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Iron Deficiency: What is it? And Why Does it Matter?

Feeling tired? Dizzy? Experiencing shortness of breath? Well, you might be iron deficient. Keep reading to discover why that matters and what to do about it. 

Iron is important for keeping numerous bodily functions running normally. But what happens when you don’t have enough?

Iron is an essential infrastructure in your body. It supports the flow of life's most important element—oxygen.

When you're lacking in this necessary ingredient, it has a pretty significant impact on your overall health. This is called iron deficiency. Understanding what iron is and what it does for your body is key to unlocking the truth about why you might have a shortage.

Sounds complicated? 

Don't worry; you're in the right place. 

We're delving deeper into the world of iron to discover the secrets of why deficiencies happen and what to do about them. 

In this post, you'll learn:

  • What iron is and why it's important. 

  • How to spot an iron deficiency. 

  • Why iron deficiencies might occur. 

  • How to address iron deficiency in the long term. 

And much more.

Iron: What is it, and why is it Important?

Iron is vitally important for the body.  Particularly, it plays a critical role in the body’s physiological processes. A key component of haemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells, it aids the transportation of oxygen around the body. 

But it doesn't stop there. 

Iron's also involved in producing particular hormones, and it connects enzymes that help in energy metabolism. This makes it absolutely indispensable for growth, development, cell function, and neurotransmitter synthesis. 

Long story short, iron keeps essential functions running smoothly. 

Iron and The Digestive System

The digestive system is the engine of the body. 

So, it makes sense that there's an intricate relationship between this system and the body's iron level. 

Iron absorption happens primarily in the duodenum and the upper jejunum, the upper parts of the small intestine. This is where your digestive system's microbiome heavily influences iron's bioavailability. 

Things like diet, PH levels, and other nutrients can impact iron absorption. 

The microbiome, a host of good bacteria, plays a massive role in maintaining optimal environments for iron absorption. So, it's easy to see why gut health and micronutrient integration are so interdependent. 

When You Don’t Get Enough

When you don't have enough iron, you'll become deficient. this deficiency is when your body doesn't have enough of the mineral available to produce hemoglobin and is known as anemia

So, what are the symptoms?

  • Fatigue

  • Weakness

  • Pale Skin

  • Shortness of Breath

  • Dizziness

  • Rapid or Noticeable Heartbeats (Palpitations)

  • Headache

Lack of iron significantly disrupts your body's ability to complete everyday functions. 

So, it's important to maintain good mineral levels at all times. 

What Can Cause Iron Deficiency? 

Iron deficiency can rear its ugly head for numerous reasons, from dietary decisions to underlying conditions. 

Here are a few common factors that can lead to deficiency:

  • Diet

A diet lacking iron-rich foods like meats, beans, and fortified grains causes iron stores to lower over time leading to deficiency. 

  • Pregnancy

Pregnancy increases blood volume without simultaneous iron increases, leading to a deficiency aggravated by iron demands from the baby. 

  • Blood Loss

Significant blood loss from heavy menstrual periods or internal bleeding can cause iron deficiency. 

  • Digestive Conditions:

  • Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO)

An excessive growth of bacteria in the small intestine; this bacteria can consume and deplete iron resources. 

  • Celiac Disease

An autoimmune disorder where eating gluten damages the small intestine. When the small intestine is damaged, its ability to absorb iron is greatly reduced. 

  • Gastritis

Inflammation of the stomach lining leading to a reduced capacity for the stomach to absorb nutrients like iron efficiently. 

  • Peptic Ulcer Disease

Open sores on the inside lining of your stomach and the upper portion of your small intestine. The blood loss from these sores can lead to iron deficiency anaemia. 

  • Helicobacter Pylori Infection

A type of bacteria that can cause stomach infections and ulcers, often leading to gastritis and a reduction in the iron absorption powers of the stomach. 

  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD):

  • Crohn's Disease

A chronic inflammatory condition affecting any part of the gastrointestinal tract. Iron deficiency in Crohn’s is mostly commonly from bleeding somewhere in the digestive tract but can also be due to poor absorption by the affected bowels. 

  • Ulcerative Colitis

A chronic inflammatory condition limited to the colon and rectum. When in a flare-up, UC can cause blood loss and ineffective iron absorption via inflammation. 

Each of these conditions can seriously impact iron absorption and utilization in the body.

Getting Tested

Iron deficiency is detected in a few specific tests that measure different aspects of iron in your body. 

The NHS offers a few blood tests for iron deficiency detection:

  • Serum Ferritin

  • Haemoglobin

  • Mean Corpuscular Volume (MCV)

  • Transferrin Saturation

Through these tests, healthcare practitioners can nail down the severity and cause of the deficiency. 

Private healthcare choices can provide more comprehensive iron profiling if you want a more detailed analysis or faster results. 

Addressing Your Iron Deficiency

Once you know you're deficient, it's time to treat it. Solving iron deficiency involves a more multifaceted approach that actually addresses the underlying cause. 

First, diet modifications to include iron-rich foods is highly recommended. And in some more severe cases, a short course of supplements is needed to replenish iron stores quickly. 

But if it's down to an underlying condition, treating that condition should be top of the list for resolving iron deficiency long term. 

A more holistic approach to long-term gut condition management through the Digestive Naturopath is a great way to tackle both your deficiency and medical disorder. 

Get Help to Get Better 

Iron plays a huge role in keeping our bodily functions ticking as they should. 

So, when you’re deficient, it can lead to some pretty uncomfortable symptoms. Whether your lack of iron is down to an underlying condition or dietary insufficiency, it’s important to do your bit to tackle the problem. 

Remember to think long-term and look for ways to address the reasons why you’re deficient, not just the deficiency itself. 

Need more help? Get in touch with us at Martino Clinic for a new approach to your digestive health. 

Iron Deficiency
Iron Deficiency

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