Iron deficiency is common, particularly in women. It is actually the most common nutritional deficiency in the world. Women are more susceptible if they menstruate each month, particularly if they experience heavy bleeding. Pregnancy and breastfeeding can also deplete a woman’s body of iron, and some women who have several children in succession never fully recover their iron stores.

The most common symptoms of anaemia include fatigue, shortness of breath (particularly on exertion), intolerance to cold weather, low body temperature, cold hands and feet, tinnitus, dizziness, feeling weak, and restless legs syndrome. Other things besides iron deficiency can cause anaemia, but low iron is one of the most common causes. Iron is critical for the production of hemoglobin, which is found in red blood cells and carries oxygen to all your organs and tissues.

If you can’t make enough hemoglobin, not enough oxygen travels around your bloodstream.

The most common causes of iron deficiency

  • Not consuming enough iron (eg. Vegetarian or vegan diets, or diets high in processed foods).
  • Blood loss from somewhere (eg. Heavy menstrual bleeding, bleeding fibroids, bleeding bowel polyps or a bleeding ulcer).
  • Failure to absorb iron from foods (eg. Because of an inflamed digestive tract or because of the consumption of foods that inhibit iron absorption such as milk and wheat).

If you have been diagnosed with iron deficiency, it’s important to find out the cause. Sometimes it’s obvious and other times it isn’t. Iron deficiency should always be thoroughly investigated. Even if a woman is known to have heavy menstrual bleeding, it’s always good to rule out other potential causes.

Celiac disease should always be considered a potential cause of iron deficiency

Once thought to be quite rare, the latest research has shown that approximately 1 in 100 people in the United States has celiac disease. It is thought that 97 percent of them are undiagnosed. That’s a lot of people!

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease where the lining of the small intestine becomes inflamed and damaged whenever gluten is consumed. Having an inflamed intestine means you won’t be able to absorb any nutrients well, therefore celiacs are usually deficient in a range of nutrients. Iron deficiency is easy and inexpensive to diagnose, therefore it’s often the first indicator of a problem. If you suspect you may have celiac disease it’s important to see your doctor for a diagnosis. Removing every last trace of gluten from the diet is necessary, but it’s often not sufficient to heal the gut lining. Many celiacs experience persistent gut inflammation. This can be due to other food sensitivities and overgrowth of harmful bacteria and Candida in the gut. The strategies in the book Healing Autoimmune Disease help to overcome these obstacles. Gut Health powder contains nutrients and herbs to help heal an irritated and inflamed gut lining, optimising nutrient absorption from foods and supplements.

Interestingly, even if you don’t have celiac disease, it’s not a good idea to consume a lot of wheat. Wheat is high in a type of fibre called phytic acid, which binds with iron and reduces its absorption. All grains contain varying amounts of phytic acid. Milk can cause similar problems because the calcium in milk can inhibit iron absorption. Therefore the best foods to consume to boost your iron intake include red meat, liver, eggs, poultry, seafood and green leafy vegetables.

Vitamin C improves iron absorption; therefore it’s a good idea to consume plenty of vegetables and fruits along with animal protein. It is possible to obtain adequate iron on a vegetarian or vegan diet for some people, but it’s a lot more difficult.

The above statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease.