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Causes of Iron Deficiency Anaemia and How to Limit the Symptoms

Updated on May 14, 2013

How to get enough iron in your diet

The benefits of eating a varied and balanced diet does not end with being the correct weight and ensuring that your Body Mass Index is where it should be. It is also the most important way in which to get all the vitamins, minerals and nutrients needed for a healthy body and mind.

Our bodies all require a certain amount of nutrients to enable it to function efficiently, remaining free from any ailments or illness. A lack of these essential components can result in any number of conditions being suffered, whether to a minor degree or to a more serious extent.

Iron is one such example of the minerals needed to keep the body running well, and it can have a significant effect on the body when the level is low. It plays a major function in the body, providing the means for oxygen to be transported around the body in the blood. Its importance can be recognised from the fact that iron can be found in every cell of the body. A sustained deficiency in iron can lead to full-blown anaemia, which will require more intense treatment to resolve than it would if the iron stores in the body are just a little low.

In severe cases, anaemia causes failure in the prevention of the spread of infection and can cause the organs to fail.

Iron deficiency anaemia can be a sneaky ailment as it not only mimics the symptoms of other disorders, but can also masquerade as a general feeling of being below par. It will take a blood test to confirm for sure whether you are lacking in iron, which can be undertaken by a nurse or General Practitioner who can then explain the results when they arrive. However, before taking this step, it is prudent to be aware of some of the signs to look for, which will help you determine whether a blood test should even be sought.


There are a number of different causes of iron deficiency anaemia and, for some people, there seems to be no specific cause as it just seems to be a natural phenomenon.

Iron deficiency anaemia can also stem from actions that we all take that can seem innocuous, but are actually preventing our bodies from absorbing sufficient levels of iron.

A diet that contains little or no iron rich food is one of the main causes of anaemia. However, there are other ways in which diet becomes a factor as several substances prevent the absorption of iron that may be otherwise gained from food. Excessive amount of tea, coffee and red wine can all lead to anaemia as they all contain particular compounds that inhibit the absorption of iron.

Women who experience a heavy menstrual bleeding may find that anaemia can be a result. However, it can also be a sign of serious conditions, such as internal bleeding.


One of the first signs that is often noticed by those that suffer from a lack of iron is an intense level of tiredness that a good night’s sleep does not alleviate. In the event that you feel like you want to fall asleep, having not undertaken any significant exertion, it may be worthwhile taking the time to get a check-up.

Though the fatigue suffered will create an increased need to rest, sleep can often be disturbed by other symptoms of iron deficiency like Restless Leg Syndrome and twitching.

In addition to this, a general feeling of weakness and light-headedness can seem to arise as a result of tiredness, but this can actually be a symptom in its own right.

People who suffer from a pallid complexion that has no other explanation would benefit from checking their iron levels. While looking in the mirror, it is a good idea to check the eyes as they can show signs of iron deficiency. Gently pull down the lower lids and check the appearance of the flesh beneath; a pale tint along the rim of the eye is a sign of reduced iron levels.

Brittle and weak fingernails that comprise vertical ridges will often be suffered by those that do not have enough iron in their diet.

Some people often experience an increased need to urinate when they suffer from iron deficiency anaemia.

Bear in mind that it is not necessary for all the symptoms to be present for iron deficiency to be a problem. You may only experience one, a combination of several of them or, in some cases, none at all.


No matter what the cause, it is essential to be able to find an effective solution to help alleviate the symptoms. Taking some time to determine the cause of the condition in the first place is the best way to put in place the appropriate steps to reverse it.

The most obvious way to ensure there is sufficient iron in the diet is to consume more iron-rich food, which is a healthy way to obtain the right amount of iron. Fortunately, there is a wide variety of food available that offer a decent amount of iron that can be incorporated into the diet. From red meat and clams to lentils and nuts, it should not be hard to find a food that you like.

Iron-rich foods are split into heme and non-heme varieties, which are animal and non-animal products respectively. Mussels, oysters, liver, pork, beef and chicken can all be included in the former category, while pumpkin seeds, kale, tofu, beans, whole grains and potatoes can be included in the latter.

Combining vitamin C alongside iron rich food is a great way to help absorb the mineral. For example, a shellfish dish coupled with a glass of orange juice will not only be tasty, but good for you too!

Reducing the amount of tea, coffee and red wine consumed will also give the body a chance to absorb any iron consumed.

Alternatively, iron tablets can be prescribed by a Doctor, after a blood test to determine the severity of the iron deficiency. This will show the level of iron stores as well as the amount of iron actually in the blood.

With a little work, the symptoms of iron deficiency can be brought under control so that you life does not have to be affected by it.

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