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About four million people in the UK are impacted by iron deficiency anaemia. This happens when you don’t have enough iron in your body and you experience unpleasant symptoms. Iron deficiency is dangerous and can seriously impact your immune system and heart. Express.co.uk chatted to Richard Staveley, Director of Wicked Gummy Co. to find out everything you need to know about taking iron supplements and whether or not you need them.
What is iron-deficiency anaemia?
Iron deficiency anaemia is caused by a lack of iron, which normally occurs as a result of blood loss or pregnancy.
Heavy periods and conditions such as stomach ulcers, swelling of the colitis or oesophagus, piles, or cancers of the bowel or stomach can make you iron deficient too.
You can find out if you are iron deficient by having a blood test at your local GP surgery.
The GP will find out if the number of red blood cells you have is normal.
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Which foods have iron in them?
Your diet plays a huge role in how much iron you get, as only some foods are rich in iron.
Mr Staveley said: “Meat is a good source of iron because it has the red pigment haemoglobin in it; the easily absorbed sort.”
Vegans and vegetarians are more likely to be iron deficient but can stock up on foods packed with iron such as leafy green vegetables, fortified cereals and bread, and pulses and beans.
Mr Stavely added: “Iron in plant-based foods can be more difficult to absorb and use.
“This is an occasion when supplementation can be useful.”
Iron deficiency anaemia symptoms
The symptoms of iron deficiency anaemia are noticeable and may lead you to get your blood tested.
Symptoms can include:
- tiredness and lack of energy
- shortness of breath
- noticeable heartbeats (heart palpitations)
- pale skin
Less common symptoms are:
- hearing ringing, buzzing or hissing noises inside your head (tinnitus)
- food tasting strange
- feeling itchy
- a sore tongue
- hair loss – you notice more hair coming out when brushing or washing it
- wanting to eat non-food items, such as paper or ice (pica)
- finding it hard to swallow (dysphagia)
- painful open sores (ulcers) in the corners of your mouth
- spoon-shaped nails
- restless legs syndrome
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If left untreated, iron-deficiency anaemia can cause serious health problems.
Mr Staveley explained: “Having too little oxygen in the body can damage the heart as it needs to work that much harder to make up for the lack of red blood cells or haemoglobin.”
The NHS website notes untreated iron deficiency anaemia also leaves you more at risk of illness and infection because a lack of iron impacts the immune system.
People with untreated iron-deficiency anaemia may also have an increased risk of developing compilations that affect the heart or lungs.
If you’re pregnant and iron deficient, this can cause a greater risk of complications before and after birth.
Should I take iron supplements?
The NHS website states if you have iron-deficiency anaemia, your GP will prescribe you iron tablets to replace the iron missing from your body.
You can buy other tablets, but the prescribed ones are much stronger and you’ll need to take them for about six months.
If you aren’t iron deficient, it would be beneficial to take an iron supplement to prevent you from becoming deficient.
The NHS suggests the amount of iron you need is:
- 8.7mg a day for men over 18
- 14.8mg a day for women aged 19 to 50
- 8.7mg a day for women over 50
Mr Staveley said: “Our Iron Gummy contains 14mg of Iron per serving which is enough to ensure you’re hitting the government prescribed recommended daily allowance.”
If you’re a woman aged between 19 and 50, this gummy will cover most of your daily intake but you can get the remaining 0.8mg of iron from iron-rich foods.
Just 100g of raw spinach contains 2.7mg of iron or 100g of chicken contains 1.3mg of iron.
Mr Staveley added: “Iron supplements are great in helping reverse low iron levels or treat iron-deficiency anaemia when optimal iron levels can’t be reached through the diet.
“Depending on personal circumstances (such as dietary persuasions or pregnancy) they can produce results quicker than diet interventions and as a result are often considered a treatment method of choice.”
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