Iron deficiency, how to spot it and how to boost it

Recently I found that I’ve been tired a lot more than normal. I’ve been getting dizzy spells, sometimes when I stand up, and my skin has been looking a little pale. A few years ago my GP told me my iron levels were low – nothing to be worried about, but I should start to increase the amount of iron in my diet.

Of course, I did as the doctor ordered continued to do so after I moved out. However, I’ve started the last term of my final year at University and keeping an eye on my diet is no longer a top priority. I quickly found my symptoms returning and decided to do something about it.

The main thing was to find out if it was my iron levels or not. Karen Austin, nutritionists, personal trainer and hormone expert explained to me that there are several signs of iron deficiency:

  • Fatigue and constant tiredness
  • Pale skin and also fingernails
  • Weakness and the constant feeling of being drained
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Inflamed tongue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Heart palpitations

She did add that it’s “Also best to get tested out at the doctors if any of the above symptoms persist.”

Fiona Robertson a health consultant explains how she feels society could play a role in this: “All these years of diets and societies diet mentality, have negated our ability to know our own instincts and what we could consume to fulfil those missing nutrients that the body is screaming for. Natures best medicine is a right infant of us.”

Lianne Young, a qualified nutritional advisor told me that “Committing to a healthy natural eating regime is the first step in staying healthy and maintaining normal blood cells. For many keeping a healthy diet can be hard work if you’re in the business of coordinating life amidst everyday chaos–work, partner, children, laundry, and that’s exactly what convenience coffee shops and takeaways are counting on so the best thing is to start making pack lunches which will have the added benefits of saving you money and inches off your waist.”

With that in mind, Karen Austin told me about the best foods for iron deficiency: “Liver as well as l Nutsean meats e.g lean beef, chicken, turkey, fish and even oysters.” While this may not meet the needs of vegans and vegetarians she did add that “iron from animal sources rather than from plants absorb two to three times more within the body.”

This doesn’t mean that you can ditch your vegetables though, Austin added that “Just because animal sources of iron absorption is far greater than plants doesn’t mean we can’t use them to up our Iron levels.”

Fiona Roberston also found this, “Tofu and lentils were very exciting to me again having gone off them for a long phase. I was again attracted to them and could not get enough of the Indian Dhal I make from coral lentils and marinated tofu in Tamari.”

Tofu alongside beans, lentils, cashew nuts and dark leafy greens like broccoli, kale and spinach are also great sources of iron.

Upping your iron intake isn’t a costly part of your diet, it simply requires you to look a little closer at what you’re putting into your body and ensuring the nutrients ticks all relevant boxes.

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