Iron is a key player in our bodily functions. It helps to produce hemoglobin, a protein found in our red blood cells that transports oxygen from our lungs to various parts of our body. Without enough iron, our bodies cannot produce sufficient amounts of hemoglobin, leading to a lack of oxygen in our body tissues.
Unfortunately, our bodies cannot produce iron on their own, so we must obtain it from the foods we eat. If we don't consume enough iron-rich foods, we can suffer from an iron deficiency, or IDA for short.
IDA can affect people of all ages, but it is most common among women of childbearing age. This is because pregnant women require significantly more iron to support the development of their fetus. If they don't get enough iron, they can develop IDA during pregnancy, which can be dangerous for both the mother and baby.
Symptoms of Iron Deficiency
Many people suffer from iron deficiency without even realizing it. One of the main reasons for this is that the symptoms of iron deficiency can be fairly ambiguous and can also be present in a variety of other medical conditions. Some of the most common symptoms of iron deficiency include:
- Extreme fatigue
- Unexplained weakness
- Pale skin
- Brittle nails or hair less
- Chest pain or shortness of breath
- Headache, dizziness, or lightheadedness
- Cold hands or feet
- Poor appetite
Functional Medicine Labs for Iron Deficiency
Functional medicine can make treating iron deficiency very simple. If you suspect that you might be suffering from iron deficiency, it's important to get tested as soon as possible. Functional medicine labs can help to diagnose iron deficiency by performing a series of tests such as:
- Complete Blood Count (CBC): If any iron deficiency symptoms are suspected, this is a very affordable and important test that should be ordered right away.
- Iron Blood Test: The term "iron" (also known as "serum iron") refers to a measurement of blood iron levels. It provides a reliable indicator of the body's current iron sufficiency.
- Ferritin Test: A significant protein for storing iron is ferritin. If it's low, your body's iron levels may also be low.
- Unsaturated Iron-binding Capacity (UIBC) or Total Iron-binding Capacity TIBC: The amount of transferrin that is not presently bound to iron is measured by UIBC. The TIBC can be used to calculate optimal ranges.
While iron supplements are available, it is always preferable to obtain nutrients from food sources. There are many good dietary sources of iron, such as red meat, poultry, fish, beans, spinach, and fortified cereals. Vegetarians and vegans can also obtain iron from plant-based sources such as lentils, tofu, and quinoa.
It's important to recognize the significance of iron in our body, and to ensure that we are getting enough of it through our diet. Iron deficiency is not typically screened for during annual physical examinations, so it's crucial to pay attention to any symptoms you may be experiencing and to have your iron levels checked immediately if you suspect you may be deficient.
If you're feeling tired, weak, or experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above, it might be time to get your iron levels checked. By making a few simple changes to your diet and lifestyle, you can ensure that your body is getting all the iron it needs to function at its best!