We are all likely to know someone who has needed an iron supplement, or we may have taken one ourselves, and this is because iron deficiency is the top nutritional deficiency in the world.
Iron is an essential element which is required for numerous cellular metabolic functions, however most importantly it is needed by the body to create red blood cells which transport oxygen throughout the body.
As many as 80 per cent of us do not have enough iron in our bodies, so to help combat this we are looking at the four most common signs that may indicate you have low iron levels.
- Tiredness and Fatigue
A feeling of fatigue and tiredness that does not go away with rest is one of the most common signs you may have low iron levels. Iron is a component of haemoglobin which is required by the body to carry oxygen from the lungs and transport it throughout the body. Without enough iron the body is unable to make enough healthy oxygen-carrying red blood cells, ultimately affecting your energy levels.
- Pale Skin
Paleness throughout the body, including skin, eyelids, nails or any other area can indicate low levels of iron. This is due to low levels of haemoglobin which gives the blood its red colour and consequently our skin its rosy colour. If haemoglobin levels are low, the red blood cells become smaller and paler meaning our skin also becomes paler.
- Shortness of breath
Difficulty breathing can be a regular occurrence if you have low levels of iron, especially if you undertake regular physical activity. This is because the lack of iron present means that the body is unable to move oxygen from the lungs around the body, thus reducing oxygen levels and increasing your breathing rate as your body tries to get more oxygen.
One of the strangest symptoms is pica which is the compulsion to eat non-food items, this can range from ice cubes to dirt and plaster! It is not fully understood how low iron levels cause this behaviour in people.
Although these are the most common signs of deficiency, these are not the only signs. Other less common symptoms can include:
- restless legs
- brittle or concaved nails
- dry hair and skin
Why so many symptoms?
Looking at these symptoms you may wonder why low levels of iron can present itself in so many ways, this is because iron plays a fundamental role in so many functions within the body, each producing a symptom which manifests itself in a different way.
Experiencing these symptoms may indicate you have an iron deficiency, if this is the case, consider testing your levels and consult your GP.