Iron deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency worldwide, with almost 10 percent of women being considered iron deficient.
Iron is an essential mineral nutrient that is required for helping transport oxygen throughout the blood. When there isn’t enough iron in the bloodstream, the body cannot get the amount of oxygen it requires to function optimally which may lead to fatigue, shortness of breath and eventually anemia.
Are your symptoms caused by iron deficiency?
The most common symptoms include:
- Mood changes
- Fast heartbeat or shortness of breath
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Cold hands and feet
- Hair loss or thinning
What causes iron deficiency?
Iron deficiency can be caused by a low intake of iron in the diet, poor absorption of iron due to digestive issues or blood loss from long, heavy periods.
I have symptoms of iron deficiency, but my doctor told me my iron levels are “normal”!
Sadly, the “normal” range for iron is much too broad so you can technically be in the “normal” range and still have iron levels that are much too low. Most women feel their best with a ferritin level (storage iron) above 50 whereas for optimal thyroid function and hair growth, it’s best to be above 70 (note: it’s rare to see a woman who still has her period with a ferritin above 70). The problem is, the normal range can start as low as 5-12 which means many women aren’t being properly diagnosed and treated.
How can I find out if I have iron deficiency?
A simple blood test looking at your ferritin levels can check your iron levels. Don’t assume that your iron levels are fine because your hemoglobin (red blood cells) are normal. Hemoglobin is not the same as testing your actual iron levels. Your MD or Naturopathic Doctor can run these tests for you.
Which foods can I eat to increase my iron?
- Grass-fed beef
- Dark chocolate
- Black beans