If you are feeling fatigued constantly for no apparent reason, then you may be going through iron deficiency. Iron is present in hemoglobin and hemoglobin is present in our red blood cells (RBC). The iron in hemoglobin is what gives blood its red color and it is also responsible for the utilizationof oxygen carried by hemoglobin. Thus iron affects the RBC function and affects every other body function.
Iron deficiency is commonly equated with a condition called Anemia. But iron deficiency can exist with or without Anemia. In the early stage of iron deficiency, anemia may not be present. But as the reserves of iron gets depleted to unhealthy levels (assessed by checking hemoglobin levels and RBC count dropping below normal range) then the person is said to have Anemia. A person, who has this health problem, will feel tired even when they have not exerted themselves. There are several causes for low hemoglobin and low RBCs in the blood and they include infections caused by viruses, bleeding and age.
Anemia is classified in several types, but iron deficiency remains the most common cause of the condition. Without iron, it’s not possible for hemoglobin to take oxygen into all tissues of the body. This leads to malfunctioning of muscles and tissues due to lack of enough oxygen. Pregnancy and heavy bleeding are the major causes of iron deficiency in women who are of child bearing age. There are also cases where not taking enough of iron rich foods promotes the condition. Usually taking iron supplements should help alleviate the problem, unless of course the iron deficiency and related anemia is caused by an underlying health condition. Some patients who suffer from intestinal diseases or any other that affect the absorption of iron in the body may need to get further treatment beyond taking the supplements.
Major causes of anemia
A report released by Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that anemia is a very common condition. This is one of the most reported cases of nutritional deficiency in United States. Here are the main causes of iron deficiency.
Not consuming enough iron rich foods
Failing to include enough iron rich foods in your meals can lead to low iron symptoms. There are many foods rich in this essential nutrient and they can be found in red meat, fish, poultry, spinach, dried apricots, oatmeal, and beans, iron fortified breads and cereals. Little children and expectant mothers must eat plenty of iron in every meal.
Heavy bleeding or pregnancy
It is common for women of child bearing age to get iron deficiency symptoms. Also those women who experience heavy menstrual bleeding (due a number of reasons) are also likely to have low red blood cells leading to a reduction in hemoglobin levels.
Some medical conditions lead to internal bleeding and interferes with normal levels of iron in the body. Some of these health conditions include stomach ulcer, tissue growth in the intestines and colon cancer. People who are used to taking aspirin regularly are at also risk of stomach bleeding.
Interference of iron absorption in the body
There are health disorders that hinder the absorption of iron and this happens when your intestines have a problem. It becomes useless to eat iron rich foods under those conditions because it ends up as waste. Celiac is one of the diseases that limit iron absorption.
Symptoms of anemia
It is not easy to tell the symptoms of iron deficiency in the initial stages. They are mild and usually never manifest as a major health problem. In fact, there are people living with anemia and they do not know until they undergo a blood test. However, here are some tell- tale signs you must watch out for and they could all be pointing to potential anemia symptoms. See some of the signs below.
- Unexplainable fatigue any time of the day
- Feeling weak
- Pale looking skin
- Breathing problems
- Feeling dizzy
- Craving for things like clay, ice or dirt.
- Tingling feeling in your legs
- A sore or swollen tongue
- Irregular and fast heart beats
- Brittle and pale nails.
What are the possible complications that can arise from iron deficiency?
Iron deficiency does not lead to any complications in most people. But if the iron deficiency progresses, creating significant depletion and if the condition is not treated it can lead to health problems such as slow resistance to infection, higher susceptibility to lead poisoning and loss of appetite. More specifically, it can create the issues listed below:
Untreated anemia in the long run can cause heart problems such as arrhythmia (irregular heartbeats), Tachycardia (higher heart beats when resting) and Cardiomegaly (enlarged heart)
Complications during pregnancy
A pregnant woman without enough iron in the body is likely to give birth to a premature baby. However, most doctors prescribe iron supplements to pregnant women. This prevents low weight babies and other complications for the mother and baby.
Slow growth in children
Children suffering from iron deficiency experience slow growth and are vulnerable to common infections. Their immunity system becomes weak and they fall ill more often.
So if you are experiencing constant fatigue for no explainable reasons, go check your iron levels in your blood. It may throw some light. Also if you are a frequent blood donor, make sure to restore iron levels in your blood. A simple way is to eat iron rich fruits and vegetables such as Prunes, Figs, watermelon, raisins, dates, spinach, beans and lentils.