What is an Iron Deficiency?
An iron deficiency is a condition that develops when the body does not have sufficient iron. Iron is an essential dietary mineral responsible for the transport of oxygen in the blood from the lungs to the rest of the body in the form of hemoglobin (an iron-rich protein that gives blood its red color).
It is also vital for the optimal functioning of the body and immune system. In people with an iron deficiency, the body makes fewer and smaller red blood cells and as a result less oxygen is delivered to the body. This can cause tiredness, fatigue, depleted energy levels and a weakened immune system.
Iron deficiency is a very common health problem and affects babies, toddlers, and children, as well as women who have their menstrual cycle and pregnant women. It is important to maintain healthy iron levels to prevent iron deficiency and risk developing anemia. Sometimes too much iron may build up in the body resulting in serious health complications.
Diagnosing Iron Deficiency
The diagnosis of an iron deficiency is based on a thorough physical examination, symptoms as well as a review of your medical history. Blood tests will be performed for a complete blood count as well as to check how much iron is in your blood. Additional tests may be required if the iron deficiency is not obvious and include an endoscopy and colonoscopy.
Symptoms and signs
- Feeling weak or faint
- Pale skin
- Tiredness and fatigue
- Brittle nails and hair
- Poor temperature regulation
- Heart palpitations
- Poor appetite
What causes Iron Deficiency?
An iron deficiency develops as a result of low levels of iron in the body and may be caused by:
- Lack of iron in the diet – not enough in your diet to replace the amount that is lost every day
- Blood loss as a result of heavy menstrual bleeding
- Blood loss as a result of intestinal bleeding such as a gastritis, stomach ulcers, duodenal ulcer, hemorrhoids, bloody or tarry stools, uterine fibroids, bladder tumor, stomach or colorectal cancer
- Inability to absorb iron in the body. This may occur because the small intestine is unable to absorb iron as a result of an intestinal disorder such as Celiac disease or Crohn’s disease. If part of the small intestine has been surgically removed or certain medications such stomach acid-blockers may also cause an iron deficiency.
- Pregnancy – many pregnant women suffer from iron deficiency because their body needs to provide iron for the growing fetus as well as their own increasing blood volume
Help for Iron Deficiency
The treatment of an iron deficiency depends on the underlying cause and diagnosis. Iron supplement tablets are usually prescribed and should be taken for several months for optimal effect and to build up iron levels in the body. Most people feel better within days after taking the tablets. However, some people may not be able to readily absorb the iron in the tablets.
If the tablets do not agree with you, your health practitioner may give you an iron injection. In cases where an iron deficiency is severe, a blood transfusion may be necessary. Adjusting your diet by incorporating foods rich in iron can also make a significant difference to your iron reserves.
Natural herbal and homeopathic remedies can help provide a sound platform for iron absorption in the body. Homeopathic ingredients can get to work on a cellular level, and are safe to use for people of all ages, including during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Ferrum phosphoricum, Calcarea phosphorica and Ferrum metallicum supports the process of iron absorption in all body systems and the transport of oxygen around the body and helps to maintain normal, healthy levels of hemoglobin.