Iron deficiency is when the body enters a state where it lacks iron levels that it needs to properly function. It’s often referred to as iron deficiency anaemia, as iron helps to make red blood cells.
If you think you might be suffering from an iron deficiency, then there are some iron deficiency symptoms that you should look out for. We’ve rounded up the most common ones, to help you work out whether you might be suffering from an iron deficiency. If you do think that you might have this condition, then consider speaking to a doctor to work out a healthy solution.
1. Iron Deficiency Eyes
You might be thinking, what on earth are iron deficiency eyes? So let us explain. To test iron deficiency, try pulling down your eyelids. If your eyelids are pale pink or a yellowish colour on the inside, then you may be suffering from iron deficiency. Try taking multivitamins for women that include iron to boost your iron levels!
2. Pale Skin
One of the most common iron deficiency symptoms is skin that’s paler than it usally would be. Haemoglobin in red blood cells gives our blood its colour, so when we have lowered iron levels, the blood becomes less red. This, in turn, can make our skin appear paler.
This symptom also links back to iron deficiency eyes, as it can also lead to pale colouring on the inside of the eyelids. So, if you notice yourself looking paler than usual and are also experiencing low energy levels in females, then you might be suffering from iron deficiency.
3. Hair Loss
People who are suffering from iron deficiency may notice increased hair loss. If your body is short of oxygen, it channels all of its supply to your vital organs, rather than your hair follicles, causing them to cease to function properly. This can then cause your hair to start falling out.
As iron helps to create red blood cells, and red blood cells carry oxygen to the body, there’s a clear link between iron deficiency and hair loss. So if your hair is starting to fall out more than before, try taking our vegan protein powder in an effort to boost your energy levels.
4. Cold Hands & Feet
Cold hands and feet are one of the most common iron deficiency symptoms. People who are suffering with iron deficiency often have poor blood circulation due to their lowered levels of red blood cells meaning that oxygen can’t reach their tissue as easily. That means that if you often feel cold regardless of the weather, then you might be suffering from an iron deficiency.
5. Shortness of Breath
Without enough iron, our bodies can’t produce enough haemoglobin, which enables red blood cells to carry oxygen. As a result, this can cause you to feel tired all the time as well as feeling short of breath. So if you find yourself struggling to breathe, then it may be worth seeing a doctor to find out if you’re suffering from iron deficiency.
6. Brittle Nails
Another common symptom of iron deficiency is to have brittle nails. If your nails are starting to chip and crack easily, then you may have brittle nails. As your nails become more brittle, they may become spoon-shaped. This means that the middle of your nail dips in and the edges raise.
Luckily, brittle nails only occur in around 5% of people with iron deficiency. This does mean though, that if you are seeing this symptom, you may well be suffering from a severe iron deficiency, so be sure to speak to a doctor if this is the case.
7. Dizziness and Headaches
Headaches and dizziness are common symptoms of a lot of conditions, including iron deficiency. Although this is a less common symptom than some of the others, it is still a symptom that’s worth taking note of if it’s something that you’re experiencing.
So, why does iron deficiency cause headaches and dizziness? It’s down to your body not being able to get as much oxygen to your brain as it needs, which can cause the brain’s arteries to swell, causing headaches and, subsequently, dizziness.
8. Dark Circles
Another aspect of iron deficiency eyes is when dark circles appear under your eyes, which can be a symptom of iron deficiency. Iron helps to create red blood cells, which carry oxygen around the body, including to your eye tissues. If you’re tired of covering up your dark circles with concealer, then try boosting your iron with a science-backed supplement such as jrny!
9. Swelling and Soreness of the Mouth
One of the nastier symptoms of iron deficiency is swelling and soreness of the mouth. Iron deficiency can cause sore, red cracks to appear at the sides of the mouth, which can cause intense discomfort.
Iron deficiency can also lead to the development of painful mouth ulcers. If you notice the appearance of mouth ulcers and soreness around the mouth, then it may be worth upping your iron levels to see if it makes a difference.
10. Restless Leg Syndrome
Another common symptom of iron deficiency is restless leg syndrome. In fact, iron deficiency is one of the most common causes of restless leg syndrome, alongside peripheral neuropathy.
Restless leg syndrome is a condition of the nervous system that causes an overwhelming urge to move the legs. The more severe, the more disruptive to your daily life, so it’s worth trying to regulate your iron levels to help control it!
Neurological conditions such as ADHD can also be a reason for this symptom. If you've been diagnosed or suspect you may have ADHD, it's worth looking into functional mushrooms as a way to manage it. Start with our best lion's mane supplements list.
11. Chest Pain or Irregular Heartbeat
Chest pain and a rapid or irregular heartbeat are connected to a lack of oxygen in the blood. As we know, iron plays a big role in helping oxygen get around the body, so these symptoms are often associated with iron deficiency.
When the body has low blood oxygen levels, your heart has to work harder to compensate for this, which puts the heart under a lot of pressure, leading to chest pain and irregular heartbeats. If left untreated, these issues can cause further heart problems, so it is important to carefully monitor them in order to improve your cardiovascular health.
12. Extreme Tiredness & Fatigue
Iron deficiency is one of the biggest causes for low energy levels in females, so if you are iron deficient you may experience extreme tiredness and fatigue. Fatigue can occur when the body is struggling to carry oxygen to your cells, which in turn can affect energy levels. So, if you feel sluggish and it’s not going away when you get sufficient sleep, then consider regulating your iron intake!
Typical Causes of Iron Deficiency
Iron deficiency can be caused by a number of things. Monthly periods are one of the most common causes due to the blood loss meaning your iron levels need to be topped up more frequently. Another common cause is pregnancy, because your body needs to take in extra iron for the baby.
Other causes can include bleeding in the stomach and intestines, as well as a lack of dietary iron. If you think you’re suffering from iron deficiency, it’s always worth talking it through with a medical professional, as they will be able to advise you as to the best course of action.
Risk Groups of Iron Deficiency
There are a range of groups who are at risk of iron deficiency. Due to a combination of physiological, nutritional and social factors, the following groups are most at risk of iron deficiency, though there are of course also others:
- Premature babies
- Menstruating women
- Pregnant women
- Breastfeeding women
- Endurance athletes
- Regular blood donors
- Those with restrictive diets e.g. vegetarians or vegans
Iron Dietary Supplements
Iron dietary supplements are one of the best ways to increase your iron levels. One way of taking your iron supplements is in tablet form. Some of our favourites are the My Vitamins Iron & Folic Acid tablets, which also contain vitamin C; the Boots Multivitamins with Iron; and the Holland & Barrett Iron & Vitamin C tablets.
Here at jrny, we find it way more enjoyable to get our iron in liquid form, though. Our favourite is the jrny vegan protein powder, which contains iron alongside a bunch of other nutrients. It’s a great option because it avoids the nasty aftertaste that so many tablets have, as well as meaning you can enjoy a fully balanced shake, rather than just focusing on one vitamin or mineral.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the daily recommended intake for iron?
The amount of iron that the body needs differs depending on age and gender. For men over the age of 18, 8.7mg is the recommended daily intake. Women aged between 19 and 50 should be getting 14.8mg per day, whilst women over 50 who may be entering menopause and so are no longer menstruating should consume 8.7mg a day.
What foods contain iron?
The good news is that plenty of foods are rich in iron. Red meat is a particularly good source, as are dark leafy greens such as spinach. Legumes such as beans are also high in iron, as are shellfish, quinoa and pumpkin seeds, among a bunch of other tasty things. You’ll be sure to find an iron-rich food that you like if you look hard enough!
How much iron should a healthy woman have daily?
Healthy women require a different amount of iron depending on their age. Women aged between 19 and 50 should consume up to 14.8mg a day, while women over 50 should reduce this to up to 8.7mg a day.
So hopefully we’ve cleared up what some of the most common symptoms of iron deficiency are for you. As you can see, there’s a whole range of symptoms, from iron deficiency eyes to pale skin and beyond. If you think that you might be suffering from iron deficiency, consider speaking to a doctor to help guide you on the best course of action for solving it.
Iron supplements are always a great option for helping with iron deficiency, so you could also give them a try if you’re experiencing any of these symptoms. Our jrny supplements are a great place to start!
By Lola Sherwin