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Iron Deficiency Anemia
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What is iron deficiency?
Iron deficiency is a condition resulting from too little iron in the body. Iron deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency and the leading cause of anemia in the world. In the USA, despite food fortification, iron deficiency is on the rise in certain populations. Iron deficiency at critical times of growth and development can result in premature births, low birth weight babies, delayed growth and development, delayed normal infant activity and movement. Iron deficiency can result in poor memory or poor cognitive skills (mental function) and can result in poor performance in school, work,and in military or recreational activities. Lower IQs have been linked to iron deficiency occurring during critical periods of growth.
Signs and symptoms of iron deficiency
A person who is iron deficient may also be anemic and as a result may have one or more symptoms of anemia. These can include, chronic fatigue, weakness, dizziness, headaches, depression, sore tongue, sensitivity to cold (low body temp), shortness of breath doing simple tasks (climbing stairs, walking short distances, doing housework), restless legs syndrome, pica (the desire to chew ice or non-food items,) and loss of interest in work, recreation, relationships, and intimacy.
Causes iron deficiency
Iron deficiency can be the result of numerous and multiple causes. These fall into two broad categories: an increased need for iron and/or decreased intake or absorption of iron.
Iron deficiency can occur during rapid periods of growth. For this reason nature makes certain that developing fetuses, newborns and infants up until the age of about six months have an ample supply of iron. Conditions that result in iron deficiency include blood loss from heavy menstruation, pregnancy, frequent or excessive blood donation, fibroids, digestive tract disease (including infections), as well as surgeries and accidents. Iron deficiency can also be caused by certain medications, some dietary supplements or substances that cause bleeding such as pain relievers with aspirin, and also as a result of poisoning from lead, toxic chemicals or alcohol abuse.
Decreased intake or absorption
Decreased intake or absorption can occur in diets that do not include heme iron, the iron in meat and shellfish. Heme iron is absorbed more efficiently than non-heme iron found in plants and dietary supplements. Other nutrients, however, such as vitamins C and B12, folate or zinc can facilitate sufficient non-heme iron absorption. Consuming certain foods and medications can interfere with the absorption of iron. These include dairy products, coffee, tea, chocolate, eggs, and fiber. Medication that inhibit iron absorption include antacids, proton pump inhibitors (to treat acid reflux) or calcium supplements. Diseases conditions can also limit iron absorption; this can happen as a result of insufficient stomach acid, lack of intrinsic factor (hormone needed to absorb vitamin B12), celiac disease, inflammatory conditions such as Crohn’s disease, and in autoimmune diseases and hormone imbalances.