Did you know that iron is one of the most important minerals in our bodies? It plays a key role in producing hemoglobin, which carries oxygen in our blood, and myoglobin, which helps our muscles store oxygen. Women need more iron than men because they lose iron each month during menstruation. If you don’t have enough iron, your body can’t make hemoglobin, and you may develop iron deficiency anemia. Symptoms of low iron can be subtle at first and may get worse as your anemia becomes more severe. Some common warning signs include:
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1. Feeling tired all the time
One of the most common symptoms of low iron is fatigue. If you’re always tired, even when you’ve had a good night’s sleep, it could be a sign that you’re not getting enough iron. Fatigue from iron deficiency anemia can be similar to fatigue caused by other conditions, such as hypothyroidism or sleep apnea. If you’re not sure what’s causing your fatigue, talk to your doctor.
2. Restless Legs Syndrome
Another early warning sign of low iron levels is restless legs syndrome (RLS). RLS is a condition that causes an irresistible urge to move the legs, often accompanied by unpleasant sensations such as tingling, cramping, or itching. If you have RLS, you may find it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep.
3. Brittle nails
Iron helps keep your nails strong and healthy. If your nails are brittle or spoon-shaped, it could be a sign that you’re not getting enough iron. Brittle nails can also be caused by other nutritional deficiencies, such as zinc deficiency or vitamin B12 deficiency.
4. Unusual cravings for non-food items
If you have strange cravings for ice, dirt, or clay, it could be a sign that you have pica. Pica is an eating disorder that can be a symptom of low iron levels. People with pica crave non-food items because their bodies are trying to get the nutrients they need from whatever they can find. Eating non-food items can lead to serious health problems, so if you have pica, it’s important to see a doctor right away.
5. Shortness of breath
Because iron is responsible for carrying oxygen to your cells, a lack of iron can cause shortness of breath and make it difficult to catch your breath. If you find yourself winded after activities that used to be easy for you, it might be time to get your iron levels checked.
6. Pale skin
Pale skin is yet another symptom caused by insufficient oxygen in the blood. Oxygen gives our skin its healthy pinkish hue, so when there isn’t enough oxygen in the blood, our skin can look washed out or pale. While pale skin can also be due to other causes, such as anemia (a lack of red blood cells), it’s still something to be aware of as it could be indicative of low iron levels.
If you have chronic headaches or migraines, low iron levels could be to blame. Studies have found that people with migraines are more likely to have low iron levels than people who don’t have migraines. If you’re unsure what’s causing your headaches, talk to your doctor about getting tested for anemia.
8 Cold hands and feet
Do your hands and feet always seem cold, even when everyone else is comfortable? This could be a warning sign of low iron levels, as poor circulation is a common symptom of anemia (which can be caused by low iron).
9. Hair Loss
Hair loss is another common sign of low iron levels in women. This is because hair follicles need oxygen to grow properly. When your body doesn’t have enough oxygen, hair follicles can die and lead to hair loss. If you’re noticing increased hair loss, it could be a sign of iron deficiency, and you should see a doctor.
10. Chest pain
Many women with low iron levels experience chest pain, especially during exercise. This is because iron plays a vital role in transporting oxygen to the muscles. Without enough iron, your muscles don’t get the oxygen they need and can start to ache.
How to get more iron
Eat iron-rich foods. Some excellent sources of iron include red meat, poultry, seafood, beans, dark leafy green vegetables, and iron-fortified cereals and bread. If you’re vegetarian or vegan, be sure to include plenty of beans and dark leafy greens in your diet.
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s important to see a doctor so that they can order a blood test to check your iron levels. Low iron levels can lead to serious health problems if they’re not treated, so don’t wait to get help.
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