The body requires many nutrients to function properly, among which iron plays an important role. Insufficient amounts of it in the daily diet can have serious health consequences.
Iron belongs to a group of trace elements that are of great importance for the proper functioning of the body. It supports many important metabolic processes such as oxygen transport and DNA synthesis. In addition, it supports the proper functioning of muscles, including the heart, supports the body’s immunity in the fight against microorganisms, and helps reduce the feeling of tiredness and fatigue. This is one of the reasons why iron deficiency can have serious health consequences.
1. Iron deficiency – causes
There is no single cause of iron deficiency. The reasons for the insufficient amount of this trace element may be as follows:
- blood loss, including as a result of bleeding from the gastrointestinal tract, urinary tract, respiratory organs, injuries and surgical interventions, heavy menstruation in women;
- increased demand associated, in particular, with adolescence, pregnancy, breastfeeding;
- malabsorption from the gastrointestinal tract caused by celiac disease, H. pylori gastritis, autoimmune gastritis, protein deficient diet, frequent diarrhea, among others;
- insufficient amount in the diet – as a result, among other things, from the use of strict weight loss diets, an unbalanced vegetarian diet, an improperly balanced vegan diet.
Sometimes an insufficient amount of vitamins B11/B12 can be the cause of an iron deficiency. The reason is also the intake of certain drugs – especially those belonging to the group of proton pump inhibitors, anti-inflammatory drugs belonging to the group of NSAIDs (may contribute to the formation of bone marrow diseases) or cytotoxic drugs (they may be responsible for damage to the bone marrow).
2. How to recognize an iron deficiency?
Initially, iron deficiency may not show any obvious symptoms. Over time, when the amount of this element drops significantly, quite characteristic symptoms begin to appear. Among them may stand out:
- severe fatigue,
- pale skin,
- fast heartbeat,
- decreased appetite,
- brittle nails.
When alarming symptoms appear, it is worth doing a blood test taking into account the level of iron, hemoglobin and hematocrit. Results below normal may indicate anemia associated with an insufficient amount of this element.
3. What is the risk of iron deficiency?
Iron deficiency leads to anemia, which in a mild form does not cause serious complications. However, if severe anemia develops, it can lead to many health problems.
- Heart disease: If the heart beats too fast, more blood needs to be pumped to make up for the lack of oxygen. This, in turn, can lead to myocardial enlargement or failure.
- Premature birth: With severe anemia during pregnancy, this can lead to preterm birth and low birth weight of the baby.
- Increased susceptibility to infections. Iron deficiency can result in increased susceptibility to infections. It is believed that an insufficient amount of this element leads to a violation of innate and cellular immunity.
4. Treatment of iron deficiency
The basis for the treatment of iron deficiency is the intake of preparations containing this element. However, it is worth remembering that supplements should also include vitamin C, which helps improve iron absorption.
Properly balanced nutrition is also of great importance. The diet should contain foods that are a good source of iron. These are meat, fish, poultry.
Taking iron supplements in case of a deficiency of this element should be under the supervision of a physician. Therefore, it is important to diagnose the cause of iron deficiency as soon as possible in order to take appropriate measures. Timely detection of iron deficiency and its elimination will avoid the risk of complications and the development of serious diseases.
5. Increased amount of iron in the blood
High iron levels in the blood are the result of excessive absorption of iron from the gastrointestinal tract (especially in patients with hemolytic anemia). A high concentration of this trace element may be associated with anemia.
It is also seen in people after multiple blood transfusions, in certain genetic disorders (congenital hemochromatosis), myelodysplastic syndromes, or in the course of acute hepatitis.