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How would an iron deficiency affect me?

By on May 9, 2012

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This is one of the most important minerals in the body. Iron is the most commonly prescribed mineral by doctors and is regularly monitored by blood tests. This mineral plays a number of important roles in the body so there would be many knock on effects of an iron deficiency. The most important function is in the production of haemoglobin and oxygenation of red blood cells. This helps to carry oxygen around the body and keep tissues and muscles healthy.How would an iron deficiency affect me?

Sportsmen and women, and athletes require more iron, as they are using more energy. Pregnant women also require additional iron, and this is usually included in many “pregnancy multi-vitamin” preparations.   As the body loses iron through bleeding, menstruating women often have low levels. This is especially the case if they have prolonged periods or short cycles.

Many prescription medications can cause a dip in iron levels. Indigestion remedies such as antacids can cause iron deficiency.If you have been taking antacids for a prolonged period, please consult with your doctor or pharmacist, as you may need iron supplements.

Iron also plays an important role in supporting the immune system and in the production of energy.

Iron deficiency can cause various symptoms:

  • Anaemia
  • Weakness
  • Tiredness
  • Dizziness
  • Fallinghair
  • Mental fatigue
  • Weak nails


The body usually gets enough iron from food sources. Supplementation is only required when symptoms of deficiency are  present or if you are on an exercise programme. The vegetarian diet can however lead to an iron deficiency, although a diet rich in a variety of vegetables (especially green leafy) will provide enough iron.

Iron is found in various foods such as:

  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Red meat
  • Green leafy vegetables, e.g. spinach,broccoli, ….
  • Whole grains
  • Avocados
  • Almonds
  • Lentils
  • Dried fruits, e.g. raisins

Iron is usually prescribed in the form of Ferrous Sulphate, although this is generally not tolerated very well. Many people find this type of iron very difficult to digest as it commonly causes constipation and indigestion.

A more absorbable form is iron bisglycinateor citrate, which is usually better tolerated and doesn’t have the side effects associated with ferrous sulphate. Iron supplements should be taken with vitamin nC for maximum absorption.