Iron is essential for producing red blood cells. When your body struggles to produce enough red blood cells, this is a condition known as anaemia. When you are anaemic, you might find that you lack the energy to do everyday tasks. Walking up the stairs will leave you tired out, and you might get dizzy when you stand up too quickly.
There are many different reasons for iron deficiency and anaemia. A vegan diet can make it more difficult to get the vitamins and minerals you need and menstruating women may also find they struggle to get enough iron to replenish their red blood cells after their cycle. This is particularly common for those who suffer from heavy bleeding.
Around one-third of women will be iron deficient in their lifetime. Iron deficiency will often be confirmed by a blood test, but it’s worth knowing the most common signs. If you have any of the following symptoms, book an appointment with your GP to find out if you need to start taking iron supplements.
If you’ve noticed you’re feeling a little more sluggish than usual, this could be more than just seasonal fatigue. If you find you’re sleeping more, napping during the day, and struggling to feel alert, this could be a sign of iron deficiency.
When you are iron deficient, your body will struggle to replenish your red blood cells. Red blood cells carry oxygen around the body, so when you don’t have enough, your body struggles to keep up.
Pale skin and lips
Another common sign of iron deficiency is pale skin. When you pull down on your lower eyelid, the inner lid should be bright pink. If this is pale, this could be a sign you are deficient. Haemoglobin is what gives blood the red colour, and this is what makes your skin pink. You might also notice your nail beds, gums and lips are paler when you are deficient.
When you are low on iron and haemoglobin, your body has to work a lot harder to pump blood around your body. You may notice your heart is pounding after you exert yourself even the slightest amount. Some people notice this when they are climbing stairs or walking uphill.
Instead of a pounding heart, some people may notice an irregular heartbeat. This is also known as heart palpitations. If your heart feels like it has an irregular rhythm, or like it is skipping a beat, this can be a sign of iron deficiency.
Lightheaded or dizzy
As we’ve mentioned above, iron deficiency makes it more difficult to pump blood around your body. If you feel lightheaded when you stand up, this is another sign that your body is struggling. You may also have headaches as a result of reduced oxygen flow to your brain. When the brain doesn’t get enough oxygen, the blood vessels in your brain swell up, and this can lead to pressure headaches.
Dry skin and hair
Many people with iron deficiency anaemia will notice that their skin and hair are more dry and brittle. Not much is known about why this happens, but it is thought that the low haemoglobin triggers your body to focus on more essential tasks. Hair and nail production is low on your body’s list of priorities, so it shifts focus to other tasks. This can lead to hair loss if left untreated.
Treating Iron Deficiency
While these symptoms might sound daunting, the good news is that getting iron deficiency anaemia under control is very simple. You will need to take an iron supplement to help support your body to restore its haemoglobin levels.
If your deficiency is related to dietary choices, you may need to take a supplement to ensure your iron levels don’t drop again. If your body struggles to replenish your haemoglobin after heavy menstrual bleeding, you may need to take supplements every month.
To find out more about how iron supplements could help you, explore our iron supplement selection. We offer iron pills, liquid iron and daily supplements to help keep you healthy.