Women may be tough, but they aren’t made of steel. In fact, about 10 percent of women are iron deficient. Depending on your age and general health status, the amount of iron necessary for healthy blood levels varies and can often fall below guidelines. Younger women need more iron because of the losses that come with their normal menstrual cycle. Women between the ages of 19 to 50 need about 18 milligrams of iron each day, about twice as much as men do.
Iron is needed to transport oxygen throughout the blood, and when there isn’t enough it causes anemia, a condition resulting in a lack of healthy red blood cells being produced. Iron is key in delivering oxygen to your brain, tissues, muscles and cells and helps metabolize proteins that digest foods and absorb nutrients. Iron is also essential in producing hemoglobin and red blood cells.
There are many ways iron deficiency can occur:
- Celiac disease
- Crohn’s disease
- Excessive exercising that damages red blood cells
- Kidney failure
- Surgeries or donating blood
- Use of antacids containing calcium that prevents iron absorption
- Vegetarian or vegan diets without animal sources of protein
Signs of iron deficiency include:
- Abnormal heartbeat
- Changes in appetite
- Chronic fatigue
- Frequent Infections
- Hair Loss
- Hormone imbalances
- Mood changes
- Muscle weakness
- Pale Skin
- Persistent Cough
- Restless legs syndrome
- Sensitivity to cold
- Shortness of breath
- Swollen Tongue or sores on mouth
- Trouble concentrating
One of the strangest iron deficient conditions is called Pica, cravings for non-food substances such as clay, dirt or chalk. It might not just feel strange to have such cravings, but acting on those cravings can have health effects, including blocking iron intake even more.
A serum ferritin test can easily detect if you are iron deficient Women should get their blood checked on a regular basis. Dietary changes and taking iron supplements can easily treat iron deficiency and get you back to superhero status.