6 Weird Signs You Have an Iron Deficiency

Since it helps various proteins transport oxygen throughout your body, iron is one of the most crucial nutrients in your diet. Unfortunately, a large portion of the world does not consume enough of this necessary mineral.

The most typical micronutrient deficiency in the world, according to Kelly Pritchett, PhD, RDN, CSSD, an assistant professor of sports nutrition at Central Washington University, is iron deficiency. In fact, according to the World Health Organization, iron deficiency is a contributing factor in about half of the 1.62 billion cases of anaemia that exist worldwide.

However, according to the National Institutes of Health, most Americans shouldn’t have too much trouble getting enough iron through a diet that includes animal products like red meat, fish, and chicken (NIH). However, iron deficiency is a serious issue that primarily affects pregnant women, young children, women who have heavy periods, people who frequently donate blood, and vegetarians or vegans.

Are you worried about getting enough iron in your diet?

Nevertheless, a 2013 assessment of the literature found that around 10 million Americans were iron deficient, with women being far more likely to be affected than males. According to Pritchett, there are three stages to true iron deficiency, with iron deficiency anaemia being the most severe. This condition occurs when your body lacks enough iron to produce hemoglobin, a protein that transports oxygen to your tissues. Your red blood cell count decreases as a result, which frequently results in tiredness, lightheadedness, pale skin, or shortness of breath.

When your iron levels are extremely low, your body can act in some pretty strange ways. Here are six unique iron deficiency symptoms to look out for in addition to the typical ones, along with advice on how to ensure you’re receiving enough of it.

You get strange cravings for items other than food.

You may not have had enough iron if you ate dirt as a child. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, people with severe iron deficiencies frequently crave non-food items like dirt, clay, cornstarch, paint chips, cardboard, and cleaning supplies, although researchers are still trying to understand why.

Pica is a condition that can be challenging to catch because so many people are embarrassed to admit they have these strange addictions. Pica typically affects young children or pregnant women, but case studies have shown that it can also affect older adults. If you do suffer from these non-food cravings, boosting your iron intake can help if a deficiency is present.

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Your nails are brittle or spoon-shaped

Although they may seem unrelated to the rest of your body, your nails can actually say a lot about your health. Spoon nails, also known as koilonychia, can be an indication of an underlying iron deficiency along with weak and brittle nails.

The inside of your fingernail sinks in, giving you a fingernail that resembles a spoon. They appear exactly as they sound. The American Academy of Family Physicians advises physicians to perform a blood test for iron deficiency anaemia when other causes of spoon nails aren’t obvious because these conditions can also result in spoon nails, such as trauma (such as a jammed finger), exposure to petroleum-based solvents, and other problems.

Your lips are chapped and dry.

Most people are familiar with the discomfort of chapped lips because of harsh winters, dry environments, or a habit of licking one’s lips. However, a specific type of mouth cracking known as angular cheilitis, which affects the corners of your mouth, may occur in people with iron deficiency.

It might be difficult to eat, smile, or even shout with those chipped corners. Researchers discovered that 35% of 82 patients with angular cheilitis had an iron deficiency. Treatment of angular cheilitis with cream or ointment, for example, would not be effective in those circumstances. To prevent the cracking from recurring, you must address the underlying iron deficiency.

Never do your legs feel still.

You can imagine what it’s like to have restless leg syndrome (RLS) if you’ve ever sat in a chair and felt the urge to move your legs constantly; however, people with RLS experience this feeling constantly. People have described the sensation as burning, tugging, tingling, or like insects are crawling inside their legs.

The exact cause of this condition is still unknown to doctors, but some research points to low iron levels as a potential contributing factor. In fact, a 2013 study of 251 individuals with iron deficiency anaemia came to the conclusion that the prevalence of RLS was almost 24% (or nine times) higher than average.

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You have an oddly enlarged tongue.

Atrophic glossitis, or a swollen and tender tongue, is another less obvious sign of iron deficiency. The tongue will enlarge to the point where the typical bumps on the surface vanish, giving the impression that the tongue is smooth. Chewing, swallowing, and speaking issues may result from the swelling.

Researchers discovered that nearly 27% of 75 individuals with iron deficiency anaemia in a 2013 study also had atrophic glossitis, along with dry mouth, a burning sensation, and other oral health issues.

You have a constant ice craving.

According to several case reports in the journal Pediatric Hematology and Oncology, pagophagia, a specific form of pica that causes ice cravings, is one of the most prevalent signs of severe iron deficiency.

Although the causes of this compulsion are unknown, some experts believe that chewing ice can reduce swollen tongues in iron-deficient individuals or boost their alertness (since these individuals are typically drowsy and exhausted).

How to obtain adequate iron?

Seeing your doctor may be in order if you can check off several of the symptoms listed above, but bear in mind that these are only the odd symptoms of iron deficiency.

Your iron levels may be low if you’ve noticed you’re more exhausted than usual, have trouble breathing when you exercise or climb stairs, feel dizzy, or frequently feel weak.

Ask your doctor to run a blood test if you belong to a high-risk group and think you’re not getting enough. Wait until you have a confirmed deficiency before browsing the aisle of supplements. According to the NIH, taking too much iron can have dangerous side effects like stomach pain, vomiting, constipation, and even more serious health issues like liver damage.

Make sure you’re eating a lot of foods high in iron in the interim. Men should stick to 8 milligrams, while women aged 19 to 50 should aim for at least 18 milligrammes per day (or 27 milligrammes if you are pregnant). Eating animal-based foods like oysters, beef, fish, and chicken will help you increase your intake.

To increase absorption, Pritchett advises combining them with foods high in vitamin C (such as a generous squeeze of lemon on your salad). Caffeine has been shown to significantly reduce your ability to absorb iron, so if you drink it, try to down your mug an hour before eating, advises the expert.

Advice for vegans and vegetarians: When eating only plant-based foods, you should consume 1.8 times the daily recommended value of iron because your body absorbs it more readily from meat. For the majority of women, that comes to 32 milligrammes per day. A good place to start is with foods like beans, leafy greens, and even dark chocolate, which contain more iron than beef.

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