Are you iron deficient?
A recent study of the iron status in a healthy South African adult population indicated that one in two South African women, aged 16 to 35, is iron deficient. Iron deficiency and iron deficiency anaemia (IDA) is the most common nutritional deficiency worldwide and is of special concern to women and young children.
“Anaemia occurs when the level of red blood cells in blood is lower than normal,” explains Dr Jon Patricios, director of Morningside Sports Medicine and Waterfall Sports Orthopaedic Surgery in Jo’burg.
A deficiency can have serious repercussions, from delayed physical, mental and social development in children, to ill health and lethargy in adults. Because the symptoms are quite subtle, you may not realise you’re suffering from ID or IDA.
“It’s vital to watch for signs,” adds Jon. “Menstruating women lose blood, and with it, red blood cells and iron. Pregnant and breastfeeding women also have greater demands for iron, as it’s lost in breast milk.”
10 signs of iron deficiency
- Exhaustion, fatigue and weakness
- Pale skin
- Brittle nails
- Chest pain
- Irregular or fast heartbeat
- Shortness of breath
- Headaches, dizziness and light-headedness
- Cold hands and feet, tingling legs
- Inflammation or soreness of the tongue
- Poor appetite or cravings for non-nutritive substances such as dirt or ice
If you experience any of these symptoms, talk to your healthcare provider. While iron supplements are available, such as Ferrimed iron capsules, your doctor may also look into the cause behind the deficiency. Incorporating iron-rich foods into your diet – red meat, eggs, shellfish, beans and dark leafy vegetables, and iron-fortified cereals and breads – can assist you to reach your daily adult intake, around 100 to 200mg.
Did you know?
Your body’s iron absorption can be affected by certain medication, such as antacids, by tannin-rich foods such as tea, coffee and wine, and the calcium found in dairy products.
Compiled by Taryn Das Neves