I went to the doctor’s this week for a check up. They told me what I already suspected: I’m low on iron. Just like most people with low iron, I’m tired and exhausted throughout the day. Low iron can also decrease your immunity to sicknesses, but I haven’t gotten that far…yet. If your iron gets too low, you may develop iron deficiency anemia.
Iron deficiency is common, especially among women. Menstruation and pregnancy deplete iron stores faster. However, this is not a female-exclusive problem. Toddlers, babies, athletes, and those who aren’t getting enough iron in their diet are all at risk for low iron; though the problem is much more likely if you fit multiple categories (such as a female athlete who doesn’t get enough iron through food).
Causes of iron deficiency include:
- Inadequate dietary intake: vegetarian diets are more likely to fall in this category as iron normally comes from animal tissue. But dark greens, beans, nuts/seeds, and fortified foods can also provide some iron, just not as much as meet.
- Blood loss: this includes periods in women and regular blood donations
- Increased need: this usually includes pregnancy, breast feeding, and growth spurts. So basically anything leaning towards creating and supporting a new life.
- Exercise: exercise increases the body’s need for iron and therefore consumes more. Regular exercising can deplete iron reserves without proper precautions.
- Inability to absorb iron: some people simply cannot absorb iron as easily as others.
Usually, a doctor will recommend a dietary change to balance out the low iron intake, but they may suggest or prescribe iron supplements. It’s important to only take supplements when advised by your doctor as iron can actually be toxic if to much is ingested. Many supplements will also contain vitamin C, which helps the body absorb iron. Try to get iron naturally through your diet, but talk to your doctor if you’re worried you may have an iron deficiency.