Iron is an essential mineral for the proper functioning of the human body because it plays a vital role in the production of hemoglobin. If your body does not get enough iron, it will cause a low level of red blood cells.
What is an iron deficiency?
Anemia is a fairly common condition that occurs when the body does not have enough iron to produce the hemoglobin needed to make red blood cells.
The disease particularly affects children and women of childbearing age (20-30%). During pregnancy, again, women are particularly affected: 50% of them would have iron deficiency anemia after their 25th week of amenorrhea.
What are the causes of iron deficiency?
The first cause is inadequate intake: vegetarian diet, dieting, malnutrition or poor diet may be the cause. It is also possible to consume iron in sufficient quantities but to absorb it badly.
Some gastric diseases, chronic diarrhea or diseases of the intestinal mucosa are examples of pathologies that reduce the absorption of iron. Similarly, some substances prevent the assimilation of iron, such as tea, for example.
Here are 11 signs of iron deficiency to never ignore:
1. Fatigue / very intense weakness
A feeling of fatigue and a very intense weakness is one of the common signs of iron deficiency and affects more than half of people with iron deficiency.
This can be explained by the fact that iron is responsible of producing hemoglobin, a protein found in red blood cells, which helps carry oxygen in the body.
When our body does not have enough hemoglobin, less oxygen gets into our muscles and tissues, which causes a lack of energy.
Since fatigue is considered a normal part of a busy modern life, it is difficult to diagnose iron deficiency with only this symptom. However, many people with iron deficiency will not only feel tired, but also weak and moody, and will have difficulty concentrating.
2. Headache, dizziness or lightheadedness
Headache, dizziness or lightheadedness (especially when standing) could be a sign of iron deficiency. This symptom is less common, which does not mean that it should be ignored.
In fact, the lack of hemoglobins results in a lack of oxygen supply to the brain, which can cause swelling of the cerebral blood vessels, causing tension and headaches.
There are many cases of headaches, but if you suffer from recurrent headaches and dizziness, we advise you to have your blood examined.
3. Constant breathlessness
If you notice that you are short of breath by doing normal daily activities that you have done without difficulty before, such as walking, climbing stairs or playing sports, you may have iron deficiency.
Hemoglobin is responsible for the oxygen transfer. During an iron deficiency, the amounts of hemoglobins are low and thus the oxygen levels become low as well.
This means that you must breathe more to get more oxygen even for normal activities, such as walking . It is for this reason that shortness of breath is one of the alarming symptoms.
4. You are pale
Hemoglobin is a special protein that gives your blood its red color. This explains why iron deficiency can cause the skin to lose its healthy, rosy appearance.
This pallor can appear at the level of the whole body or in specific places: the face, the gums, the inside of the lips, the lower eyelids or even the nails. This pallor is mostly considered as a symptom of severe or moderate anemia.
When you pull on your lower eyelid, the inner layer should be bright red: if it is pink or yellowish, it is possible that you have iron deficiency.
5. Swelling and pain in the mouth and tongue
Observing one’s tongue or around one’s mouth can reveal certain health problems. If your tongue is inflamed, swollen or abnormally smooth, it may be a sign of iron deficiency anemia.
Indeed, a low level of hemoglobin can cause pallor, and a lack of myoglobin can cause swelling and pain.
Myoglobin is a protein in red blood cells that supports muscles, including the muscles of the tongue. Iron deficiency can also cause dry lips and ulcers in the mouth.
6. Soft and brittle nails
A rarer symptom of iron deficiency is koïlonychie: it is an alteration of the nails characterized by the raising of their lateral edges and by a depressed median part. Thus, the nails take a concave shape. This is a sign that only appears when the iron deficiency is very serious.
7. Dry and damaged hair
When the body lacks iron, it directs its limited oxygen resources to the body’s most important functions, such as muscles and tissues, leading to damaged and dry hair. More serious cases of iron deficiency can even cause hair loss.
The loss of some hair at the time of washing and daily brushing is perfectly normal, but if you lose whole tufts, it is possible that you have iron deficiency.
8. A fast heart rate
Heartbeats that are felt, or heart palpitations, are a common symptom of iron deficiency. In fact, the lack of hemoglobin in the blood causes the heart to work harder to bring oxygen to all parts of the body. This can cause an irregular heartbeat, or give the impression that your heart is beating too fast.
In extreme cases, this can lead to cardiomegaly (an abnormal increase in the size of the heart), a heart murmur or heart failure.
These symptoms are much rarer and manifest in people who have been iron deficient for a long time.
9. Restless legs syndrome
This syndrome is characterized by an urgent need to move its lower limbs, and can cause odd sensations such as tingling and itching in the legs and feet.
Symptoms are often worse at night, which means that people with this syndrome usually have trouble sleeping.
The exact causes of this syndrome are not known, however, 15% of people suffering from it are also anemic: the greater the iron deficiency, the stronger the symptoms.
10. Abundant periods
When you lose too much blood each month, your body does not have time to replace it. Consult your gynecologist if you need to change your tampon more often than every two hours.
A lack of oxygen can affect your sympathetic nervous system, and you may be anxious for no real reason. In addition, a high heart rate can make you feel like your body is on alert.
How to prevent iron deficiency anemia?
To prevent the anemia, it is necessary to increase consumption of foods rich in iron but also foods facilitating its absorption.
The top recommended foods are:
- Meat (red especially),
- legumes or cereals based on whole grains.
Foods rich in vitamin C are also recommended because they facilitate iron absorption. On the other hand, it is necessary to avoid phytates (herbal substances that bind iron and prevent its absorption), especially in bran, wheat and tea. black and white beans.
Iron, after being absorbed by the intestine, is transported by transferrin into the bone marrow where it enters the red blood cell hemoglobin composition, which carries oxygen from the lungs to the cells.
Daily needs vary by age and sex:
– Children from 1 year: 7 to 10mg.
– Teens 14 to 18 years old: boys, 11mg; girls, 15mg.
– Women of childbearing age: 16 to 20mg.
– Pregnant and lactating women: from 20 to 22mg.
– Men from 18 years old: 8mg.
– Women after 50 years: 8 mg.