It’s believed about 10 million Americans are deficient in iron. So, if you’ve been feeling extra fatigued lately, there’s a chance low-iron may be to blame. While the body can store about 1 to 3 years’ worth of iron, it’s straightforward for your stores to run low. Why? Not only is iron a notoriously hard mineral to absorb, but it can also be easily lost. And while vegetarian and vegan diets are often linked with iron deficiency, steak eaters are equally at risk to go low on this essential mineral that plays a variety of crucial roles in the body. Keep reading to see common symptoms of low iron and what you can do to get your energy back up.
Who is at Risk for Iron Deficiency?
Even if you think you’re eating enough iron-rich foods, much of what you drink or eat can also suppress iron absorption. Love coffee or tea? The tannins found in coffee, tea, and wine can block iron absorption. High amounts of calcium in dairy and proteins in soy, phytates found in unsoaked grains, and beans can also block iron absorption. (1)
Once food hits our gut, it’s our stomach acid that creates the right conditions for optimal iron absorbability. If you have low stomach acid or take drugs for acid reflux that reduce stomach acid, both can block the body from absorbing iron and possibly lead to deficiency. Gut issues like IBS and leaky gut can also make iron challenging to absorb.
While we also naturally lose a small amount of iron daily from shedding cells and sweating, iron loss can be more severe when caused by blood loss from internal ulcers, injury, or monthly menstruation (incredibly if heavy).
You may also have low iron if you (2):
- Are a vegetarian or vegan (3, 4)
- Are a pregnant, breastfeeding, or menstruating woman
- Have digestive issues, like IBS or leaky gut, which can affect absorption
- Have had blood loss due to ulcers, accidents, or surgery
- Take drugs that reduce stomach acid (Prilosec, omeprazole, etc.)
- Are over the age of 65
- Have parasites or have had an infection
Are an athlete (5)
Health Fact: 20% of women, 50% of pregnant women, and 3% of men are iron deficient. (6)
What are the Benefits of Iron For Health?
Iron (Fe) is an essential mineral that we must get through our diets. Iron is necessary to keep us healthy.