Iron Deficiency

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.

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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.
1 The Journal of Biological Chemistry Vol. 284 No. 2, pp. 711–715, January 9, 2009
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
  • Weakness
  • 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

Heme or
Non-heme iron

Intravenous (IV) iron or
Intramuscular (IM) iron

Mayo Clinic. Iron Deficiency Anemia. Oct. 2019. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/iron-deficiency-anemia/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20355040
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