Iron is a trace mineral in the our body cells. It is the main component of hemoglobin, the substance in red blood cells that helps blood carry oxygen throughout the body.
If you do not have enough iron you may develop anemia , also called “blood shortage”. When you develop anemia, you are said to be “anemic” or “short of blood”.
Iron deficiency is the most prevalent nutritional disorder worldwide, especially in developing countries. It occurs when iron absorption cannot compensate iron requirements and losses. Requirements are especially high in pregnant women, infants, young children, adolescents and menstruating women who run a higher risk of being iron-deficient. In developing countries, the main cause of iron deficiency is the low iron bioavailability of the diet.
Iron deficiency and anemia reduce the work capacity of individuals and entire populations, bringing serious economic consequences and obstacles to national development. Overall, it is the most vulnerable, the poorest and the least educated who are disproportionately affected by iron deficiency, and it is they who stand to gain the most by its reduction.
A few salient facts
- In developing countries every second pregnant woman and about 40% of preschool children are estimated to be anemic.
- In many developing countries, iron deficiency anemia is aggravated by worm infections, malaria and other infectious diseases such as HIV and tuberculosis.
- The major health consequences include poor pregnancy outcome, impaired physical and cognitive development, increased risk of morbidity in children and reduced work productivity in adults. Anemia contributes to 20% of all maternal deaths.
(Source : WHO – Micronutrient Deficiency)
Here are some symptoms of iron deficiency to watch out for :
- Pale skin and mucous membranes (eyes and month mucosa)
- Shortness of breath
- Difficulty concentrating
- Lack of appetite
- Muscle aches
- Impaired thermoregulation – freezing
- Increased susceptibility to infection
- Dry skin
- Burning sensation on the tongue
- Cracked lips
- Difficulty swallowing
- Severe hair loss
- Brittle nails
The first step in getting over an iron deficiency is recognizing that you have one. If you have experienced some or most of these symptoms you should consult a medical professional. They can do tests to determine if the problem really is a lack of iron, and then give you help on getting your iron levels back to a healthy amount.