Iron Deficiency & Iron Deficiency Anemia
Iron deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency worldwide. In Canada, it’s estimated that around 5% of Canadians (8% of females) have iron deficiency.
Iron deficiency anemia comes from lack of iron in the body. Without enough iron, the body cannot produce hemoglobin and as a result, iron deficiency anemia may cause fatigue and shortness of breath.
Vegetarians need almost twice the daily recommended amount of iron compared with non-vegetarians. Iron is also essential for pregnant women to ensure normal fetal development.
Why is iron important? 1
- Iron is a vital component of hemoglobin, an iron-containing protein found in red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to the body’s vital organs.
- Without enough iron, hemoglobin cannot transport oxygen throughout the body resulting in iron deficiency anemia.
What Is Iron Deficiency Anemia? 1
- It is caused by a shortage of iron in the body.
- The body requires iron to make hemoglobin. Without adequate iron, the body cannot produce enough hemoglobin for red blood cells.
- Without iron supplementation, this type of anemia is common among pregnant women.
- It can also be caused by blood loss due to heavy menstrual bleeding, an ulcer, lack of iron in diet and regular use of some over-the-counter pain relievers, especially aspirin.
Anemia. Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/anemia/symptoms-causes/syc-20351360
Prevalence of Iron deficiency anemia (IDA)
1Adapted from Statistics Canada, Catalogue no. 82-003-XPE • Health Reports, Vol. 23, no.4, December 2012
2BCGuidelines.ca: Iron Deficiency – Diagnosis and Management (2019)
3Adapted from Canadian Celiac Association, March 2008 (Nutrition Complications for Celiac Disease)
4Canadian family physician 2015, 61(2)159
Signs & Symptoms of Iron deficiency anemia (IDA)
- Extreme fatigue
- Pale skin
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Headache, dizziness
- Cold hands and feet
- Inflammation or soreness of the tongue
- Brittle nails
- Unusual cravings for non-nutritive substances, such as ice, dirt or starch
US National Library of Medicine, National Heart, Lunch, and Blood Institute. Iron deficiency anemia. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/iron-deficiency-anemia
Treatment options for Iron Deficiency Anemia (IDA)
Heme iron: animal sources
Non-heme iron: plant sources
Intravenous (IV) iron or
Intramuscular (IM) iron