Definition of Iron Deficiency:
Iron deficiency anemia is a common type of anemia defined by Mayo Clinic as “a condition in which blood lacks adequate healthy red blood cells”. If you can remember back to biology classes, red blood cells carry oxygen to the body’s tissues and as the name implies, “iron deficiency anemia is due to insufficient iron”.
Without enough iron, your body is unable to produce enough of a substance in red blood cells that enables them to carry oxygen. As a result, iron deficiency can present itself with many different symptoms.
Symptoms of Iron Deficiency:
Iron deficiency anemia is most commonly associate with fatigue and shortness of breath. With mild iron deficiency, symptoms often go unnoticed. However, as the body becomes more anemic, signs and symptoms often intensify.
- Paleness noted to skin, nails and mucous membranes of your inner, lower eyelids
- Chest pains, rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath
- Cold hands and feet, brittle nails
- Inflammation of your tongue
- Hearing loss
- Craving and chewing large amounts of ice! Pica is a term used to describe craving and chewing on substances that lack nutritional value – such as ice, clay, soil or paper. Craving and chewing ice is often associated with iron deficiency without known cause
Causes of Iron Deficiency:
Iron deficiency anemia is the result of your body not producing enough iron. The result of this is the body’s inability to produce enough hemoglobin to oxygenate red blood cells.
What can cause iron deficiency anemia?
- An Acute Bleed – If you notice rectal bleeding, you should always get this checked
- Surgical Procedures
- Autoimmune Diseases – crohn’s, ulcerative colitis, celiac disease, chronic autoimmune disorders and more
- Pregnancy – Extra oxygen & nutrient demands required to fetus can leave mother depleted
- Heavy Periods – Iron deficiency is very common in women with heavy cycles and blood loss
Lab tests to run to rule out Iron Deficiency:
While symptoms like fatigue, dizziness and pale skin, etc. are often associated with iron deficiency anemia; it is important to get lab test to check hemoglobin levels.
- Iron Panel – Iron, TIBC, Ferritin
- Complete Blood Count (CBC) – Looking at hemoglobin levels and the size/shape of the red blood cell
Treatment for iron deficiency anemia can be multifaceted and often depending on the degree of iron deficiency you have in your body.
- Dietary iron (this is found in two forms):
- Heme iron – This type of iron is found in lean red meat, poultry, and seafood. Heme iron is easily absorbed into the body.
- Nonheme iron – Nonheme iron is poorly absorbed into the body. Beans, broccoli, legumes, brown rice, nuts and seeds all contain nonheme iron.
- Cast Iron cookware – Can help provide iron to those in need.
- Iron Fish – Is an iron block that you can add to water to help infuse water with iron. Make sure you choose a brand that is high quality and highly reviewed.
- Oral iron supplementation – Is great for the people that have well functioning GI tracks. Sometimes even these people aren’t able to boost their levels fast enough. Many people find cheaper brands to be harsh on their stomach, leading to pain and constipation. Not to mention the fake colors and ingredients that are added to most of the products. I love Select Balance Iron – it comes in Single (25mg) or Double Strength and is chelated, meaning it absorbs really well into your body, minimizing side effects like constipation and stomach upset.
- IV Infusions
- When people are having a hard time functioning with severe fatigue, dizziness, heart palpitations and constant chewing on ice, IV iron infusions can be warranted. These infusions locally at my clinic (Vive IV Therapy) typically take around 2 hours using Venofer, a high quality iron supplementation. It’s non-painful and results are typically seen within 24-72 hours post infusion. https://viveivtherapy.com/services/iv-therapy/iron-replenish-iv-infusion/