Find out how one woman overcame iron deficiency with the help of her friends and a symptom checker.Read her story here
Being mentally exhausted and physically tired all the time is not healthy.
It can leave you feeling less than who you are - a strong, dynamic, inspiring woman. It can even affect your quality of life, and your relationships with family, friends and colleagues. This could all be a sign you don’t have enough iron in your body.
Let’s get you back on track.
Understanding Iron Deficiency
What is iron deficiency?
Iron deficiency occurs when you don’t have enough iron in your body. Iron is an essential mineral that our bodies need to function in tiptop shape. Usually, the food we eat gives us enough iron for our mental and physical well-being, and to keep our energy levels up.
Iron is the building block needed to produce haemoglobin, a type of protein found in red blood cells.
Iron-rich haemoglobin is responsible for transporting oxygen to all parts of your body. Low iron levels mean less oxygen, which can lead to fatigue and shortness of breath.
Iron is important in maintaining a healthy immune system.
Iron is stored in cells as ferritin, and is always bound to a protein as it is highly reactive.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that approximately half of the 1.62 billion cases of anaemia worldwide are due to iron deficiency.4
Iron deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency and the leading cause of anaemia globally. When the amount of iron you take in is less than the amount of iron you use up or lose, iron deficiency may set in. While the condition is common, many people experience the symptoms for years without knowing the cause.
To help you understand how iron deficiency can progressively creep up on you, or any member of your family, take a look at its 3 stages:6
Depleted iron stores
You are using a lot of your iron stores, but still have enough to do what needs to be done in a typical day.
Early functioning iron deficiency
You are running quite low on iron, as you are using up more than you take in. You start noticing that your body is not functioning at its best.
Iron deficiency anaemia
You don’t have enough iron and your body is not able to cope. Severe conditions could develop or have developed by this point.
Iron deficiency anaemia sounds serious.
You’re right. It is.7
Most cases of iron deficiency anaemia are mild and can be easily corrected by your doctor. However, if anaemia or iron deficiency is left untreated, it can lead to serious health complications such as premature deliveries, irregular heartbeats that may lead to heart failure in severe cases, and delayed growth in infants and children.
These factors may contribute to your risk of iron deficiency.1, 8-9
An unhealthy diet
Reduce the amount of fats, sugars and processed food in your diet and opt for more iron-rich food such as legumes, lean meat, dark leafy greens, nuts and seeds.
Being of Asian descent
Asian women have a five times higher chance of being iron deficient than others.
Consuming large amounts of tea, coffee, dairy or wholegrain cereals may reduce your body’s ability to absorb iron from your food.
The lack of citrus in your diet
Citrus can help absorb iron from food.
- National Institutes of Health, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Your Guide to Anaemia. 2011. Available from: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/files/docs/public/blood/anemia-yg.pdf. Accessed: April 2020.
- Weiss G. (2002). Iron and immunity: a double-edged sword. Eur J Clin Invest. 2002 Mar;32 Suppl 1:70-8.
- World Health Organization. WHO guideline on use of ferritin concentrations to assess iron status in individuals and populations. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2020. Licence: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 IGO. Available at: https://www.who.int/publications-detail/9789240000124. Accessed: April 2020.
- World Health Organization. Worldwide prevalence of anaemia 1993-2005. Available at: https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/43894/9789241596657_eng.pdf. Accessed: April 2020.
- Loy, S.L., Lim, L.M., Chan, S. et al. Iron status and risk factors of iron deficiency among pregnant women in Singapore: a cross-sectional study. BMC Public Health 19, 397 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-019-6736-y.
- Institute of Medicine 2006. Dietary Reference Intakes: The Essential Guide to Nutrient Requirements. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/11537.
- Healthline. Iron Deficiency Anaemia. Available at: https://www.healthline.com/health/iron-deficiency-anemia#complications. Accessed: April 2020.
- Kathryn L. Beck, Cathryn A. Conlon, Rozanne Kruger, Anne-Louise M. Heath, Christophe Matthys, Jane Coad, Beatrix Jones, Welma Stonehouse. Blood Donation, Being Asian, and a History of Iron Deficiency Are Stronger Predictors of Iron Deficiency than Dietary Patterns in Premenopausal Women. Volume 2014 |Article ID 652860 | 7 pages | https://doi.org/10.1155/2014/652860.
- National Health Services. Conditions. Iron deficiency anaemia. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/iron-deficiency-anaemia/. Accessed: April 2020.