Iron Deficiency – What You Should Know

Ever get the feeling your body is telling you that there’s something wrong? Like the “Check Engine” light on your dashboard, which alerts you to problems with your car, your body is telling you to stop and investigate. Maybe you’re tired even after getting a full night’s sleep. Maybe you have a hard time concentrating, and you’re noticeably pale. Let’s stop and investigate whether you might be suffering the effects of iron deficiency and see what you can do about it.

Iron Deficiency - What You Should Know

Why Does It Happen?

The most common reason people develop iron deficiency is because they’re not getting enough of it from their diet. Since meat is one of the highest natural sources of iron, many vegetarians aren’t able to get enough iron from their non-animal sources.

Pregnant women, because their iron supply must support both them and their growing fetus, may suffer from a deficiency. In addition, heavy bleeding, such as from a period, can cause iron deficiency.

Other  reasons may include maladies such as celiac disease or chronic kidney disease, which prevent a person’s body from absorbing the iron it needs.

What Iron Does

Iron is a key component in producing hemoglobin (a protein found in red blood cells), which is responsible for transporting oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body in order to keep it functioning properly. A lack of oxygen distribution doesn’t only affect your lungs – it can even disrupt proper brain function, leading to lack of concentration and fatigue.

Obviously this is a problem that deserves immediate attention, especially in pregnant women and growing children. Be on the lookout for these symptoms:

  • Fatigue

  • Dizziness

  • Inability to concentrate

  • Headaches

  • Irritability

  • Unusually pale skin

  • Prolonged sore muscles after exercise or activity

What You Need to Do

Daily iron requirements vary from person to person. Most women of reproductive age need 18 mg of iron in their diet, pregnant women need 27 mg, and men need only 8 mg. If you don’t believe your iron intake is within these parameters, here are some ways you can increase it.

Many times iron deficiency can be resolved by eating foods rich in iron. The most iron-rich foods are meats, so try to include more red meat, fish, and poultry in your everyday diet.

Other non-animal sources of iron include:

  • Green leafy vegetables, such as kale and spinach
  • Tofu
  • Green beans
  • Lima beans
  • Tomatoes
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Corn

If you’re afraid you’re not getting enough iron from your diet, then try iron supplements. Usually people feel better within a few days of taking supplements, but keep in mind that you might need to take them longer in order to build up a substantial amount of iron in your blood.

You may also want to consult with your physician, especially if you suspect an iron deficiency in one of your children, since this can cause serious problems.

The symptoms of iron deficiency are just more evidence that your body is a finely tuned machine. But, like any machine, it will give you signs when it isn’t running properly. Be attuned to these signs, and it will lead to a healthier, happier, more balanced you.

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