How Can I Tell If My Body Is Iron Deficient?

You may be surprised to hear that around 2-billion people worldwide are affected by iron deficiency anaemia, and this issue has now become a global health problem.

Why do we need iron? Iron is a mineral, and this mineral is used by the body to make a protein known as haemoglobin. Haemoglobin enables the red blood cells to move oxygen around the body and, without that oxygen, your body simply won’t be able to function efficiently – thus leading to iron deficiency anaemia.

You may be suffering from iron deficiency or iron deficiency anaemia if you are experiencing the following symptoms –

  • Lack of energy
  • Tiredness
  • Dizziness and headaches
  • Shortness of breath
  • Pale skin
  • Heart palpitations
  • Tongue and mouth soreness
  • Brittle nails
  • Restless legs

What Is the Cause of Iron Deficiency Anaemia?

There are a number of reasons why people suffer from iron deficiency anaemia, and these include pregnancy, heavy menstruation in women, inflammatory bowel disease, internal bleeding, haemorrhoids, stomach ulcers, swelling of the large intestine, and non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs, such as Ibuprofen.

A common cause of concern for vegans is that consuming a plant-based diet may result in an iron deficiency; however, studies have shown that while a vegan lifestyle can certainly result in a lack of some nutrients, there are still many iron sources available for vegan and vegetarian diets. Vegans and vegetarians alike should consume dark green vegetables on a regular basis, as well as fortified cereals and pulses. And, from time to time, they should have their iron and B12 levels checked.

A vitamin B12 deficiency can cause disruptions in both the nervous system and the circulatory system. It can also cause megaloblastic anaemia, which is a condition where the bone marrow creates large, abnormally shaped red blood cells that function incorrectly. The health benefits of vitamin B12 are proven which is why a vitamin B12 supplement may be useful if you are lacking a healthy balanced diet.

Is There an At-Home Iron Levels Test I Can Use?

Yes there is! Testing for iron deficiency is actually quite easy. Of course you could ask your GP to arrange for an iron deficiency test, or alternatively you may choose to use an anaemia test kit and test your iron levels yourself in the comfort of your own home.

The at-home iron test kit comes complete with full and clear instructions, so read the instruction leaflet very carefully and you’ll know exactly what to do.

How To Use The Iron Levels Test Kit

The at-home iron levels testing process is easy and painless. Using the test kit supplied, you simply take a sample of blood from a finger prick so your level of ferritin can be accurately measured. Ferritin is a protein that stores iron in your cells. The test is carried out using a sterile lancet and a capillary tube. The drop of blood you have extracted is then placed on the indicator, a diluent is added, then you wait for 10 minutes.

After you’ve waited for 10 minutes you’ll be able to see a very clear negative or positive result. A negative result means you have normal levels of ferritin and no potential iron deficiency, while a positive result signifies a low concentration of ferritin in your blood, meaning that your iron levels may be too low.

If your at-home iron levels test indicates a positive result, it’s important that you contact your general practitioner for advice. Dietary changes may be recommended, or a full blood count (FBC) investigative test may be ordered to determine if iron tablets, which are more effective than iron supplements, should be prescribed.

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This post was originally published in November 2020 and has been regularly updated since.

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