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.
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.
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.
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:
NHS – a handy overview of iron deficiency anaemia
British Dietetics Association – iron food factsheet
Coeliac UK – a guide to iron deficiency
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