Top 10 Signs You Have An Iron Deficiency
I want to talk about the top ten signs of iron deficiency but more importantly while that is a huge problem with iron deficiency it is almost as important to understand if you have too much iron so we don’t want to jump to conclusions and we want to understand the whole picture anything iron is a trace mineral we need very small amounts comparatively and it’s involved in metabolism it’s part of enzymes and protein that help metabolize things but the big thing that we’re concerned with when it comes to iron is oxygen transport that’s what everyone talks about with iron is iron deficiency and anemia because iron is involved with making red blood cells and hemoglobin hemoglobin has iron in it and it only works
if we have enough iron without that we can’t make red blood cells we can’t transport oxygen hemoglobin is a large protein and it has four subunits it’s a globular it’s large that’s where the name comes from globin and he m means that it has hemi in it so these green areas they are the hemi area so there’s four places four subunits where iron can attach here we’re seeing one of those subunits and the arrow is pointing to where that iron would attach on the hammering.
something most people don’t realize is that if we just take one atom and change it if we take iron out and replace it with magnesium then the whole hemoglobin turns into chlorophyll which is plant based so animals make hemoglobin plants make chlorophyll and they only differ by one atom per subunit so what that means is if you have a condition where you’re anemic but it’s not because of a lack of iron then you could actually benefit by taking chlorophyll because you would get the whole complex you get all the components of the hemoglobin and you just have to pop one iron atom in there to make it happen maybe.
top ten signs of iron deficiency
- pallor or paleness
- shortness of breath
- heart palpitations
- cold hands and feet
- dry damaged brittle hair
- headaches dizziness and lightheadedness
- brittle nails
when we’re really low in iron we can’t make the proper components of the blood so we get anemia or anemia meaning literally lack of blood the first thing we look at is hemoglobin and we’re supposed to have 14 to 15 grams of hemoglobin per deciliter when we run a blood test and what does hemoglobin do it grabs oxygen the blood comes to the lungs it picks up oxygen and the hemoglobin holds it and carries it out to the tissues when we don’t have enough oxygen when we’re suffering in our oxygen carrying capacity and can’t deliver it now energy production falls.
we can’t make enough of the body’s energy currency called ATP and as a result we have fatigue this is something we really want to check for in our office because if we try to get somebody healthy whether it’s for pain or metabolism or to heal something the body has to have oxygen and energy to make that happen so anemia is kind of a deal breaker if it’s supposed to be at 14 to 15 gram
and it starts dropping down towards 10 now you have lost 1/3 of your oxygen carrying capacity and a lot of your ability to produce energy all around the world this is the number one blood disorder it’s huge proportions globally 25 percent of the world’s population is anemic 1.6 billion people and in kids it’s even worse so for children age 0 to 5 47 % of them are anemic and in some areas like sub-Saharan Africa it’s as high as 70 the numbers are gonna vary widely depending on the region but just as an example because we are in the u.s here where I am US adult men have about 2% anemia whereas Caucasian females have about 10% and why is that because females have a menstrual period they lose a little bit of blood every month it’s a combination of nutritional status and
how much blood you’re losing African American females and Latina females are twice as high though and that probably may be some genetic component but probably more so with nutritional status when we look globally it is very very clear that the cause of anemia is primarily an iron deficiency very little doubt however in the United States and especially for men the picture is not so clear so we don’t want to jump to conclusions whenever we see anemia and think iron deficiency
pallor or paleness
why is that because oxygenated arterial blood is red whereas once it drops off that oxygen in the tissues the blood turns blue and that’s why the venous blood the returning blood is blue so most of the veins that you see most of the blood vessels you can observe on yourself or veins and that’s why they’re blue rather than red some of the places you’re going to see this are in the face your gums and lips the lower eyelids so if you just pull down a little bit on your eye it’s supposed to be a deep bright red if it’s not then you could be anemic the nail beds when you look at the area under the nail that’s supposed to be a pink
if it’s more whitish that’s another sign of anemia and iron deficiency and the sclera the white of the eye is supposed to be white if it starts turning bluish that means you have less oxygenation and a possible deficiency let’s talk about the causes why might we be missing iron well there’s two simple reasons one is that we’re not getting enough and that could be from diet one contributing factor is veganism because the best quality iron the heme iron comes from animals and countries that are primarily vegan have much much higher rates of anemia and iron deficiency but even if we’re getting enough through the diet we have to be able to absorb it and if our absorption is lacking in any way
because of maybe not enough hydrochloric acid maybe we have celiac disease we have some inflammation the gut lining isn’t working properly or we might have parasites any of those reasons and many many others if they make our absorption suffer we can’t absorb it then we’re not getting enough the other major cause of the principle of why we’re not having enough iron is because we’re losing too much and this is actually a much more common reason than that we’re not eatingenough especially in the United States a very common way of losing a lot of blood quickly is through an internal bleeding called an ulcer and also would be in the stomach
but we could also have holes and perforations at other places in our GItract a big reason is heavy periods women in their reproductive years have menstrual period and some women lose as little as a tablespoon and others lose as much as 80 milliliters or even a lot more the average is somewhere around 2to 3 tablespoons and with that blood you’re also losing iron and that is iron that has to be replenished through the diet and you have to manufacture those extra red blood cells every month medications can also make you lose blood and something as simple and common as aspirin for each aspirin you’re losing about 5 milliliters of blood give or take and there are other medications as well like antibiotics and ACE inhibitors that can change the permeability of your gut lining and then we want to think about what if we are taking some medication but we already have an ulcer now we’re really really multiplying those effects and losing blood at a much faster rate sign
shortness of breath
if you get winded very easily just because you’re walking or you’re walking up the stairs and this didn’t used to happen last year then you might be iron deficient why do we get easily winded because you have lost some oxygen carrying capacity you can’t make as much energy and now your body is making you breathe faster to compensate to try to take in more air to make energy so is anemia always an iron problem no it’s the most common worldwide but there are many other things like sickle cell anemia
when the blood cells are misshapen genetically and then they get destroyed and recycled at a much higher rate then we can have anemia from that you know pernicious anemia Sideroblastic anemia and there’s hundreds of different types of anemia a lot of them are genetic and there’s also anemia of chronic disease this happens as people get older or they develop a chronic disease at a younger age when the body stops working optimally now we also get higher rates of anemia and you would think that especially in women that
when they get older they don’t have their periods anymore they would kind of catch up well oftentimes they develop something else like a chronic disease instead and something else isn’t working as well and in all or most of these causes the iron is not the problem it’s that the cells are breaking down or we can’t manufacture them fast enough but the iron is not the issue.
that’s when your heart starts beating harder or faster you can feel it thumping in your chest that’s again because when we don’t have the oxygen carrying capacity we can’t make energy and ATP and now the heart is going to increase is going to beat faster and harder to try to compensate when the blood is less quality when it’s less concentrated resources then we’re going to make up for it by sending more sigh.
cold hands and feet
and it’s the same reason where the oxygen and the energy but now it’s because the body is prioritizing the vital organs your liver and your heart and your kidneys and your spleen and your digestion come first you will die real quick if they don’t work you can live with cold hands for a while so your body is going to create some vasoconstriction and that pools the blood toward the core and we prioritize those essential organs
dry damaged brittle hair
and that is the same mechanism we don’t have as much resources in the body and now we’re gonna prioritize the vital organs so this is very very similar to the cold hands and feet.
headaches dizziness and lightheadedness
and at first this one looks like the previous two with lack of oxygen energy and ATP but this one is quite different because the brain makes everything else work so it gets the highest priority it is two percent of the body weight but it’s 20% of the energy consumptions it’s an energy hog it is using a lot of energy but it’s supremely important so no matter what else happens we’re going to try to make sure the brain gets its resources and now what we do then is we create vasodilation to the brain we vaso-constrict to the periphery but we vaso-dilate to the brain and now what happens is as those blood vessels dilate that’s where the headache comes in it’s like a migraine that migraines often have a throbbing quality where you can feel each heartbeat as a pain and this would be very much the same way when i have a vasodilation headache and that’s because the body is just trying to get more nutrients there then what about the dizziness and lightheadedness well because the brain is such an energy.
if you see this nail it’s kind of spoon shaped very thin and it’s flaring out and that’s a sign of long-term oxygen deprivation this nail has not been getting oxygen or nutrients for quite some time again both because resources are limited but also because resources are prioritized to the vital organs so we get vasoconstriction.
it happens sometimes with anemia with iron deficiency but also sometimes in pregnancy and it’s called pica and this is where we get cravings for things that have no nutrients where we want to chew on something that can’t give us anything such as ice or clay or dirt and another common one is paint chips so if you notice that you start having cravings for these things or if you notice your child is starting to chew on these then that would be a good reason to start checking your iron levels
why does that happen because as we can’t make enough energy our energy levels and ATP levels go down now the frontal lobe starts to suffer the brain like we talked about it’s an energy hog it uses a tremendous amount of energy and it’s sort of like a dimmer switch that if you have a light turned on and the dimmer is all the way up to a hundred and then you turn it down to 60 or 70% then the lights will come down gradually and that’s kind of what happens with that frontal lobe as well and the frontal lobe is critical for anxiety because it inhibits things like anxiety it inhibits unwanted things and if the overall activity of the brain goes down then we lose some of that inhibition of the anxiety and now that anxiety is more uncontrolled take iron if you need it but absolutely don’t take it if you don’t need it so before you take it you want to measure and make sure you want to measure a minimum of red blood cells hemoglobin the size the hematocrit serum iron iron saturation total iron binding capacity and ferritin if you are anemic and you need iron then taking some of a good quality source could tremendously increase your health and your quality of life but on the reverse of that if you don’t actually need iron and you take it then it could set you up for a heap of trouble.