We are currently facing a global pandemic and we are also in flu-season. We are supplementing vitamins in hopes of boosting our immune systems, but we might be forgetting one vital supplement that could make a difference; iron. Your body uses iron to produce haemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells responsible for carrying oxygen in the body. Here’s what you should look out for regarding iron deficiency.
Causes and risks
- Heavy periods
- Nutritional uptake problems like inflammatory bowel disease
- Poor diet
- Blood loss from injury or illness
Signs of iron deficiency
It is important to take factors like age, diet and overall health into consideration, but here are possible signs that you may be missing.
You may feel chronic fatigue, weakness and lack of focus, as your organs and brain are not receiving enough oxygen due to the lack of haemoglobin. You may chalk this up to illness, lack of sleep or stress. You may also experience headaches and dizziness, often disguised as a possible sinus- or ear-infection. Having an iron deficiency may also increase your chance of recurring infections.
Your skin may become somewhat pale, as you lack that red flush of healthy red blood cells. This symptom is often mistaken for a lack of a summer tan. If you suspect iron deficiency, also look at the colour of your gums. If they are pale, you may need some iron. Other symptoms include mouth dryness or a swollen, sore mouth and tongue.
Shortness of breath and low saturation levels are red flags for COVID-19, but also a side effect of low iron levels. Your body will try to compensate for poor haemoglobin by increasing your breathing. Your heart will also start working harder to pump blood through your body, so you may have heart palpitations. Heart palpitations and shortness of breath may be viewed as an anxiety attack. This can be dangerous long-term, as you may sustain heart damage by over-working it. This may also exacerbate depression symptoms.
During winter, our skin and hair dries out quickly, so we lather on protective body creams and hair products. It is however also a sign of iron deficiency. The problem may eventually become serious enough to cause significant hair loss. You may also have brittle nails.
Although we are not sure as to what causes restless leg syndrome in general, it is said that a quarter of patients who suffer from anaemia, will also have restless legs. Along with poor blood circulation to the legs, you may also experience cold hands and feet.
The phenomenon of craving non-food items like dirt or paper is called pica. It is common during pregnancy to have strange cravings. This is often a sign of iron deficiency.
How to combat iron deficiency
Speak to your doctor about your symptoms, a blood test may also confirm if you have an iron deficiency. It is important to note all of your symptoms to rule out any heart-problems you may have.
Increase iron-rich foods in your diet. Include meats, dark leafy green vegetables, pulses, seafood and nuts. Boost your iron absorption by taking in vitamin C with your iron. Spinach and broccoli are fantastic as they contain both vitamin C and iron.
Speak to our pharmacists about iron supplements before purchasing, as they may have some side effects.
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