7 Signs of Iron Deficiency

iron deficiency
The first sign of iron deficiency that most people notice is exhaustion. It's not the normal kind of exhausted—it's the deep-down, can barely function, whole body exhaustion. Still, while being tired can be a sign of iron deficiency, it's also a sign of many other health problems, making it difficult to narrow down.
Iron deficiency is most common in women. In men, iron deficiency is generally caused by giving blood or long-distance running. But for women, our day-to-day life can create this exhausting deficiency. There are two reasons you may become deficient:
  1. You’re not taking in (or not absorbing) enough iron, or

  2. You’re losing more blood than your body can make

…and for many, it’s a combination of the two. Iron plays a significant role in making red blood cells, which transport oxygen and energy throughout our bodies. Without enough iron our bodies need to work extra hard…and that’s extra exhausting. Iron deficiency is extremely common in Canada, yet many of us don’t even know we’re low. Feeling tired has just become the norm for many of us…but it doesn’t have to be.


How to diagnose iron deficiency

A simple blood test from your doctor can tell you if your ferritin level is low. Ferritin is your iron storage, which should remain within parameters if your body is able to keep up with the demand. A secondary test is hemoglobin levels, which indicate anemia, or the level of iron in your blood. If you’re feeling tired and have a heavy period, a history of iron deficiency, a lot of exhaustion, and/or you’re a runner then it’s a good idea to get tested. Still not sure? Here are some lesser-known signs of an iron deficiency:

Signs of iron deficiency:

  1. You have heavy periods
A major cause of iron deficiency are heavy periods. Your body needs to make up for the lost blood every month, and sometimes it hasn’t had a chance to make enough blood before your period comes again. Having to change your tampon more than every 2 hours is a sign of a heavy period.
  1. Headaches
There are too many causes of headaches to name here, but low iron can be one of them. Low oxygen can cause your blood vessels to swell, causing a very painful noggin.
  1. You want to chew on ice
This is a strange but common symptom of very low iron. It’s a condition called pica and can cause a craving to chew on ice…or sometimes dirt or chalk. Thankfully, for low iron, it’s usually ice. So if you love nothing more than chomping down on some ice cubes, you might want to look at your iron levels.
  1. Pale skin
Iron makes red blood cells and they give your skin a rosy glow. Is your skin feeling grey or sallow? The inside of your lips and gums may become pale first, always keep an eye on those spots.
  1. Trouble climbing stairs?
Are you getting out of breath easily? You might think you’re out of shape, but it might just be low iron. Iron helps your body move oxygen through your blood, so if you’re out of breath after doing something you normally do easily, you might need more iron.
  1. Low thyroid levels
Low thyroid levels can also cause tiredness, so it’s a cruel cosmic joke that low iron can be caused by low levels of thyroid hormones. So always make sure to check both levels at the same time.
  1. Hair loss

Your body prioritizes your more crucial bodily functions over your hair, meaning hair loss is one of the first physical signs of iron deficiency.

If you suspect you need supplemental iron, be sure to visit a doctor. They may recommend taking an iron supplement along with Vitamin C in order to improve absorption. To support healthy iron levels, consider Flora Iron+, a highly absorbable iron and B vitamins formula available as a liquid as as capsules. (capsules available only in Canada)

About the Author: Lisa Kilgour
Lisa Kilgour is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist (RHN), founder of LisaKilgour.com, and a faculty member at the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition.