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What is iron and causes of deficiency?

by Alivia Nyhan
Published: Last Updated on

Iron is an essential nutrient for the proper functioning of our bodies. This mineral participates in various vital processes, but the most important is oxygen supply to all cells in the body. The primary way to obtain this nutrient is through food since there is a wide variety of foods rich in iron.

However, the World Health Organization states that between 600 and 700 million people worldwide suffer from a deficiency of this mineral, something to consider; a lack of iron can cause a weakened body and a greater predisposition to suffer from health problems. If, after a blood test, you wonder why you have low iron levels, we will tell you about it in the following FastlyHealarticle.

What is iron, and what is it for?

Iron is a mineral present in the human body but in meager amounts. For this reason, we must provide it through the diet, consuming foods rich in iron such as red meat, liver and kidneys, chicken, blood sausage, fish, eggs, legumes, mussels, and wheat. In short, obtaining it is as easy as trying a varied and balanced diet; however, it should be added that iron of animal origin is better assimilated than iron of vegetable origin.

One of the most relevant functions of this nutrient is its participation in oxygen transport to every corner of the body. Iron is found inside hemoglobin, the protein responsible for oxygen distribution, and helps it carry out its task through the bloodstream. In addition, it also integrates myoglobin (the protein that provides oxygen to the muscles), participates in the synthesis of DNA, contributes to the formation of collagen, and strengthens our defenses against external agents.

The average iron values are as follows:

  • In adult men: 18 to 180 µg / dl.
  • In adult women: 60 to 160 µg / dl.
  • In children: 50 to 120 µg / dl.

Causes of low iron

Generally, the most common cause of iron deficiency is insufficient intake of this mineral. Each person has different needs for achieving adequate levels; Among other factors, age and gender can influence this. And is that women suffer monthly blood loss due to menstruation, so their need for iron is greater than that of men. Regarding this, the abundance of blood lost during the period is also another factor to value. In addition, it is considered that in other states such as childhood and adolescence, pregnancy, or lactation, the need for iron increases and must be satisfied for proper development.

The small intestine is the organ responsible for absorbing iron to store it in the bone marrow and maintain levels in the body. If provisions decrease, it is probably due to:

  • state of malnutrition that causes a lack of the mineral. Not consuming the necessary nutrients and minerals can mean that our body suffers from a nutrient deficiency and, consequently, that we do not have enough iron. Also, some diets that involve eliminating some food groups can pose this problem.
  • People who eat a vegetarian diet are prone to a lack of iron since they eliminate meat from their diet, the primary source of iron. For this reason, it is essential to go to a specialist to incorporate into the diet the right foods that allow supplying the foods that are withdrawn in a vegetarian diet.
  • A significant blood loss has unbalanced the levels caused by trauma or conditions such as hemorrhoids, hernias, ulcers in the intestines or stomach, or cancer, among others.
  • Abnormalities in the blood are at risk for iron deficiency, such as macrocytosis (tiny red blood cells) or hypochromia (red blood cells containing little hemoglobin).
  • defect in the generation of red blood cells (erythropoiesis) is caused by low stimulation of the bone marrow by certain hormones. This can happen from problems like hypothyroidism.

Iron deficiency can cause symptoms such as tiredness and weakness, pale skin, irritability, palpitations, dizziness, and nausea. However, the most advisable thing is to carry out periodic blood tests to control the values ​​and avoid a prolonged iron deficiency leading to iron deficiency anemia.

How do detect a lack of iron?

  • Tiredness and weakness . As we have explained previously, iron is essential for the correct transport of oxygen in the blood, so if the amount of this is low, it is common for us to feel tired, weak, and with less vitality.
  • Paleness . The skin tone and mucous membranes become paler because they receive less oxygen.
  • Nausea and dizziness . This same lack of oxygen in cells and tissues makes nausea and dizziness accompany the fatigue.
  • Low performance . Our emotional state can also be affected by a lack of iron, presenting a more irritable attitude and low spirits.
  • Palpitations . The heart can suffer from abnormalities in its heart rhythm, such as tachycardia, so we know the beat.

This article is merely informative, at FastlyHeal .com we do not have the power to prescribe medical treatments or make any type of diagnosis. We invite you to see a doctor in the case of presenting any type of condition or discomfort.

If you want to read more articles similar to Why do I have low iron , we recommend that you enter our Blood, heart and circulation category .

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