There are many factors that can cause chronic fatigue such as poor sleeping quality, lack of exercise and dehydration. Another lesser known factor is iron deficiency, which affects a significan portion of the population, but in most of the cases is misdiagnosed.
In fact, even a routine blood test at your doctor’s office may not be able to give an accurate diagnosis.
The Importance Of Iron
Iron is an essential minreal in your body because it has an important role in the transportation of oxygen within your blood. In fact, iron is an essential component of hemoglobin, an erythrocyte protein that provides oxygen to your muscles and tissues. Moreover, hemoglobin is the component of red blood cells that give your blood its red color.
Iron is extremely important for our organism because it helps us grow, develop, it is important for normall cellular functioning and synthesis of some hormones and connective tissue, as well as for foetal development. Iron is stored in the spleen, liver, muscle tissue and bone marrow as a ferritin or hemosiderin.
Why You Don’t Get Enough
When your body has a deficiency of iron, anemia occurs and the body cannot produce enough hemoglobin.
Common symptoms include:
- Low blood pressure
- Unusual cravings for non-nutritive substances, such as ice, dirt or starch
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Inflammation or soreness of the tongue
- Brittle nails
- Frequent infections
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Cold hands and feet
- Extreme fatigue
- Pale skin
- Fast heartbeat
- Poor appetite, especially in infants and children
- An uncomfortable tingling or crawling feeling in your legs (restless legs syndrome)
Low iron levels can lead to many health problems including poor immune function, poor body temperature regulation, low exercise or work performance, gastrointestinal disturbances, impaired cognitive function, etc. Unfortunately, you can experience the symptoms for years without knowing the cause.
Pregnant women, vegetarians and vegans, children, people with impaired nutrient absorption, frequent blood donors and menstruating women are more prone to develop anemia.
Certain prescription drugs may also interfere with iron absorption.
Why Is It Hard To Diagnose?
When you test your blood, the doctors usually measure ferritin levels in your blood. The problem is, the range considered “healthy” is too broad to truly assess anemia in its early stages. Currently the standard spans from 12-150 ug/l.
When you reach 80 ug/l, the symptoms of anemia tipically dissapear. It is also difficult to diagnose iron deficiency when the ferritin levels are high in patients suffering from inflammation or infection.
If you want to be sure your iron levels are fine, you should perform a complete blood cell (CBC) test which measures red blood cells, white blood cells, hemoglobin, hematocrit and platelets. This test is very accurate because it shows whether haemoglobin and white blood cell are lower or not in people suffering from anemia, eventhough they don’t present other symptoms.
How To Get More Iron
Iron is present in many different foods you eat. The easiest iron to absorb is heme iron which is found in animal foods like eggs, poultry, meat and seafood. On the other hand, non-heme iron is found in foods such as seeds, vegetables, especially in dark leafy vegetables like spinach, tofu, nuts, etc. It’s important that these foods are taken with vitamin C to ensure proper nutrient absorption.
You should consult with your doctor if you are severely anemci before taking iron supplements, because taking too much iron can be bad for your organism.
It can take some time after you notice the results, so don’t be discouraged if you don’t see results right away.