Have you been told you have an iron deficiency? Or iron deficiency anemia? And this is despite supplementing with iron? Do you wonder why?
Main causes of chronically low iron:
- heavy periods
- hypothyroidism – undiagnosed or poorly managed
- dysbiosis/gut infections – bad bugs use iron as fuel
- poorly formulated supplements (and/or not taking with Vitamin C)
- coffee, tea, aspirin and calcium will all block the body’s absorption of iron
Iron is important because:
A. It’s essential for proper brain function, so when it’s deficient, moods and cognitive function are altered. When someone lacks iron, our neurotransmitters can’t do what they need to do. I find this especially true in anxiety because of an NT known as GABA, which helps us feel calm, and those with anxiety often lack it in the first place. Iron also helps the thyroid do its thing, so your body’s major glands need it too.
B. It helps carry oxygen all over your body from your lungs. If you don’t have enough, you can feel very tired and dizzy. You can also lose your hair.
C. Your muscles need it in order to not feel restless (think Restless Leg Syndrome).
D. Your body needs it to help maintain a healthy weight and appetite (via hepcidin, IL6 and leptin, for all my fellow biochem nerds).
Signs and symptoms of deficiency:
-chest pain, fast heartbeat, or SOB
-brittle hair and nails
-dizziness or lightheadedness
-cold hands and feet
-Pica: an unusual craving for ice or other odd substances
-low ferritin or serum iron on testing
Please don’t take iron unless you’ve tested and you know you need it! The body has no way of excreting excess iron, which becomes toxic at high levels. We can only get rid of it via bleeding/giving blood.
The most important takeaway here is that you must treat the cause of your iron efficiency in order to bring your levels up. Fixing the cause of your heavy periods, having a thorough thyroid assessment, ruling out infections like H Pylori in the gut, and ensuring proper iron intake would all be at the top of my list for someone with stubborn iron deficiency.