Iron deficiency - these are the symptoms
The most important points in brief
- We have to get iron through our diet. This metal is a component of hemoglobin, the red pigment in blood.
- Iron is also found in enzymes and muscle dye.
- Iron binds oxygen in muscles and blood and transports it to the cells.
- In the case of iron deficiency, organs and cells are no longer adequately supplied with oxygen. A variety of symptoms can occur - with dire consequences.
From a nutritional point of view, iron is an important trace element that takes on important functions in the body. Iron is absolutely necessary for blood formation, for oxygen uptake and oxygen storage, but also for the growth of cells and cell differentiation. In a healthy human organism, there are two to four grams of this element, stored primarily in the bone marrow, the spleen and the liver.
The body loses up to two milligrams of iron every day - via excretions (sweat, urine, stool) and dead mucous membrane and skin cells. We usually get this amount back through food. A one-sided diet, however, can lead to iron deficiency.
Iron deficiency and the symptoms
Whether extensive blood loss through wounds, a woman's period or an insufficient iron intake through the diet: all of these can be the reasons for iron deficiency. The symptoms can be divided into three phases.
- Phase I: The iron content stored in the body is reduced. There is usually enough iron left for the formation of red blood cells, and symptoms rarely occur.
- Phase II: This is where the cells are insufficiently supplied because the spleen and liver do not supply them with enough iron. In order to still produce enough red blood cells, the iron is released from its transport medium (transferrin), which lowers its saturation in the blood. Possible consequences are hair loss or brittle hair, dry skin, difficulty swallowing, torn corners of the mouth and itching.
- Phase III: The iron deficiency is so great that the cells can hardly fulfill their functions. This can lead to brittle nails and very pale skin. Fatigue and lack of drive are also common symptoms, as are headaches and insomnia. In the advanced stage it can even lead to shortness of breath.
Who is affected by iron deficiency?
First of all, all people who eat one-sidedly. And one-sided in this case means: exclusively vegetarian. Fish and meat have a high iron content. Certain types of vegetables also, but the body absorbs iron better from animal food than from vegetables. Iron supplements are well suited to increasing the iron content.
Children and adolescents must also ensure that they have an adequate supply of the trace element, since growth requires a lot of iron. The same applies to competitive sports. Expectant and nursing mothers also have an increased iron requirement.
As mentioned earlier, the body loses a maximum of two milligrams of iron each day. However, the conclusion that you only have to give this amount back to the organism is inadmissible: it should be ten times the value, i.e. around 20 milligrams, because humans can only absorb around ten percent of the iron content in food. In some cases, the absorption capacity is even less than ten percent, for example when taking medication, excessive tea consumption, a lack of stomach acid or diseases of the intestinal mucosa.
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