because of the way iron influences the appetite-controlling hormones ghrelin and leptin.
Next, what happens when your body has enough iron?
Sufficient iron intake eliminates iron deficiency anemia and its symptoms, and boosts hemoglobin. It promotes healthy skin, hair, and nails, reduces fatigue, and leads to more energy, and enhanced athletic performance. Many people don’t know this, but iron plays a significant role in boosting the immune system, concentration and promotes better sleep.
So, what causes iron-deficiency?
According to a 2021 study published in the Journal of Nutrition, iron deficiency is increasing. This is mainly because high crop yields per acre is reducing the amount of iron in foods that people and animals eat. The solution is to eat foods that have high iron levels, and foods that help the body absorb iron- which we’ll get into next. Other factors that deplete iron are: blood loss, poor absorption, chemotherapy, pregnancy, and infectious diseases, like malaria, HIV, and tuberculosis.
Next, what are some iron-rich foods?
Here are the top 10 iron-rich foods that are not fortified. The non-heme iron found in plants – notably grains and legumes – is less bioavailable than the heme iron found in meat. This is because plant foods contain phytates that inhibit the bioavailability of iron. However, ascorbic acid (vitamin C) – consumed along with a meal – can enhance iron absorption.
- Red meat and poultry like beef and turkey; the redder or darker the meat, the more iron it contains.
- Organ meats like beef or chicken liver (but avoid eating liver during pregnancy).
- Spinach and other vegetables like broccoli, kale, swiss chard, collard and beet greens and potatoes.
- Shellfish like clams, oysters and mussels.
- Legumes like peas, bean, lentils, tofu and tempeh.
- Nuts and seeds like almonds, pine nuts, cashews, pumpkin and sesame.
- Fish like tuna, haddock, mackerel, and sardines.
- Fruits like oranges, kiwi, watermelon and bell peppers.
- Pseudocereals like amaranth, quinoa and buckwheat. 10.Dark chocolate with greater than 70% cocoa.
So, how much iron should you take?
We often forget that the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for adults varies depending on age, but generally, women need more iron than men.
Women aged 19 to 50 need on average 18 milligrams daily, while women older than 51 need around 8 milligrams.
Pregnant women need 27 milligrams of iron per day.
Men older than 19 years of age need 8 milligrams daily.
Male and female endurance athletes need more iron.
Next, how to test for iron deficiency?
The only surefire way of determining if you are iron-deficient is to take a diagnostic test that includes a complete body count (CBC). If your iron levels are too low, the test will show low hemoglobin and hematocrit (percentage of red blood cells), iron saturation, serum iron, and ferritin levels.
Next, who should and should not supplement with iron?
Iron deficiency is the only reason to take an iron supplement. You can get more iron by eating foods rich in it, but for people who already have enough, taking an extra supplement is not necessary and can lead to hemochromatosis — or iron overload. Iron buildup in the heart, liver, and pancreas can lead to conditions like diabetes, cirrhosis, and even heart failure. To block iron absorption, drink coffee or tea with your meals.
Lastly, who is at risk of developing iron deficiency anemia?
Women of childbearing age are more prone to iron deficiency anemia – because of monthly blood loss. So are pregnant women, children and infants. Malnourished individuals, adults with internal bleeding, individuals getting kidney dialysis treatment, and those who have undergone gastric bypass surgery are also more prone to iron deficiency anemia.
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And now over to you! What iron-rich foods are you taking or planning to take to boost your iron levels?
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