Consequences of Living with Iron Deficiency

A large number of the body’s iron stores are within the hemoglobin of red blood cells and transport oxygen to the body. Extra iron is stored in the liver and is used in times where dietary intake is insufficient. Long-term low iron status (ferritin < 15-30 mcg/L), where your need for dietary iron isn’t met and the rate of iron loss is higher than the iron absorbed by the body, results in iron deficiency. This puts your body in a stage of storage iron exhaustion, which can be classified into 3 stages:

 

 1. Iron deficiency without anemia: Hemoglobin levels are normal, but the body has a low quantity of iron stores, which will soon run out. This stage usually has no apparent symptoms. However, unexplained cases of fatigue have been associated with low iron stores in women.

 

2. Iron deficiency anemia without tissue damage: Both iron within the blood and iron stores are low. In this stage hemoglobin levels are below normal, and you may experience some symptoms, including tiredness. 

3. Iron deficiency anemia with tissue damage: Hemoglobin levels are so low that the blood is unable to deliver enough oxygen to the cells. Mild iron deficiency anemia generally doesn't lead to complications. However, it is in this stage where iron deficiency becomes critical and causes health problems, such as the following:

  • Heart problems: iron deficiency anemia can cause a rapid or irregular heartbeat. When you’re anemic, your heart must pump more blood to compensate for the deficit of oxygen carried in your blood. This may result in an enlarged heart or heart failure.

 

  • Problems during pregnancy: according to an evaluation from The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), 18% of pregnant women in the United States had iron deficiency. Deficiency rates were 6.9% among women in the first trimester, 14.3% in the second trimester, and 29.7% in the third trimester.

In pregnant women, severe iron deficiency anemia has been associated with a series of conditions for both mother and infant, including premature births, low birth weight babies, and increased risk of sepsis (extreme reaction to an infection). However, iron deficiency anemia and related adverse consequences are preventable in women using iron supplements as part of their prenatal care.

 

  • Growth problems: as stated by the US National Institute of Health, in the United States approximately 12% of infants from ages 6 to 11 months have inadequate iron intakes, and 8% of toddlers have iron deficiency. Severe iron deficiency anemia in infants and children are related to cognitive and psychological effects, as well as delayed growth and development.

 

  • Susceptibility to infections: Iron is key for normal development of the immune system. Iron is fundamental in cell differentiation and growth, and for proper enzymatic functioning of immune cells. When a person is iron deficient, not only it is harder for the body to resist infections, but it is also difficult to fight infections once it occurs. For example, Saito H., author of the article, “Metabolism of Iron Stores”, observed that Helicobacter pylori infection appears to be related to iron deficiency by decreasing iron absorption and by increasing iron loss.

 

  • Decreased performance: iron deficiency anemia also reduces work productivity in adults and learning ability.

 

 

Iron supplements might be the cherry on top in a well-balanced healthy diet in the fight against iron deficiency. Need help boosting your iron levels? Try NeuTerre™, our line of Whole Food Iron Supplements. They are naturally-derived from Koji minerals, which has been used over the centuries to make Asian fermented foods, like miso and sake. The iron in Koji is naturally stored in the cell structure for slow release, effective absorption, and ease on your body.