close
Advertisement
Shop Now
Magazine
 

Common Causes of Iron Deficiency

Iron is a workhorse nutrient. But you may not have enough. Here’s why.

Common Causes of Iron Deficiency
iStock

Iron is a workhorse nutrient. It helps cells work properly, sharpens memory and concentration, drives energy supplies, helps form oxygen-carrying haemoglobin in red blood cells and may even ward off depression. But you may not have enough. Here’s why.

Poor iron absorption

This could be due to not eating enough iron-rich food, or eating food that hinders the way your body absorbs it. “Because iron is absorbed in the gut, faulty absorption could also be due to a digestive issue such as untreated coeliac disease or colitis,” says Dr William Ehman, from the University of British Columbia. A 2010 study published in the International Journal for Vitamin and Nutrition Research suggested that people who are obese may not be able to absorb iron well. And absorption can be blocked for those taking large amounts of antacids or a proton-pump inhibitor (PPI) medication to treat acid reflux.

Too-vigorous workouts

If you are training extra-hard “you can lose small amounts of iron through sweat and urine,” explains registered dietitian Alex Paton, who specialises in sport nutrition. Running can also cause minor GI bleeds, because the body is being jostled and shaken, she adds. Another factor is foot strike – red blood cells bursting in the feet when they hit the ground. Firm insoles in running shoes protect against this.

Giving blood

Blood donation causes a brief drop in haemoglobin, but your body recovers quickly. It’s a good idea to eat iron-rich foods for a few days after donation, and space out donations if your iron levels are in the low-normal range.

Signs of iron deficiency

Symptoms of iron deficiency can be vague, says Ehman. Possible symptoms are a sore, inflamed tongue; dizziness; restless leg; headache; difficulty maintaining body temperature; shortness of breath; brittle nails; irritability; and rapid or irregular heartbeat. In mild cases, you might not notice any symptoms at all. Your doctor can order tests to check your iron levels.



More in Tips/Advice

Is There Room for Alcohol in Your Diet if You Have Diabetes?

Is There Room for Alcohol in Your Diet if You Have Diabetes?

Health tips and advice for people with diabetes on managing their alcohol consumption. 

Can I Eat Fruit as Much as I Like?

How many servings of fruits and vegetables should I eat?
Weight Management Strategy for Diabetics

Weight Management Strategy for Diabetics

The most consistent advice over the years for people with diabetes is the need to obtain and maintain a healthy weight. Here are some practical tips and advice. 

Link Between Complex Carbohydrates and Fibre

What is the link between carbohydrates and fibre? Healthy eating facts and tips for you to eat healthy. 
Shopping Hacks for Foods Low on the Glycemic Index

Five Shopping Hacks for Foods Low on the Glycaemic Index

Low-GL foods create a smaller, more sustained rise in blood glucose than high-GL foods, and don't require as much insulin.
Advertisement