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What is Iron Deficiency Anemia?

Updated on June 16, 2009
Asparagus is high in Iron, but often poor diet is not the actual problem.
Asparagus is high in Iron, but often poor diet is not the actual problem.

Anemia, which is a Greek word meaning loss of blood. Anemia is used to describe several types of nutrient deficiencies in the blood stream. Iron Deficiency Anemia is one of the most common kinds of anemia.

The Link Between Hemoglobin and Iron Deficiency

In the body, the red blood cells are the most common and are produced inside of bone marrow. One of the most important roles of the red blood cell is to transport oxygen throughout the body and dispose of carbon dioxide. To do this, Hemoglobin is used. A chief ingredient of hemoglobin is iron, so an iron anemia will reduce the oxygen moving capacity of the blood.

Internal Bleeding and Iron Defiency Anemia

The most common cause of iron deficiency anemia is rapid blood loss, which removes iron from the body at a quicker rate than it is produced. Often, this is caused by slow bleeding in the intestine or abdomen, which can be caused by ulcers, cancer, or polyps.

Frequently taking ibuprofen, aspirin, or other types of anti-inflammatory drugs can cause intestinal bleeding, as they can irritate the stomach lining.

Typically the internal bleeding is not evident, but in severe cases it can result in black or bloody stools.

Improper Diet

While a slow blood loss is the most common cause of iron deficiency anemia, it can also be caused by an inadequate supply of iron in the diet. This is not very common in most instances, with the exception of women who are menstruating and have a very limited iron intake.

Most of the bodies iron is recycled, which is why an iron deficiency from lack of dietary intake is so uncommon.

An average male will loose 1mg of iron per day and a female who is menstrating will loose around 2mg a day. Since the body absorbs only 10% of iron that is consumed, it would be necessary to have a daily intake of 10mg of iron for a male and 20mg for a menstruating female. Unless one is on a very restrictive diet, it is unlikely to not consume enough daily iron.

Devloping a Resistance to Iron

It is also possible for the body to loose its ability to absorb iron, but this is very rare and caused by having a section of the intestine or part of the stomach surgically removed.

Symptoms and Treatment

One of the most common symptoms of iron deficiency anemia is a paleness of the skin, weakness, lack of energy, and fatigue.

In very serious cases of iron deficiency anemia, the individual may also experience an increased heart rate, heart palpitations, and shortness of breath. These types of symptoms would be more common during exercise.

If the symptoms of iron deficiency anemia are present, it is a good idea to speak with your doctor, who will likely preform a complete blood count test. Some choose to simply increase their dietary intake of iron or use Geritol, but this is not advised, because it is only treating the symptom of iron deficiency anemia and not the cause, which is often slow intestinal bleeding.


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  • kimh039 profile image

    Kim Harris 6 years ago

    short and sweet and to the point! thanks brad4l. i'll make a link from my hub on cornstarch cravings. good info here about iron deficiency anemia.

  • brad4l profile image

    brad4l 8 years ago from USA

    Thanks KimmiJ, I used to work with horses and I am always amazed at how much you can learn about a horse just from observing them. Glad you were able to get it sorted out :)

  • KimmiJ profile image

    KimmiJ 8 years ago from Earth

    I once had a horse who had this kind of anemia. She seemed depressed so I called the vet for some blood work. After a good supplement was added to her diet she perked right up. Great article.