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Understanding Iron Deficiency And The Need For Iron Supplements

Iron plays a vital role throughout the body. It is a crucial part of immune system strength and resilience and a primary component of sustained energy and concentration. When people deal with iron deficiencies, they can experience many problems, including frequent illness, poor concentration, and lethargy.

Iron supplements can work quickly to reduce and reverse the adverse effects of deficiencies, but diagnosis is often preferred before starting on supplements. Unfortunately, diagnosing the early stages of an iron deficit is tricky, which is why it is necessary to talk with your primary care physician before taking any supplements or making any other drastic changes to your diet.

Symptoms of Iron Deficiency

Low iron is a common issue, especially predominant in specific subsets within the population. When iron levels reach a point of deficiency, patients can receive a diagnosis of iron deficiency anemia — a condition resulting in a low supply of oxygen-rich red blood cells.

People with IDA will often experience severe side effects from the condition, including difficulty regulating body temperature or more bouts with illness. Some of the more common symptoms of low iron levels include:

  • Lack or loss of energy

  • Tiredness

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Headaches

  • Noises like ringing, buzzing or hissing in your head

  • Heart palpitations

  • Itchiness

  • Shortness of breath

Who Can Benefit From Iron Supplements

Most medical professionals agree that iron supplements are the quickest way to remediate symptoms of iron deficiency or IDA, and most prefer it to dietary interventions. Because there are people who are more prone to low iron levels, many nutritionists and physicians recommend continuous supplement use. Some of the people most likely to benefit include:

  • Infants and young children

  • Pregnant individuals

  • Frequent blood donors

  • Cancer patients

  • People with heart failure

  • People with gastrointestinal disorders

  • People with blood disorders

  • Vegetarians and vegans

The above is not an exhaustive list. A doctor's opinion is crucial before starting on an iron supplement. Too much iron can cause problems. Therefore, if you believe your iron levels are low, consult your primary care doctor and request testing.

Tests To Diagnose Iron Needs

You can make assumptions about your iron levels if you track your food intake. The federal government has daily recommendations for all vitamins and minerals corresponding with a healthy and balanced diet.

While you can speculate about your iron levels, only a doctor can perform the diagnostic tests to determine the level of deficiency you currently have. A doctor will take blood and examine it, specifying the iron levels present.

The most common tests for low iron levels are hemoglobin and hematocrit tests. Unfortunately, these tests are best for diagnosing IDA. A serum ferritin test is the best way to diagnose the early stages of iron deficiency, but you might need to request such a test as it is not standard protocol.

Low iron levels are common and can result in tiredness and a lack of energy. While it can be tempting to start on an iron supplement if you experience similar symptoms, getting a doctor's opinion is crucial. Too much iron in the system can cause serious problems. Therefore, it is best to get tested and seek an expert opinion before starting on an iron supplement.

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