Ask Kate - Iron Deficiency

Iron Deficiency Anaemia

The body requires three things to produce red blood cells – iron, vitamin b12 and folic acid. Red blood cells contain haemoglobin, which helps transport oxygen around the body. Oxygen is carried from the lungs to the body and then the red blood cell carries carbon dioxide back from the body to the lungs. Red blood cells are important. If we don’t have enough red blood cells, this is called anaemia. If the body does not have enough iron, then not enough red blood cells are made – this is called iron deficiency anaemia.


Iron deficiency anaemia is caused by either a reduction in the amount of iron you get from your diet, reduced absorption or blood loss. Iron is present in red meat, dark green leafy vegetables, lentils and beans. It is easier for our body to absorb iron from red meat than from plant sources. Blood loss can be a result of (but not limited to) significant bleeding during menstruation, lactation or excessive blood donation. Reduced iron absorption can occur due to gastritis, coeliac disease, Helicobacter pylori infection or after bariatric surgery.

Most of the bodies iron is found in circulating red blood cells. In the first stages of iron deficiency, iron stores are depleted without causing anaemia. This is because there is still enough iron circulating in your blood. At this stage, you may feel fatigue or reduced exercise tolerance. Your doctor may do blood tests for ferritin which is a measure of your bodies iron stores. Once more iron loss occurs, so too does anaemia.

Anaemia symptoms:

  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Headache
  • Irritability
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Shortness of breath on exertion
  • Vertigo

If you have extremely low iron stores, you may have some of the symptoms above.

Who is more likely to be low in iron?

  • Women (compared to men)
  • Pregnant women
  • Adolescents
  • Coeliac disease or other stomach problems
  • Chronic users of anti-inflammatory drugs (increased risk of blood loss)
  • Anti-coagulant medications (increased risk blood loss) 

What to do

If you experience the symptoms above, you may be low in iron. It is important that you talk to your doctor and get a blood test to confirm iron deficiency as too much iron can be toxic.

Iron tablets

If you are confirmed as being low in iron, you may be prescribed iron tablets. Often these can cause stomach problems, such as nausea, diarrhoea, constipation or flatulence. However, it is important that treatment is continued in order to treat the underlying cause. Remember, your red blood cells are important!

The information contained on this site is not intended to be a replacement for medical advice or advice in relation to the health or care of any person. The information is generalised and should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional clinical advice. If you have any questions relating to the information you should seek the advice of a qualified medical practitioner. The information is derived from a number of sources. Remadee has endeavoured to ensure that all information is from reliable and reputable sources.

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