Do you feel tired all the time? No, you are not lazy- it might be your body trying to communicate with you. You need to understand that your body won’t dial 911 to show that your body is deficient- you need to interpret them. If you constantly feel tired and exhausted, it might be due to iron deficiency.
But what is Iron deficiency? And why does your body need iron?
Iron is a trace element that should be present at less than 0.5 per cent in the human body. Our body should contain 2.5 to 4.0 g of iron, but anything less than that is called an iron deficiency.
Iron is an essential micronutrient that transports and stores oxygen in our body. With the help of myoglobin and haemoglobin, iron binds with oxygen molecules and transports them throughout the body. Iron also helps in the proper functioning of the cells and the formation of red blood cells.
Iron deficiency is most likely to occur among women and children and is least likely in men. Did you know that 52% of women in the age group of 15 to 49 (menstruating and lactating women) and 74 % of young children suffer from Iron deficiency anaemia? And Iron deficiency is a grave reason for increased infant death and premature delivery in developing countries.
No, I’m not scaring you. I am just starting stats to help take the deficiency seriously.
How to identify Iron deficiency?
Your body cannot dial 911 when a disorder or deficiency creeps in; no, it does not work that way. Instead, it gives signals for you to interpret and reach out for help. Fatigue, dizziness, and loss of interest in daily activities are some common signs your body uses to communicate with you.
But how can you identify Iron deficiency? Well, here are some common signs and symptoms that you might witness-
- Soreness or swelling of the tongue
- Increase palpitations or shortness of breath
- Damaged hair and pale skin
- Brittle nails
- Tendency to eat items that are not consumable
Once you have identified the symptoms, you must find out the root of your iron deficiency. Remember, the best way to cure a problem is to find the cause of the problem. Here are the reasons why you might have iron deficiency in your body-
- Heavy flow during periods: Females lose a lot of blood every month during their menstrual cycle. Not to forget, the flow varies- some have heavy blood flow resulting in loss of iron. In simple words, loss of blood equals loss of iron. This is why menstruating women are at risk of iron deficiency.
Low gastric acidity-Increased consumption of antacid leads to decreased hydrochloric acid- diminishing the absorption of iron. Also, the secretion of hydrochloric acid in the stomach reduces with age.
- Infections- Any underlying conditions or diseases such as celiac disease reduce iron absorption in your body.
- Pregnancy and lactation- the nutritional needs of a pregnant and lactating mother increases during these periods. And if proper measures are not taken, iron deficiency occurs.
But how can you find out what is causing your deficiency? Valid question- You need to test yourself to find out the root cause. And there is no alternative to running a checkup to the doctor. The doctor might ask you to get your iron-ferritin levels tested or check your transferrin saturation levels to diagnose your iron deficiency. The doctors might prescribe you some supplements to meet your iron demands, but let’s be very honest here.
Supplements are a short term cure to your problem. If you don’t feed your body with nutrients, the supplements alone cannot win this battle for you. Besides, long time supplement consumption can be harmful to your body.
Here are few tips that will help you keep your iron reserve full-
- Animal food over plant sources-
No, don’t roll your eyes-research shows that iron from animal sources is better absorbed than non-heme iron from plant sources. Iron from animal sources such as seafood, poultry etc., are absorbed better than those plant-based ones. But, if you are a vegetarian, include at least 50g of green leafy veggies on the fair side.
- Include vitamin C in your diet-
Research states that Vitamin C enhances iron absorption in your body by capturing non-heme iron and storing it in a more- absorbable form. So, include bell pepper, melon, strawberries and green leafy veggies in your diet to maintain your iron levels.
- Use Iron pots and fortification if needed-
Wondering what an iron pot is? Well, Iron pots are iron-containing cookwares that were found to increase the iron-ferritin level. In an Ethiopian study, it was found that iron pots significantly made iron available in foods more than other pots. In this study, children fed with food cooked in iron pots had higher haemoglobin and iron levels than children provided in aluminium posts. Weird, but true.
Consult a dietician/ doctor and get yourself checked from time to time. Several government programmes offer iron and folic acid supplementation to adolescent girls and children. Salt fortification is one of the widely used approaches by countries to control iron deficiency anaemia.
It is always better to prevent disease instead of curing it later on. So, a properly balanced diet is a must. Dietary consumption can help you have a healthy body and mind by keeping all the deficiencies and illness at bay. Also, it would be best if you listened to how your body communicates with you. And to do that, you must educate the people about these symptoms. The governments of various countries promote nutrition education in their communities, and we must raise awareness and help them lead healthy lives.