Surprising Indicators Of Iron Deficiency

by Isadora Baum, CHC

Getting in enough iron each day can directly influence your mood and energy levels, as being too low can interfere with mental and physical activity. If you notice signs you're deficient in iron, such as unstable mental and physical attributes, you might want to grab something rich in iron to eat for an instant perk-up.

As a certified health coach, I work with clients on balancing their hormones and leading a healthy lifestyle. Having a diet high in vital nutrients is a top priority for maintaining such balance and happiness. Iron can be found in many foods, but sometimes your diet doesn't allow for rich sources, or you don't make time in the day to secure your fill through appropriate meals and snacks. If you're struggling to keep your eyes open, to zone in on a work assignment, or not yell at strangers on the street for no reason, it might be due to poor food choices that are affecting your mood and energy. Here are 11 indicators that you might be lacking in iron content and should be more mindful in the day. Adding in a few extra sources can really benefit the body, for the both long-term and short-term, and many iron-packed foods are absolutely delicious.

1. Dark Stool

According to Randy Wexler, who is a family medicine physician at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, over email with Bustle, having "dark or tarry stools," can be a sign of an iron deficiency. It "can indicate blood loss from the GI tract which results in iron loss. Causes can be stomach ulcers, cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, or diverticulosis," Wexler adds.

2. Eating Ice

According to Wexler, if you're prone to eating ice (you know who you are if you do), it could mean that you're also low in iron levels. "Eating ice. This is known as PICA and is a strong indicator of iron deficiency though it does not suggest as to why," explains Wexler.

3. Fatigue

If you're sleeping well and still feel tired all day, it could be due to lower iron levels, advises Elizabeth Ann Shaw, MS, RDN, CLT over email with Bustle. "Typically, when a patient is anemic I find them to constantly complain of feeling tired, run down and over worked. Usually by focusing on including more iron rich foods in their diet in addition to supplements will help make them feel like themselves again," says Shaw. "Fatigue can be suggestive of iron loss. The loss of iron and subsequent decrease in red blood cell oxygen carrying capacity because of that causes fatigue," Wexler also adds.

4. General Weakness

Wexler also says that having general weakness could be due to diminished iron levels. "Generalized weakness which can be due to loss of oxygen carrying capacity of the red blood cells can be an indicator of iron loss," Wexler says.

5. Exceptionally Pale Skin

"If you notice other symptoms, such as exceptionally pale skin, coupled with noticeable and ongoing fatigue, a visit to your doctor is in order. A simple blood test can reveal if—and to what extent—you are deficient in iron," advises Kitty Broihier MS, RD, LD, Scientific Advisory Panel at Guiding Stars over email with Bustle.

6. Hair Loss

Broihier also cautions against "losing more hair than usual" in those with anemia or symptoms relative to an iron deficiency. If you notice your hair is falling out more often, and you're not eating the right iron-filled foods, see a doctor for a test to check.

7. Poor Diet

Not eating iron-rich foods is likely to increase your risk of deficiency, advises Broihier. Think about your diet. "Red meat, poultry and seafood are among the best sources of easily-absorbed iron, but plenty of vegetarian options also provide iron, such as beans, peas, lentils, tofu, some dark green vegetables, nuts and iron-enriched cereals. If you’re more severely iron-deficient, your doctor may advise you take an iron supplement," Broihier suggests.

8. Brittle Nails

According to experts at Mayo Clinic, if you have brittle, hard nails, it could mean that you're deficient in iron and need to either up your intake or take a supplement to get in enough each day. If your nails aren't looking so great, you can also get tested and check your levels.

9. Heavy Periods

According to Jacques Moritz, MD, director of gynecology at Mount Sinai St. Luke's Roosevelt in New York City, over interview with Health, too heavy menstruation can lead to higher risk of iron deficiency, due to the excess blood loss. If this happens to you, consider seeing a doctor to check your iron levels.

10. Lower Immunity

If you're getting sick too often, it might mean that you're deficient in iron and you could use a test to check your levels, as explained by Marilyn Murr, MD, clinical assistant professor of family and community medicine at the School of Medicine at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston over interview with Everyday Health.

11. Celiac Disease

According to experts at Healthline, if you have celiac disease, or intestinal surgery, such as a gastric bypass surgery, you might not be able to absorb iron as well as those not carrying the illness or medical repercussions. It's best to be extra vigilant and discuss intake with a doctor.

If you have any of these symptoms or factors within your lifestyle, you might be at risk of or experiencing low iron levels. If so, check with a doctor and test your levels. Developing healthier ways to get enough in during the day will help, too.