Iron deficiency, as the name implies, is characterised by low iron levels in the body. Sideropenia is another name for it. The most frequent dietary deficit in the world is iron deficiency. Iron insufficiency is more common among those living in low-income nations.
It is more common in women and is caused by blood loss during menstruation and pregnancy. It also affects males, children, and premenopausal women.
What is Iron Deficiency?
Iron is a necessary nutrient for the body. It is a required component of haemoglobin, which is used to create red blood cells. It aids in the transfer of oxygen via the blood. Iron deficiency impairs oxygen delivery. It also has an impact on the total amount and quality of blood cells. Iron deficiency is caused by this disorder.
Anaemia develops as a result of the chronic iron shortage. As a result, the name ‘Iron Deficiency Anaemia’ was coined (IDA). It can be used interchangeably. According to data, about 30% of the world’s population suffers from anaemia, and a large portion of the population suffers from IDA.
Iron insufficiency is not a fatal condition. However, it has the potential to cause serious diseases. It, for example, produces weariness and shortness of breath. Furthermore, significant consequences such as heart failure develop. The good news is that iron deficiency may be promptly treated or prevented with an iron-rich diet and supplementation in any form.
Causes of Iron Deficiency
1. High Iron Requirements
The body’s iron demand fluctuates during a person’s life. In general, during periods of rapid expansion, the demands are greater. Childhood and adolescence are critical stages of development.
As a result, it is important to consume a suitable amount of iron-rich meals. Furthermore, iron needs rise during pregnancy and menstruation. There is a danger of acquiring anaemia in such circumstances.
2. Low Iron Absorption
Some disorders and operations, according to research, may affect iron absorption. If such circumstances persist, they may result in iron deficiency. People suffering from celiac and Crohn’s disease, for example, maybe at risk.
Furthermore, persons who have had gastric bypass surgery may not be able to absorb iron. These diseases may make it difficult for the gut to absorb iron fully.
Excessive use of antacids and antibiotics also contributes to poor absorption. Furthermore, calcium has been shown in tests to limit iron absorption. As a result, consuming an excessive amount of dairy products hinders iron absorption.
3. Blood Loss
Iron deficiency anaemia can be caused by any type of blood loss. It can happen for a variety of causes. It might be caused by blood loss as a consequence of an accident, menstruation, or other factors.
According to research, internal bleeding is caused by conditions such as peptic ulcers, hernias, and colorectal cancer. Women who have heavy menstruation may be at a higher risk of anaemia.
Medication overuse might result in gastrointestinal bleeding in rare circumstances. Other sources of blood loss include kidneys, blood donations, and so on.
Non-heme iron, which is found in vegetarian and vegan meals, is of low quality. Non-vegetarian sources, on the other hand, include heme iron. Heme iron absorbs at a faster rate. However, this does not imply that vegetarians are more vulnerable.
According to research, iron absorption is influenced by a variety of dietary variables.
5. Vitamin C
It is a nutrient that is required for iron absorption. Iron may be converted to an easily absorbable form by eating meals high in vitamin C. As a result, a lack of vitamin C-rich meals contributes to anaemia.
Certain antinutrients interfere with nonheme iron absorption. Soybeans, black beans, and lentils contain phytates, which are antinutrients. When combined with iron-rich meals, they limit iron absorption. Phytate can also be found in unpolished grains, cereals, mung beans, and split beans.
They bind to nonheme iron in the intestines, preventing absorption. Tannic acid, one of the polyphenols, is also present in tea.
Although the mechanism is yet unknown, scientists believe calcium inhibits both heme and nonheme iron absorption.
Popular fad diets may also contribute to an individual’s iron shortage. Iron insufficiency is also caused by consuming iron-deficient foods. Infants who drink cow’s milk as their sole dietary source, for example, are at significant risk of iron deficiency. This is due to the fact that cow’s milk is a poor supplier of iron.
Symptoms of Iron Deficiency
Iron insufficiency is frequently overlooked. Only when persistent anaemia occurs, do people realise they have a deficit. The degree of iron deficiency affects the symptoms. It evolves with time, depending on the person’s age and health. Here is a list of iron deficiency symptoms.
Iron is an oxygen transporter in human blood, and a lack of it may result in a reduction in oxygen flow to the muscles. It may also have an effect on the tissues and the brain. It may produce fatigue due to a decrease in energy.
2. Shortness of Breath
Due to iron deficiency, there is inadequate oxygen delivery, which may cause shortness of breath. It may have an impact on typical everyday tasks such as walking and climbing stairs.
3. Irregular Heartbeat/Palpitations
Low haemoglobin levels may result in reduced oxygen availability. In that instance, the heart needs to work harder to keep the blood flowing. As a result, irregular heartbeats may occur. If the illness persists, significant cardiac problems may develop.
4. Compromised Immune Health
According to research, iron deficiency may have an impact on the immune system. Iron deficiency makes people more susceptible to infections, colds, flu, and other illnesses. However, the precise process is yet unknown.
5. Pale Skin
According to research, pale skin may be an important indication of iron insufficiency. Low RBCs are associated with iron insufficiency. As a result, there may be a lack of blood circulation, resulting in pale skin and eyelids.
Due to a lack of oxygen flow to the hair roots, damaged skin and hair loss may develop. Irregular hair loss, in both men and women, is an indication of iron insufficiency. Furthermore, research indicates that anaemia may induce alopecia in both men and women.
7. Sore Mouth
Dryness, puffiness, and discomfort in and around the mouth can be caused by an iron shortage. Furthermore, it produces fissures. According to research, anaemia might cause decreased saliva output.
Iron deficiency is characterised by frequent and recurring headaches. According to research, anaemia can cause migraines. Furthermore, low iron levels may result in insufficient oxygen supply to the brain. Furthermore, anaemia can interfere with nerve signals.
9. Spoon-Shaped Nails
According to research, the severe iron shortage may result in spoon-shaped nails, commonly known as koilonychia. It makes the nails readily fracture and shatter.
Treatment and Prevention of Iron Deficiency
Good eating habits can help you avoid iron shortages. Iron levels in the body may be increased by eating iron-rich foods. Eggs, beef, and shellfish are examples of iron-rich foods. Green-leafy vegetables, such as spinach, and dry fruits, such as apricots, are also good. Iron is also found in nuts, seeds, beans, tofu, and iron-fortified cereals.
Iron is better absorbed by the body from animal foods than from plant sources. Antinutrients, on the other hand, may interfere with iron absorption. As a result, you should avoid combining antinutrient items such as tea, coffee, and dairy products with iron-rich meals. These foods contain tannins, oxalic acids, and phytic acids, all of which are antinutrients that bind to iron and prevent it from being absorbed.
Iron absorption requires vitamin C. According to research, vitamin C promotes non-heme iron absorption in the body. Vegetarian sources provide non-heme iron. As a result, it is appropriate for vegetarians and vegans. Citrus fruits, bell peppers, and broccoli are all good sources of vitamin C.
Iron supplements may boost the body’s iron content. However, you should only begin taking these supplements with a doctor’s prescription. When taken on a regular basis, these pills may help to replenish iron levels. They may be better absorbed if taken on an empty stomach. You can eat them on alternate days without risk.
Some people may benefit from intravenous iron, according to medical professionals. For example, if iron absorption in the stomach is weak, you will require them. People who encounter negative effects from oral iron supplements might also get intravenous iron. Pregnant women with iron insufficiency can also get IV iron. You may, however, require numerous transfusions.
Patients with severe iron shortages require blood transfusions. Blood transfusion is recommended by healthcare providers for people who are actively bleeding. However, it is possible that it will not increase the person’s total iron content in the long run.
When to Consult a Doctor?
People frequently disregard the signs of iron insufficiency. However, if you develop one or more of the symptoms of anaemia, you should see a doctor. If left untreated, it might cause cardiac problems, pregnancy issues, and depression. In addition, if you experience excessive bleeding, you should seek medical attention right once. Similarly, skin rashes and pale skin should never be ignored.
Wrapping It Up
Although iron deficiency is common among people owing to poor dietary habits, it may also be caused by non-dietary behaviours. However, iron deficiency is the most common cause of anaemia. As a result, good eating habits are essential.
To increase absorption, for example, combine iron-rich meals with vitamin C. Iron deficiency must be diagnosed. Consult a doctor if you detect any symptoms. Supplemental therapy should be properly prescribed and monitored.