Are you Iron deficient?

7th November 2017

Tired and run down? It’s just because you’re busy, right? Perhaps not!…


Iron deficiency is a common problem in Australia with the World Health Organisation estimating 8% of pre-schoolers, 12% of pregnant women and 15% of non-pregnant women of reproductive age having anaemia.


Iron deficiency occurs when iron losses or requirements exceed absorption, and there can be many factors at play including diet, gut disorders, breast feeding, menstrual problems and medications.


Dietary iron comprises haem iron (animal sources) and non-haem iron (vegetable and cereal sources). Haem iron is absorbed more efficiently. To ensure your iron is being absorbed it is recommended to eat foods high in Vitamin C with foods that contain iron, cook your plant foods to improve the amount of available iron, and avoid tea, coffee or calcium supplements after an iron-rich meal.


Symptoms of iron deficiency include feeling tired, short of breath, dizzy or light headed, or suffering an irregular or fast heart rate.  Headaches and increased infection can also occur. Children may seem tired or irritable, have behavioural problems or strange food cravings (like eating dirt).


It is important to see your GP if you feel you may have iron deficiency as this can be an important early sign of underlying disease, for example coeliac disease (malabsorption of iron) or bowel cancer (due to microscopic bleeding from a polyp or cancer).


Management of iron deficiency involves treating the cause of low iron, and replenishing low iron stores. Replacement can come in the form of tablets or liquid iron, or an intravenous infusion of iron which can be delivered in a general practice setting over a period of half an hour. This option is particularly useful for those who cannot tolerate oral iron supplementation due to gastrointestinal side effects.


This article was written by Dr. Lucy Rosman, and published in the Western Suburbs Weekly.

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