Iron Deficiency Anemia: Everything you need to know

Do you live in Ottawa? I you looking to find out about Iron Deficiency Anemia?

If so, you are in the right place.

Today I will talk about iron-deficiency anemia, its prevalence, what it is, its causes, symptoms, diagnosis, complications and treatment.

In This Article:

Let’s start by looking at the prevalence of Iron Deficiency Anemia.

Chapter 1: Prevalence Of Iron Deficiency Anemia

According to Health Canada, around 20% of women and 50% of pregnant women are iron deficient, while only 3% of men are iron deficient in Canada.

According to the World Health Organisation, the prevalence of anemia should be less than 5% and is defined as a moderate problem if the prevalence is 20% to 39.9% and a severe problem when the prevalence is 40.0% or higher.

Therefore, by definition, there are populations in Canada where iron deficiency anemia is undoubtedly a public health problem.

The question is: If you have an iron deficiency, what can you do about it?

Well, that is where this guide comes in.

Let’s now talk about what iron deficiency anemia is.

Chapter 2: What Is Iron Deficiency Anemia?

Anemia occurs when you have a level of red blood cells (RBCs) in your blood that is lower than normal.

Iron deficiency anemia is the most common type of anemia, and it occurs when your body doesn’t have enough of the mineral iron.

Your body needs iron to create a protein called hemoglobin.

This protein is responsible for transporting oxygen to your body’s tissues, essential to function effectively.

When there isn’t enough iron in your bloodstream, the rest of your body can’t get the oxygen it needs.

Let’s now look at the causes of Iron deficiency anemia.

Chapter 3: What Causes Iron Deficiency Anemia?

1. Low Iron Intake

Consuming too little iron over an extended period can create a shortage in your body.

Foods such as meat, eggs, and some green leafy vegetables are high in iron.

Because iron is imperative during rapid growth and development, pregnant women and young children may require even more iron-rich foods.

People who follow vegetarian and vegan diets are at risk of iron deficiency anemia.

2. Pregnancy or Blood Loss Due to Menstruation

In women of childbearing age, the most prevalent causes of iron deficiency anemia are heavy menstrual bleeding and blood loss during childbirth.

3. Internal Bleeding

Specific medical conditions can cause internal bleeding, leading to iron deficiency anemia. Examples include a stomach ulcer, Intestinal polyps, or colon cancer.

Frequent use of pain relievers, such as aspirin, can also cause bleeding in the stomach.

4. Inability to Absorb Iron

Certain disorders that affect the intestines can also interfere with how your body absorbs iron.

Even if you consume plenty of iron-rich foods in your diet, the following conditions may limit iron absorption:

  • Celiac disease
  • Non-celiac gluten sensitivity
  • SIBO
  • Achlorhydria (low stomach acid)
  • Parasites

Chapter 4: What Are the Symptoms of Iron Deficiency Anaemia?

The symptoms of iron deficiency anemia can be very mild at first, and you may not even notice them.

According to the American Society of Hematology (ASH), most people don’t apprehend they have mild anemia until they have a blood test.

The symptoms of moderate to severe iron deficiency anemia include:

  • general fatigue
  • weakness
  • pale skin
  • shortness of breath
  • dizziness
  • strange cravings to eat items that aren’t food, such as dirt, ice, or clay
  • a tingling or crawling feeling in the legs
  • tongue swelling or soreness
  • cold hands and feet
  • fast or irregular heartbeat
  • brittle nails
  • headaches
  • hip or lower back pain

Chapter 5: How Is Iron-Deficiency Anaemia Diagnosed?

Your doctor can diagnose anemia with blood tests.

A Complete Blood Count

A Complete Blood count (CBC) test is usually the first test a doctor will use.

A CBC test measures the amount of all components of the blood, including:

  • red blood cells (RBCs)
  • white blood cells (WBCs)
  • hemoglobin
  • hematocrit
  • platelets

The CBC test provides information about your blood that helps diagnose iron deficiency anemia. This information includes:

  • the hematocrit level, which is the percent of blood volume that is made up of RBCs
  • the hemoglobin level
  • the size of your RBCs

In iron deficiency anemia, the hematocrit and hemoglobin levels are low.

Also, RBCs are usually smaller in size than normal.

A family doctor usually performs a CBC test as part of an annual physical examination.

It’s a good indicator of a person’s overall health and may be performed routinely before surgery.

This test is useful to diagnose this type of anemia since most individuals with an iron deficiency don’t realize it.

Other Tests

Anaemia can usually be confirmed with a CBC test.

Your doctor might order additional blood tests to determine how severe your anemia is and assist in identifying treatments, including:

  • Iron level in your blood
  • Ferritin levels – Ferritin is a protein that helps with iron storage in your body. Low levels of ferritin indicate low iron storage.
  • Total iron-binding capacity (TIBC)
  • Transferrin – Transferrin is a protein that transports iron. A TIBC test determines the amount of transferrin that’s carrying iron.

What if you have symptoms of low iron, but your doctor says your test results are normal?

Check your ferritin test result if you suspect low or high iron levels. The ideal range of ferritin is 50 to 70 ng/ml.

Let’s now look at the potential health complications of low iron.

Chapter 6: What Are the Potential Health Complications of Iron Deficiency Anemia?

Most cases of iron deficiency anemia are mild and don’t cause complications.

The condition can usually be easily corrected.

However, if anemia or iron deficiency is untreated, it can lead to other health problems, including:

1. Rapid or Irregular Heartbeat

When you’re anemic, your heart has to pump more blood to make up for the small amount of oxygen that can lead to an irregular heartbeat. It can lead to heart failure or an enlarged heart in severe cases.

2. Pregnancy Complications

In severe cases of iron deficiency, a child may be born prematurely or with a low birth weight.

Most pregnant women take iron supplements as part of their prenatal care to prevent this from happening.

3. Delayed Growth in Infants and Children

Infants and children who are severely deficient in iron may experience a delay in their growth and development.

They may also be more likely to experience infections.

Let’s now see how to treat iron deficiency anemia.

Chapter 7: How Is Iron-Deficiency Anaemia Treated?

Treating iron deficiency anemia is a stepwise approach.

Step 1: Rule Out Any Medically Serious Reasons For Anemia

Medically serious reasons may be due to internal bleeding, including the following, stomach ulcer, Intestinal polyps, or colon cancer.

Step 2: Identify and Treat Any Functional Reasons For Anemia

Functional reasons for anemia include the following:

  • Low Iron Intake, such as a vegetarian or vegan diet
  • Low stomach acid
  • Celiac Disease
  • Non-celiac gluten sensitivity
  • SIBO
  • Parasites

Step 3: Iron Supplementation

Iron supplementation will be necessary for people eating a vegetarian or vegan diet.

Short-term iron supplementation is sometimes necessary after the other above reasons have been resolved.

Now It’s Over To You

Now I would like to hear from you.

Which part of the guide did you find most useful?

Or maybe I did not mention a question regarding iron deficiency anemia.

Either way, let me know by leaving a comment below right now.

Do You Need Help?

If you need help, I suggest you book a free functional medicine discovery session with me to determine whether my functional medicine approach fits your child’s needs.


The information provided on this website is for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or treat any disease. Please do not apply this information without first speaking with your doctor.

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