Do you experience regular fatigue or exhaustion? What about restless legs, brittle nails, or feeling cold all the time? While numerous health conditions share these symptoms, these are common symptoms of iron deficiency. If you aren’t careful and don’t regularly consume iron-rich foods, you could be at risk of becoming iron deficient.
Why Does The Body Need Iron?
Iron is an essential mineral that the body needs to produce hemoglobin, which is a protein in red blood cells that allows them to transport oxygen throughout the body. Without sufficient oxygenation, it becomes difficult for the body’s tissues and organs to function normally. When the body doesn’t have enough iron, it’s possible to develop anemia, with iron-deficiency anemia being the most common around the world. The most common reasons people experience iron-deficiency anemia are:
- Increased iron requirements during pregnancy
- Insufficient iron intake (failing to meet daily nutritional needs)
- Blood loss through heavy periods or internal bleeding
- Inflammatory bowel disease
Common Symptoms Of Iron Deficiency
If you don’t have enough hemoglobin-carrying blood cells in the body, the heart has to work harder to transport oxygen-rich cells throughout the body. When the heart is overworked, it’s common to experience chest pain, weakness, irregular heart beats, or even heart failure. These are obviously the most serious symptoms, but it is possible to experience them if iron-deficiency is not addressed. The most common symptoms of iron deficiency are listed below.
Now, you may not interpret fatigue or unusual tiredness as out of the ordinary, primarily because tiredness is par for the course of a busy life. The reason that people experience fatigue when iron levels are low is because the body lacks hemoglobin, which carries oxygen throughout the body. This makes the heart to work harder than normal, making you feel tired. If you experience fatigue for over a month, consider talking to your doctor to see if you are deficient in iron or other nutrients.
Restless leg syndrome is defined by the urge to constantly move your legs while resting. For example, you sit down at the dinner table and cannot stop bouncing your legs because you feel a itchy or unpleasant sensation in the feet and legs. Roughly 25% of people who have iron-deficiency anemia experience restless leg syndrome. According to health experts, the reason people develop sharp pains or numbness in the legs (causing the restlessness) is because of neurological connection between iron levels and the nervous system.
When you are deficient iron or have iron deficiency anemia, the heart has to work harder to pump oxygen throughout the body. If the heart is overworked, you’ll feel abnormal heart rhythms, or that the heart is beating too fast. Failure to address this problem can result in an enlarged heart, heart murmur, or heart failure in extreme cases.
Second to fatigue, cold hands and feet is one of the most common symptoms of iron deficiency anemia. People with iron deficiency anemia commonly have impaired circulation, meaning that there’s not enough oxygen in the body’s organs and tissues. Without proper oxygenation in the body’s major tissues, you lose sensation to experience hot and cold, according to health officials. This is especially worse for people who get cold hands and feet with proper iron levels.
Hemoglobin in red blood cells gives blood its signature red color. This is why people with anemia tend to appear paler. The skin starts to lose healthy color when you are deficient in iron. The paleness is most visible around the gums, nails, face, and inside the lips and lower eyelids. These are the first places a doctor will check to determine if you are iron deficient. A good parameter is to pull your lower eyelid down and see a bright red color. If it’s pink or even yellow, you may be deficient in iron.
If you find that you experience the symptoms in this article, please talk to your health care professional or consult a nutritionist. You may have to supplement with iron in addition to consuming iron-rich foods. The quickest way to increase iron levels is to eat more iron-rich foods, which include nuts and seeds, beans, peas, dried fruit, dark leafy greens (spinach & kale), and sea vegetables.