Iron deficiency is the most common nutrient deficiency in the United States and since this nutrient is critical for the production of red blood cells which carry oxygen all over the body, every system is affected. A chronic issue with this can lead to anemia and to other health problems down the road. Below are discussed ten of the most common warning signs of an iron deficiency.
Exhaustion or Fatigue
While this is the most common sign of iron deficiency, it can also be the most difficult to detect since most women lead busy live and frequently feeling tired. However, if this tiredness appears to be getting worse – or at least not getting any better – no matter how much sleep you get, it could be a sign that something else is going on.
For women who have iron deficiency the number one cause of this is heavier than normal periods. This is because the body will lose too much iron in one menstrual cycle and not have time to replace it before the next, so that the problem steadily gets worse.
The hemoglobin in your blood gives your skin its rosy color and if there is not enough iron to make it, the result is frequently unnaturally pale skin. For people with darker skin tones, this paleness can be seen inside the lips and gums.
Shortness of Breath
If you find yourself getting short of breath easily, even when you are doing activities that are normally not a problem for you, this could be because you do not have enough iron hemoglobin to oxygenate your body.
Iron deficiency can lead to an overworked heart and frequently to irregular heartbeats or a feeling like your heart is pounding. This is one of the later signs of iron deficiency and can be avoided with early reporting of symptoms.
Restless Leg Syndrome
If you can’t stop fidgeting and moving around, especially when you try to sleep, this could also be a sign of iron deficiency: about 15% of people who have restless leg syndrome also have an iron deficiency.
Even with low iron levels, your body will prioritize getting oxygen to your brain, but even this might not be entirely sufficient and the result can be frequent headaches due to lack of oxygen.
If you feel anxious frequently for no apparent reason, this could also be a sign that your iron levels are inadequate. Low oxygen levels can stimulate the sympathetic nervous system and make you feel like you are in fight-or-flight mode even without an apparent cause.
Iron deficiency, especially when it progresses to anemia, can also lead to hair loss, since your body is channeling blood to support vital organs rather than working on things like keeping the hair intact.
Vegetarian or Vegan
If you are a vegetarian or vegan and have the above symptoms, you should talk to your doctor as well. You are more at risk for iron deficiency since the body absorbs iron more efficiently more meat than plant sources.
If you have any of the symptoms above, it is a good idea to consult with a medical practitioner to determine if your iron levels are low – and what you can do about it.
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