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Diagnosing and Curing an Iron Deficiency

Aug 17, 2007
The best way to diagnose an iron deficiency is to see a doctor, however, there are lots of early signs and symptoms that you can be on the lookout for - just in case. An iron deficiency is more than just a lack of iron in your blood, it also decreases your red blood cell count, leaving you tired, pale, and unable to sleep.

At the risk of getting to technical, iron is a requirement red blood cells have to create hemoglobin. The hemoglobin is what carries oxygen around your body to your different body parts. It also is a requirement to make myoglobin, similar to hemoglobin except that it stores the oxygen in your muscles instead of transporting it. Without oxygen, your body doesn't have what it needs to operate. It's like holding your breath - you get tired and a little lightheaded because your body is not getting the oxygen it needs.

There are a number of reasons your body may become iron deficient, or anemic. You may simply not be getting enough iron, your body may not be absorbing it properly or you may have experienced a dramatic loss in blood. There are a few other possible causes such as alcoholism, overuse of aspirin or some other type of anti inflammatory drug as well as a variety of diseases that cause internal bleeding. However, if you suspect an iron deficiency and it's not due to internal bleeding or similar more serious illnesses, an iron deficiency can be relatively easy to reverse and cure.

Women, elderly and young children are at the greatest risk for being iron deficient. Women and teenagers are at a greater risk due to the blood loss caused by menstruation. Young children and babies can be at risk for a variety of reasons including improperly mixed formula or from drinking goat or cow's milk. Premature babies also have a high risk due to their typically rapid growth rate. However, even though certain groups of people are at a higher risk, everyone has a possibility of developing an iron deficiency.

Curing the deficiency
Taking iron supplements or simply increasing the amount of iron rich food may be a very easy way to cure an iron deficiency, however, a doctor should always be consulted to determine if it is actually an iron deficiency and not some other type of disease. A doctor can do a simple blood test that will let you know if you are deficient. Iron rich foods include: meat, beans, nuts, raisins, fish and fortified cereals. The iron contained in meat is much more readily absorbed than that in beans and vegetables, so if you are a vegetarian, you may need more than the typical person to assure adequate iron absorption.

Iron supplements
Iron supplements can be a powerful way to cure a deficiency anemia, however, too much iron can cause more harm than good. There is a disease called hemocromatosis that actually causes your body to absorb too much iron, making iron supplements a very dangerous product. Taking too much iron can also increase your risk of infections making it even more important to consult a doctor when considering taking an iron supplement. Some signs that you are getting more iron than your body can absorb include dark stools or constipation.
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