Iron is critical in transporting oxygen and electrons to your cells and tissue. Iron deficiency is also one of the most common nutritional deficiencies. Total body iron averages approximately 3.8 g in men and 2.3 g in women, controlled and safeguarded by your metabolism. If you can't maintain your normal iron levels though, there can be serious health risks.
People can lose iron any number of ways. Blood loss including bleeding ulcers, inadequate intake, menstruation and inability to absorb iron properly can all contribute to iron loss. Children under 3 grow so fast sometimes their bodies have a hard time keeping up with their iron needs. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding also require more iron than usual. Endurance and high-impact athletes can also run the risk iron deficiency due to high carbohydrate / low fat diets and excessive stress put on the body. If the loss is not sufficiently compensated by adequate intake of iron from diet or supplements, iron deficiency can develop over time and if left unchecked, can lead to iron deficiency anemia, a potentially dangerous condition.
Symptoms of iron deficiency includes fatigue, weakness, paleness, twitching, brittle nails, dizziness, irritability, impaired immunity and PICA, a disorder characterized by an unusual craving for non-food items such as ice, dirt, clay or starch. Iron deficiency is also of great concern in infants and small children where studies have indicated potential developmental issues. If iron deficiency is allowed to progress to becoming iron deficiency anemia, the decrease in red blood cells and reduced hemoglobin quality will impair oxygenation in the bloodstream putting your organs at risk. Since all human cells depend on oxygen, untreated anemia can have a wide range of potentially fatal consequences.
Treatment for iron deficiency includes iron supplements and adding iron-rich foods such as liver, red meat, green leafy vegetables, nuts, seafood and iron enriched prepared foods to your diet.
If you suspect you suffer from iron deficiency, consult your physician. If confirmed, your doctor will recommend proper treatment based on the determined cause.