The Lowdown on Iron

‘Low on iron’ causes and anaemia

Iron deficiency is one of the most common nutritional deficiencies in Australia and it is significantly under-diagnosed. For example, 34% of Australian women of child bearing age are iron deficient.

If you’re feeling exhausted and rundown, it can be a sign that you may not be getting enough iron for your needs. Iron is an essential mineral that has a number of jobs in the body, including making healthy red blood cells. These deliver oxygen to all of your other cells where it is used to create energy – so it is not surprising that you can feel extremely fatigued if you are low in iron.

Do you need your iron levels checked?

Symptoms that may indicate you are experiencing iron deficiency or anaemia include:

  • Dizziness
  • Frequent colds or flu
  • Impaired cognitive (brain) function
  • Paleness on the inside of lower eyelids
  • Restless legs
  • Poor response to thyroid medication
  • Pregnant or menstruating women

The following groups of people may experience iron deficiency more commonly than the general population:

  • Vegetarians and vegans
  • Athletes
  • The elderly

What are Your Iron Numbers?

It is essential to know your iron level before taking an iron supplement as having too much iron can be dangerous. It is also important for your doctor to check if there are other causes of low iron to be sure that the right treatment is prescribed.

Foods High in Iron

Your diet should always be the first place you obtain iron. Animal sources of iron (haem iron) include beef, fish, chicken, kangaroo, lamb and sardines. Vegetarian sources of (non haem) iron include dark leafy greens such as spinach, silver beet and kale.

Symptoms such as bloating, diarrhoea and constipation are warnings that your digestive system may not be healthy and can indicate that you need to make dietary changes so that you can absorb the nutrition that your body needs.

Read more: What Is Your Gut Trying to Tell You? | How to Deal with Diarrhoea Caused By Taking Antibiotics

What This Means To You

Blood tests for iron levels are easily requested if you have any of the above symptoms or lifestyle risks.  You need to know that your results are at an optimal level as distinct from just average and take well-tolerated and well-absorbed iron supplements if appropriate. You are welcome to book an appointment to discuss iron deficiency or if you are feeling unwell or tired and would like to investigate the cause.

Related: All in the gut: Why your health problems may have started in the digestive system