Ever wondered why iron is so important to our body? It is an essential mineral and an important component of haemoglobin, the substance in red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to other parts of the body. So iron deficiency may affect many bodily functions.
Here are 10 signs you may need more iron in your diet.
1) You have heavy periods
For women, the top cause of iron deficiency is a heavier-than-usual period. Women with heavy periods tend to lose too much blood, replacing about half of it before having another heavy flow period the following month. The blood flow of a normal period should be about two to three tablespoons. If you have to change your tampon more than once every two hours, do talk to your gynecologist.
2) You feel anxious for no reason
As if your life isn’t stressful enough, iron deficiency can trick you into feeling more anxious. A lack of oxygen revs up your body’s sympathetic nervous system, which acts like the ‘gas pedal’ for your body. Iron deficiency can send your heart racing, making you feel like you are in a flight-or-flight mode.
3) You are losing your hair
Iron deficiency, especially when it progresses into full blown iron deficiency anaemia, can cause hair loss. Iron deficiency anaemia can send your body into survival mode, channeling oxygen to support vital functions over other functions that keep your hair intact.
4) You can’t stop fidgeting
About 15% of people with restless leg syndrome have iron deficiency. The lower the iron level, the worse the symptom.
5) Your head hurts
An iron deficient body will prioritize getting oxygen into your brain before the other organs in your body, and even then your brain may still get less than it ideally should. In response, the brain’s arteries may swell and cause headaches.
6) You are exhausted
One common symptom, and possibly the hardest to detect, is fatigue. Because of iron deficiency, less oxygen reaches muscle tissues, depriving your body of the energy it needs. If your fatigue is accompanied by weakness, irritability and inability to focus, the lack of iron might have something to do with it.
7) You get breathless easily
No matter how deeply you inhale, if your oxygen level is low, you will feel out of breath. If you find yourself getting out of breath doing routine activities, like climbing a flight of stairs or having a simple workout, it could be due to a lack of iron.
8) You are pale
Haemoglobin gives our blood it’s natural red colour, which renders our skin a rosy hue. So a low level of iron in your blood can sap the colour from your skin. If you have a light complexion, it is pretty easy to spot, but a better indication is to check your gums or the undersides of your lips and bottom eyelids. If they are paler than usual, a low iron level may be the cause.
9) Your tongue looks weird
Besides sapping the colour from your tongue, a low iron count can also reduce the level of myoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that supports your muscles, which include those in your tongue. As a result, many people who are iron deficient complain of sore, inflamed or strangely smooth tongues.
10) Your heart beats erratically
An overworked heart can end up suffering from irregular heartbeats or heart murmurs, and may even result in heart failure. But fret not, because for things to get this bad, you would probably have had iron deficiency anemia for quite some time. However, if you do have existing heart problems, it is important to get your iron level checked, as iron deficiency can worsen existing heart problems.
Article adapted from: CGH Caring Issue 130 May-June 2014
Image credit: CGH Caring Issue 130