Iron Deficiency Symptoms and Causes

What is iron deficiency?

Iron deficiency occurs when there is not enough iron in our bodies. Iron is an essential mineral that is required to produce our red blood cells. Red blood cells support a healthy immune system, energy levels, muscles and ability to function mentally. They also produce proteins called haemoglobin, which carries oxygen in the bloodstream.

Our bodies cannot produce iron, which is why we need iron from our food. If you do not get enough iron from food, this causes a deficiency in iron.

Extremely low levels of iron (less than 10) is called anaemia. You will require an iron infusion if you are anaemic. Iron deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency in the world.

The symptoms of iron deficiency

  • Feeling weak, tired and listless
  • Feeling out of breath
  • Trouble with concentration and memory
  • Struggling to perform at school or work
  • Continuous sickness or colds
  • Difficulty exercising
  • Fatigue
  • Behavioural issues in children
  • Decreased sex drive

These symptoms can also indicate other conditions.

What causes iron deficiency?

The 3 main causes of iron deficiency include:

  1. Not eating enough iron-rich foods. Children, teenagers especially females who have periods, pregnant women and breastfeeding women require more iron than men. Babies need breast milk or formula (with iron) in the first year of life. People who are vegan or vegetarian are at most risk of developing an iron deficiency.
  2. Malabsorption. Our stomach and bowel absorb iron from our food. There are some health conditions that affect how iron is absorbed, these include coeliac disease, chronic pancreatitis, pancreatic cancer, cystic fibrosis, and gallstones.
  3. Excessive blood loss. Losing blood means you lose iron as well. The main causes of blood loss include menstrual periods, bleeding in the stomach or bowel, which can be caused from taking medicines such as ibuprofen or aspirin. Conditions such as ulcers, inflammatory bowel disease, polyps or cancer can also cause blood loss internally.

Please book an appointment with us today if you think you are experiencing iron deficiency. Call us on (03) 7068 5808 or book online.

Exhaustion is one symptom of iron deficiency that females can experience.
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