What is Iron Deficiency?
One of the most prevalent nutritional deficiencies in humans is iron insufficiency. Iron is required for the production of hemoglobin, a protein that helps red blood cells transport oxygen throughout the body. As a result, if your body is deficient in hemoglobin, the tissues and muscles will not receive adequate oxygen, causing further impairment in physiological function. Anemia is the medical term for this illness. There are various types of iron deficiency and it is known to be one of the most common conditions. The deficiency can result in some serious symptoms. This symptom can affect our day-to-day life.
Feeling tired or exhausted is one of the most common signs seen in most people who lack iron in their bodies. Our body uses iron to make hemoglobin, the substance in the red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to all the tissues of the body. So, when you don’t have enough iron, it makes it harder for your body to carry the oxygen to the cells. This affects your energy levels and makes you feel sluggish, weak, and unable to focus.
Looking pale is often associated with being sick. Hemoglobin is the reason behind the rosy color of skin. When red blood cells are low in iron, enough hemoglobin cannot be produced, making these cells smaller and paler in the center. Hence, the skin looks paler. Along with this, if the area inside the bottom eyelid is lighter than normal, it may be a sign of iron deficiency.
If your hair falls out and doesn’t grow back, it can be an indication of iron deficiency. When hair follicles don’t get enough oxygen, they go into the resting stage that causes hair to fall. This is because of iron deficiency in the red blood cells that makes haemoglobin, which is responsible for carrying oxygen to the cells. Though it is normal to lose about 100 strands of hair per day, if it doesn’t grow back, it might be because of iron deficiency.
As mentioned earlier, haemoglobin is responsible to carry oxygen to all the cells in our body; due to the lack of enough iron in the blood, the body starves for oxygen. Hence, you may experience shortness of breath even while walking to your car or during a workout.
It is common to have cracked or dry lips during winters or with a habit of licking the lips frequently. But, people who lack enough iron can suffer from a specific type of cracking called “Angular Cheilitis” that affects the corners of the mouth. This makes it difficult to eat, smile or even talk. Along with treating angular cheilitis, people need to treat even the underlying iron deficiency to prevent it from recurring.
No matter whether we are iron deficient or not, our nails can say a lot about our health. Along with weak and brittle nails, people with iron deficiency have spoon nails. Spoon nails look just as they sound – the inside of the nail sinks in, leaving the fingernail shaped like a spoon. Though spoon nails can also be seen in people during trauma and with other issues, iron deficiency might be one of the reasons.
Pica is a condition where people crave to eat non-food substances such as clay, dirt or chalk. This condition is mostly seen in people who lack iron. Also, people with iron deficiency start craving ice. Though it isn’t a problem to have ice, as it is just frozen water, people should look out for any other reasons for this craving. Pica is a common problem during pregnancy due to a lack of iron. Discussing the same with the doctor can help rule out the condition.
When people lack enough iron, they feel the burn after a workout, longer than usual. The iron deficiency reduces the ability of the muscles to recover properly which leads to achiness.
The lack of oxygen can cause muscles to enlarge and become painful. Since the tongue is one of the muscles, iron deficiency can lead to a swollen and tender tongue. The usual bumps on the surface of the tongue disappear and appear to be smooth. This causes difficulty with chewing, swallowing or even talking.
There's a good probability you're iron deficient if you're weary all the time and get tired easily. It means that your body is unable to provide enough oxygen to your cells, causing your energy levels to plummet. As a result, even if you sleep well and get enough rest, you will still feel exhausted.
Another sign that you may be iron deficient is heart palpitation. Low haemoglobin levels need the heart to work harder to transport oxygen to other parts of the body, which can contribute to irregular heartbeats. Cold hands and feet, anxiety, brittle nails, and repeated infections are all signs of iron deficiency.
You can reduce the risk of iron deficiency by choosing the iron-rich foods. Foods that are rich in Iron:
- Red meat, pork and poultry
- Dark green leafy vegetables (spinach)
- Dried fruit (raisins & apricots)
- Iron-fortified cereals, bread and pasta
Foods that contain Vitamin C for enhancing iron absorption:
- Leafy greens