Are you iron deficient? These are some of the most common causes and symptoms of iron deficiency.
According to a recent report from ABC News, iron deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency here in the U.S. The CDC estimates that nine percent of women ages 12 to 49 are iron deficient, and a shocking 14 percent of children ages one to two are low on iron.
Women and young children are much more likely to be iron deficient, but men aren’t immune to iron deficiency either. Check the symptoms list below. If you suspect that you’re suffering from iron deficiency, your doctor can find out with a simple blood test.
You definitely want to get tested before you start taking an iron supplement. It’s possible to overdo it on the iron, too. And some iron overdose symptoms – especially heart-related symptoms – mirror some of the symptoms of iron deficiency.
15 Common Causes and Symptoms of Iron Deficiency
Let’s be honest, we are all tired, right? This is a tricky symptom to sort out. Are you tired because you need more iron to help your blood carry oxygen, or are you tired because your baby was up three times last night? Fatigue alone might not point to iron deficiency, but along with the other symptoms on this list, it’s a warning sign.
2. Heavy Periods
Do you have super heavy periods? If you’re losing a lot of blood each month, your body may have trouble bouncing back, and that can lead to iron deficiency.
3. Unusually Pale Skin
Some folks are naturally pale, but combined with other symptoms on this list, pallor can point to iron deficiency. ABC News also says that no matter what your skin tone, “if the inside of your lips, your gums, and the inside of your bottom eyelids are less red than usual, low iron may be to blame.”
4. Difficulty Catching Your Breath
Like I mentioned above, you need iron to help your blood carry oxygen to your cells. Iron deficiency can make you feel out of breath.
5. Irregular Heartbeat
Long-term iron deficiency anemia can cause irregular heartbeats and other heart complications. It can also make existing heart problems worse. If you do have heart problems, your doctor should be checking your iron regularly.
6. Restless Leg Syndrome
If RLS is keeping you up at night, there’s a good chance that iron deficiency is the culprit. ABC News reports, “About 15% of people with restless leg syndrome have iron deficiency.”
Of course, we all get headaches from time to time, but if you’re experiencing frequent headaches along with many of these other symptoms, you might want to get your iron checked. Iron deficiency causes arterial swelling in your brain.
Have you heard that the urge to chew on ice is a sign of iron deficiency? This is called pica, and it’s actually the urge to eat a lot of non-food items. People with iron deficiency might crave dirt, clay, chalk, or paper.
9. General Anxiety
Iron deficiency deprives your sympathetic nervous system of oxygen, which can make you feel anxious for no reason.
10. Hair Loss
Hair loss is a symptom of severe iron deficiency, when your body is working very hard to conserve oxygen. Losing a bit of hair every day is no reason to worry, though. ABC News reminds us that “Most scalps lose about 100 hairs on a good day.”
11. Plant-Based Diet
You can definitely get enough iron without eating animal products. It just takes a little bit of planning, since plant-based sources of iron are harder for your body to absorb. You can see a chart of USDA iron recommendations, adjusted for a plant-based diet here.
This iron deficiency symptom comes with it’s own set of red flags. Fatigue, weight gain, and a lower body temperature can point to an underactive thyroid. Talk to your doctor if you’re experiencing these.
Making a baby is hard work, and your body needs more iron than usual during pregnancy. According to BabyCenter, “During pregnancy, the amount of blood in your body increases until you have almost 50 percent more than usual.” Your OB should be checking your iron levels when you get your blood work, especially during the second half of your pregnancy.
14. Swollen or Smooth Tongue
Your tongue is actually a pretty good barometer for your health, and it can speak volumes about iron deficiency. A sore, swollen, or unusually smooth tongue can point to iron deficiency.
15. Celiac Disease or an Inflammatory Bowel Disease
These diseases can make it difficult for your body to absorb nutrients, including iron. You may need to eat more iron or take a supplement to maintain healthy levels.