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


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 hemoglobin - the most important component of red blood cells. This allows oxygen to be transported into the cells. Women need around 15 milligrams of iron a day, around twice as much during pregnancy. If the iron requirement is not met, there is an iron deficiency. If the body lacks the trace element, anemia 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 particularly 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
  • hemorrhoids
  • Tumors 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 important supplier of iron. Anyone whose body cannot absorb iron from food is also at risk - because they suffer from diarrhea 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 discoloration

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 difficult to clarify the cause. Malnutrition can be to blame, but blood loss is also an option. So the doctor will examine the stool and do a gastrointestinal mirror.

Some people cannot properly absorb iron in the body. This can be determined by a so-called iron absorption test. The doctor measures the iron level in the blood, administers iron, and then repeats the measurement.

How can you treat iron deficiency?

Iron tablets and an iron-rich diet will help meet iron needs. This takes several months because the body can only absorb iron in limited quantities. Iron supplements should not be taken without medical supervision, as they can easily overdose.

If the iron deficiency was triggered by a disease such as endometriosis, stomach ulcers, or hemorrhoids, it is also important 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.