Iron Deficiency Symptoms And Diseases: 5 Food Tips From WHO To Avoid It

Iron Deficiency Symptoms And Diseases: 5 Food Tips From WHO To Avoid It

Iron is an essential mineral for the natural growth and survival of a body. It is required in many metabolic processes throughout the body. Therefore, Iron deficiency can be a severe problem for many individuals. It causes a disease called Anaemia in which the blood of the body is deficient in healthy Red Blood Cells.

9 main symptoms or signs of Iron deficiency

Being an essential mineral for the body, lack of Iron can cause some serious health issues. But, before any such health issues, there are many symptoms or signs that your body gives you as a signal to understand that it is suffering from Iron deficiency. These signs are:

  1. Unusual tiredness: This is the most common symptom of people suffering from iron deficiency. It happens to up to 50% of those having the problem. This happens because when there is a deficiency of Iron, our body cannot produce enough haemoglobin to carry oxygen throughout the body. Thus, the flaw in oxygen causes tiredness.
  2. Paleness: Iron deficiency has many visual symptoms too, and this is one of them. Since a deficiency in Iron restricts the body to produce adequate haemoglobin, therefore, the red colour of the blood due to haemoglobin turn pale in comparison.

  3. Difficulty in Breathing: This is a common problem in many individuals. Due to the lack of enough oxygen in the body, the breathing rate increases and thus causes shortness of breath.
  4. Headache: Iron deficiency can lead to minor to significant headaches problems depending on how bad the situation is. This is caused because enough oxygen doesn’t reach the brain.
  5. Heart Palpitation: Heart palpitations are irregular heart beating in simple terms. This symptom is not experienced by many but happens to those who have been suffering from Iron deficiency for a long time.
  6. Dry skin and hair: Since, Iron deficiency causes a reduction in body oxygen, therefore, the body only provides it to necessary organs and body parts and thus causing dry skin and hair.
  7. Tongue problems: This is a very common problem for anyone suffering from Tongue problems. Haemoglobin and myoglobin deficiency can cause the tongue to become pale and swollen, respectively.
  8. Restless legs: This problem mainly happens during the night and causes the person to move their legs a lot during rest. It causes itchy sensations at the bottom part of the leg and is very unpleasant.
  9. Brittle fingernails: It is a very strong sign of iron deficiency. Since nails are not provided with enough oxygen by the body, and it causes them to become weak and brittle.

Apart from these, there are some unusual signs too that can help identify an iron deficiency—for example, the craving to eat dirt, clay or anything that is not food. Anxiety and cold hands and feet can also be termed as a symptom of iron deficiency. People with the deficiency have a fragile immune system and thus are more susceptible to infections and diseases.

Who suffers the most from Iron deficiency?

These groups of people suffer the most from iron deficiency:

  • Women: They suffer from blood loss during menstruation and thus are more susceptible to iron deficiency or Anaemia.
  • Children: Those children who don’t get enough breast milk or those who don’t eat properly have a risk of suffering from Anaemia. Since children require a substantial amount of Iron for growth spurts, this condition becomes all the more common in them.
  • Frequent blood donors: Those who donate blood frequently, often suffer from iron deficiency due to depleted iron stores in the body.
  • Vegetarians: Since vegetarians don’t have access to meat and eggs, there is a good chance that they might suffer from Anaemia.

Complications due to Anaemia

Iron deficiency is a severe problem, but mild lack doesn’t lead to severe complications. But people with long term deficiency can suffer from some serious issues like:

  • Heart problems: Irregular heartbeats are a problem that is caused due to iron deficiency. A very escalated health problem can even lead to heart failure.
  • Premature births: Pregnant women suffering from iron deficiency can give birth to early and low-weight kids.
  • Growth problems in children: Since children require a considerable amount of Iron during their growing periods as a child, therefore a deficiency in Iron can cause stunted growth in them.

Five food tips from WHO to avoid it

Nutrition is one of the most important aspects of a healthy lifestyle. Proper diet can cure any form of deficiency that your body might have. World Health organisation says that over 33% of non-pregnant women, 42% children and 40% pregnant women suffer from iron deficiency due to poor diet. Therefore it has recommended 5 iron-rich foods that one must include in one’s diet to avoid iron deficiency.

  1. Meat– Not all meats are rich in Iron, but some species have a very high content of Iron. Salmon and Fish are such meats. Including them, in at least one meal a few times a week, can help avoid iron deficiency.
  2. Eggs– Eggs are rich in Iron and a lot of other nutrients. 100 g of eggs provides around 1.2mg of Iron.
  3. Legumes: For vegetarians who can’t have meat and eggs legumes can be an excellent choice for iron fulfilment for the body. According to the USDA, a single cup of lentils has over 6.6 mg of Iron.
  4. Leafy greens: dark leafy green vegetables are an excellent source of Iron for the body. Spinach and kale are some highly Iron-rich leaves.
  5. Nuts and seeds: Apart from providing healthy fats, these tasty snack items are rich in Iron, and a small serving of them can help prevent iron deficiency.

So, if you have noticed some of these symptoms in you or someone else, it is essential to take care of your body by getting proper nutrition else there is a chance you might suffer from serious health problems in the long run.


Irma is a fitness coach and professional writer, her contents are well researched and well written. She has always contributed toward the fitness community.

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