Iron is one of the body’s essential nutrients, which is absorbed from the foods we eat. Iron is required for normal cell and organ function, mental and physical health and to keep your energy levels up.
Iron deficiency occurs when the amount of iron absorbed by the body is insufficient. This can be caused by a lack of iron being absorbed from food.
What happens if I don’t get enough iron?
If the iron levels in your body are low, you can become iron deficient. Over time, iron deficiency can mean that your body makes fewer healthy red blood cells, a condition known as Iron Deficiency Anaemia (IDA).
If iron deficiency is not treated, there can be long-term consequences for your health such as fatigue and reduced resistance to infection and illness. Iron deficiency can also lower your quality of life and reduce your ability to concentrate and be productive at work.
Lack of iron is the most common nutrient deficiency worldwide
Iron deficiency can occur due to:
Excessive blood loss
Regular blood donation
Restricted diets (vegan, vegetarian)
Lack of iron rich foods
Inadequate absorption of iron
May occur due to:
Medical conditions such as coeliac disease,
inflammatory bowel disease
Who is most at risk of iron deficiency?
Blood loss during periods and increased demand due to pregnancy can lead to iron depletion.
Young Children & Adolescents
Menstruation, rapid growth and inadequate diet.
Iron can be lost through excessive sweating. Some athletes may have unbalanced diets.
Vegans & Vegetarians
Iron in plant foods is not as easily absorbed as iron found in meat.
Symptoms of Iron Deficiency
Iron deficiency causes many symptoms including fatigue, dizziness, and shortness of breath.
If you are experiencing these symptoms, it is important to talk to your doctor or pharmacist.
Get your iron-rich foods
Your body can store iron, but it can’t make it. This means you need to get iron from the food you eat. Iron is present in both animal (haem) and vegetable (non-haem) sources. Careful choices about what you eat can help to keep your iron levels up. Sources of iron-rich foods are:
|Red meats (beef, lamb, veal, pork)
|Pulses (peas, beans, lentils, chickpeas)
|Iron fortified breads and cereals
|Green leafy vegetables (spinach, silver beet, broccoli)