Iron deficiency: this is how you can get it under control

Iron Deficiency: Here's What You Can Do About It
Pale, tired, unable to concentrate - typical signs of iron deficiency. You can find out here why you should take this seriously and which treatment helps.

Iron deficiency - what is it?

Iron is vital for the body because it binds oxygen in the blood pigment haemoglobin - the most critical component of red blood cells. This allows oxygen to be transported into the cells. Women need around 15 milligrams of iron a day, about twice as much during pregnancy. If the iron requirement is not met, there is an iron deficiency. If the body lacks the trace element, anaemia can occur.

Causes of Iron Deficiency

Every fourth person worldwide suffers from iron deficiency, and the deficiency symptom is particularly widespread in developing countries. Women of childbearing age are significantly often affected, one in ten in Europe. The main fault is the woman's menstrual period: blood loss leads to iron deficiency. The following diseases can also trigger iron deficiency:
  • Fibroids
  • Endometriosis
  • Stomach ulcers
  • haemorrhoids
  • Tumours in the gastrointestinal tract
Donating blood can also be responsible for an iron deficiency.
In addition to pregnant and breastfeeding women, vegetarians and vegans often suffer from the deficiency, because the meat is an essential supplier of iron. Anyone whose body cannot absorb iron from food is also at risk - because they suffer from diarrhoea or have had stomach surgery.

Which symptoms should make me sit up and take notice?

The following symptoms occur when there is a lack of iron:
  • paleness
  • fatigue
  • Exhaustion
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Susceptibility to infection
  • Dry skin
  • Brittle hair/hair loss
  • Nails: grooves and discolouration

Iron requirement and diagnosis: how do I find out if I am affected?

Iron deficiency can be easily diagnosed with a blood test. It is more challenging to clarify the cause. Malnutrition can be to blame, but blood loss is also an option. Therefore, the doctor examines the stool and does a gastrointestinal mirror.
Some people cannot properly absorb iron in the body. This can be determined with a so-called iron absorption test. The doctor measures the iron content in the blood, administers iron and then repeats the measurement.

How can you treat iron deficiency?

Iron tablets and an iron-rich diet help meet iron needs. This takes several months because the body can only absorb iron in limited quantities. Iron supplements should not be accepted without medical supervision, as they can easily overdose.
If the iron deficiency was triggered by a disease such as endometriosis, stomach ulcers or haemorrhoids, it is also essential to address the causes with therapy.

How can I protect myself?

Healthy people who have a balanced diet get enough iron through their diet. Our body can absorb iron from animal foods better than from plant foods, so the meat is the most important source of iron. But the following foods also help to balance our iron balance and should be eaten regularly:
  • Beans
  • nuts
  • whole-grain products 
  • linseed
  • Quinoa
  • oatmeal
  • spinach
Caution: coffee, tea and milk hinder the absorption of iron, vitamin C improves it.