Iron Deficiency Anemia

What is Iron Deficiency Anemia?

Iron Deficiency Anemia happens when the body lacks the iron to produce hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is the section of the red blood cells that give blood its’ color while enabling the red blood cells to carry oxygenated blood through the body. Iron Deficiency Anemia is considered the most common form of anemia. Blood that is lacking in iron will not carry oxygen very well.

Iron deficiency can occurs when the body’s iron storage runs low.

Causes of iron deficiency

  • The body loses more blood cells and iron than can be replaced
  • The body requires more iron than normal (examples: if you are pregnant or breastfeeding).
  • The body can absorb iron, but the person is not eating enough foods that contain rich iron sources.
  • Difficulty with absorption of iron

What are the Symptoms of Iron Deficiency Anemia?

The most common symptom for Iron Deficiency Anemia is fatigue and lack of energy that might seem abnormal. A person could also have pale skin and noticeable changes in the health of their gums. Sometimes if Iron Deficiency Anemia is severe enough, a person may experience more rapid and even irregular heartbeats. If you are experiencing possible heart problems, you should see a doctor right away.

Iron Deficiency Anemia Causes

Iron deficiency anemia occurs when the body has very low iron levels. This makes it difficult to produce hemoglobin, an essential part of red blood cells which allows them to carry oxygen throughout the body. Anemia may occur because too little iron is entering the body, or too much iron has left the body.

If too little iron is entering the body, diet is often to blame. A balanced diet which contains plenty of green, leafy vegetables, red meat and eggs will help to maintain healthy iron levels.

However, if anemia occurs even with a balanced diet, it is probably a gastrointestinal issue which is to blame. Conditions like celiac’s disease make it difficult for the intestines to properly absorb nutrients from food which can lead to deficiencies.

Individuals suffering from long term health conditions which force them to lose blood often develop iron deficiency anemia. Peptic ulcers, hiatal hernias and colorectal cancer are all examples of conditions which cause slow and steady blood loss. It’s also possible to develop anemia as a result of having very heavy periods.

Sometimes pregnant women develop anemia because their body demands more iron than usual in order to provide hemoglobin to the fetus. The body will begin to use up its iron stores first and, if no extra iron is consumed to compensate for the extra demand, a deficiency will occur.

How is Iron Deficiency Anemia Treated?

Treatment for Iron Deficiency Anemia cannot be done through an adjusted diet by itself. With many people, it would not be possible for a person to consume enough food rich in iron to get the amount that is required. In order to bring the iron levels back to normal, supplements are often suggested. Most of which can be bought at local pharmacies, and natural health food stores.

Iron injections will only be necessary in very severe cases, or when a person cannot consume iron supplements. Healthcare practitioners will still insist that anyone taking supplements should be on an improved diet richer in iron. The patient needs to play an active role in their treatment so they can improve their lives and reduce the risk of further medical issues related to their iron levels.

Iron Deficiency Anemia Prevention

For many people, the best way to prevent iron deficiency anemia is to eat a varied diet with plenty of iron-rich foods.

Such as:

  • Meat and seafood
  • Beans
  • Peas
  • Dark green, leafy vegetables like spinach and kale
  • Dried fruit
  • Iron-fortified foods like cereal, bread and pasta

It may also be helpful to consume plenty of foods which contain vitamin C, since this helps the body to absorb iron more efficiently.

Foods rich in vitamin C include:

  • Broccoli
  • Citrus fruits
  • Melons
  • Tomatoes
  • Peppers
  • Strawberries

Pregnant women may benefit from taking an iron supplement throughout their pregnancy to reduce the risk of iron deficiency anemia.

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Last Reviewed:
September 14, 2016
Last Updated:
March 14, 2018