Vitamin & mineral spotlight: Iron

February 1, 2023
5 minute read
Andrew Farquharson

Iron is an essential bodily mineral and when your levels become low it’s something you need to counteract. You might have heard people refer to themselves as being anaemic, but what does this mean in relation to being low in iron, and is it the same thing?

It’s common to believe being anaemic means not having enough iron in your diet, and while this is not the only cause of anaemia, it’s generally the most common. Let’s take a look and understand how iron plays a vital role in a functioning body, what it means to be deficient and how to remedy this.

The science bit - oxygen movement fuelled by healthy red blood cells

Red blood cells make sure oxygen moves around your body. From your lungs to your vital organs, it’s essential oxygen is circulated properly for everything to work as it should. If you don’t have enough healthy red blood cells then this doesn’t happen, and this is called anaemia. People with anaemia might start to feel tired, weak and short of breath.  

Globally, the most common cause of anaemia is an iron deficiency – not having enough iron in your body to help create a sufficient level of red blood cells. Around 500 million people worldwide are affected by iron deficiency anaemia.

Red blood cells

Common causes of iron deficiency anaemia

Depending on your age and gender, there are a few main reasons that you might develop iron deficiency anaemia.

There are also less common reasons, but these can still be a contributing factor.

Diagnosis and treatment

To check whether you have the right level of healthy red blood cells, your GP will order a simple blood test to check your levels. There’s nothing you need to do to prepare for this.

If your levels are low, your GP will investigate the underlying cause. They’ll ask you about your lifestyle, diet and any symptoms or health concerns you may have. Depending on the underlying cause, treatment may be necessary to increase your iron levels.  

Generally, your GP will prescribe a course of iron tablets for around 6 months. This will add iron back into your body and allow increased production of healthy red blood cells. Your GP will monitor progress throughout the recommended treatment.  

If diet has played a part in your low iron levels, or you want to boost your levels, there are plenty of iron-rich foods you can add to your diet. It’s also important to consume food and drinks which contain Vitamin C, as this will help your body absorb iron.

Iron-rich foods include:

Iron-rich foods

Useful resources

NHS – a handy overview of iron deficiency anaemia

British Dietetics Association – iron food factsheet

Coeliac UK – a guide to iron deficiency

If you want to know more about iron deficiency anaemia or have questions about adding more iron into your diet, get in touch with our friendly pharmacy team who can offer you advice and guidance.

More Blogs

Dietary fibre: Why it’s important and how to get more into your diet

Generic vs. Brand-name medication

In this blog piece we discuss the differences between generic and brand medication, how generic medicines are marketed and whether their efficacy is similar to brand medication.

Read More

Phlo puts you in control

Manage, order and track your medication via the app

Chat with Phlo pharmacists via phone, email or live-chat

Choose a delivery option that suits you

Switch to Phlo

Further Reading

5 minute read

Blood glucose: what it means and how to test it at home

Learn More
6 minute read

The health and productivity benefits of standing desks

Learn More
7 minute read

Arthritis: causes, symptoms and treatment

Learn More