Iron is one of the most essential minerals for maintaining health and wellness. Despite its vital role in the body, iron deficiency is one of the most common nutritional disorders in Canada. Iron deficiency can manifest in a myriad of symptoms, ranging from mildly bothersome to debilitating.
What is iron deficiency and how common is it?
Iron is used in the formation of hemoglobin, a protein complex inside red blood cells that is responsible for carrying oxygen to each and every cell in the body. When the body lacks iron, it cannot make enough hemoglobin to meet the body’s demands – this is when anemia occurs.
What does iron deficiency look like?
Our cells require oxygen to make energy. Iron deficiency means our cells get less oxygen, and thus, make less energy. People with iron deficiency anemia often feel tired and sluggish despite adequate sleep, and become disproportionately exhausted and short of breath during exercise.
2) Pale skin
Hemoglobin is what makes red blood cells red, and this is what gives our cheeks their rosy hue. Having less hemoglobin can manifest as a pale appearance. Pallor can be particularly apparent in the area inside the bottom eyelid, or on gums and nail beds.
3) Hair loss
A lack of iron can mean that hair follicles don’t get enough oxygen to stimulate their growth phase. While it’s normal to shed about 50 to 100 hairs per day, iron deficiency can cause hair to fall out at a faster rate than it grows in. Thankfully, this type of hair loss is reversible once the anemia is corrected.
4) Dizziness and headache
Dizziness and headache can occur when the brain isn’t getting enough oxygen. This symptom goes hand in hand with low blood pressure, a hallmark of which is getting dizzy when standing up from a sitting or lying position.
5) A sore tongue
In iron deficiency anemia, the tongue can become swollen, tender and sore, smoother, and patchy in color. This is known as glossitis. Aside from being uncomfortable, glossitis can reduce function of the taste buds and even alter speech.
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