The most common nutritional deficiency in the United Kingdom is an iron deficiency, with women being at the greatest risk. Iron is a vital nutrient as it is responsible for producing haemoglobin, a protein which helps your blood to transport oxygen around your body. Keep reading for a list of five of the main signs that you may have an iron deficiency. If any of these apply to you, you may want to speak to your doctor and request a ferritin test.
1. You’re Exhausted
Exhaustion is the number one symptom of an iron deficiency, but it’s also the hardest symptom to detect. Many of us lead extremely busy lives, and are so used to feeling tired that it almost feels normal. If your normal tiredness is coupled with feelings of weakness, irritability, or an inability to focus, it may be down to an iron deficiency, and is worth being checked out.
2. You Feel Anxious
As if normal life wasn’t stressful enough, an iron deficiency can lead to you feeling anxious, and not being able to explain why. An iron deficiency increases your heart rate, making you feel like you’re constantly in ‘fight or flight’ mode. A lack of iron in the blood will also rev up your body’s sympathetic nervous system, making it incredibly hard for you to truly relax.
3. You’re Losing Your Hair
Female hair loss has long been associated with anaemia, and so it goes without saying that it’s one of the leading symptoms of an iron deficiency. When your body is lacking in iron, it goes into ‘survival mode’, which means it focuses on transporting oxygen to the vital organs, as opposed to keeping all areas of the body functioning correctly. As your hair needs oxygen to remain healthy, it can begin to thin and fall out when your body is lacking in iron.
4. Your Heart is Pounding
An overworked heart can suffer from a number of conditions, such as enlargement, heart murmurs, and an irregular heartbeat. However, don’t freak out straight away, as you will need to have had an iron deficiency for quite some time for any of these to be serious. If, however, you already suffer from heart problems, and notice that your heart is pounding or beating irregularly, it’s vital to speak to your doctor. An iron deficiency can make heart problems worse.
5. You Crave Ice or Clay
It’s not only pregnant women who have food cravings; people suffering from anaemia have them as well. In fact, many doctors will tell their anaemic patients that if they start to crave ice, clay or chalk, then it is time to book themselves in for a new appointment. Called pica, craving (or eating) non-food substances can be a symptom of anaemia, and it’s one that definitely warrants a trip to see your doctor.
Different people require different amounts of iron, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach. If you have noticed any of the above symptoms, though, it is worth speaking to your doctor and getting fully checked out.