Can Low Iron Cause Digestive Problems?

Low dietary iron may cause digestive problems, especially when your diet or supplements include non-heme iron. Non-heme iron is present in the ferric state (Fe3). Your body needs to convert non-heme iron from the ferric state to the ferrous state (Fe2) for it to be usable. This conversion results in excess iron in your digestive system which can cause digestive problems such as nausea and cramping.

Iron is an essential mineral that is needed in abundance for many bodily functions to work effectively. It’s important to make sure that you are getting enough iron through your diet or with supplementation as low iron levels can affect your quality of life.

Low Iron Symptoms

A low iron level can cause many different symptoms. The severity of symptoms can range from mild to severe and can be triggered by pregnancy or other conditions.

Low iron symptoms generally begin 1-2 months after the body is deprived of iron, but symptoms can occur at any time during this period. If you think you may have a low-iron problem, here are some of the most common signs:

  • Fatigue or tiredness
  • Feeling short of breath
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness or light-headedness
  • Headaches
  • Pale skin
  • Chest pain, fast heartbeat
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Brittle nails
  • Decreased appetite (often in young children and infants)

Low Iron And Nausea

Nausea and tiredness are two of the most common symptoms of iron deficiency and iron deficiency anemia. Iron is essential mineral that your body uses to to create hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is an iron-inclusive protein found in red blood cells that carry oxygen around the body, specifically to the organs and tissues. It swaps the oxygen it carries with the excess carbon dioxide in your body, bringing it back to the lungs to be expelled.

If you don’t have enough iron, your body won’t be able to create enough hemoglobin, impacting the transport of oxygen to your tissues and organs. As a result, the lack of oxygen to your brain and other organs can definitely make you feel faint, dizzy or nauseous. Confirm with your doctor that iron deficiency is the cause of any nausea, fatigue or dizziness that you may be feeling. And remember not to get up too quickly!

Lack Of Iron Absorption

Your body does not absorb all of the iron it ingests. This is because iron, a mineral that your body needs to function properly, is difficult for your body to breakdown in the first place. For this reason, a woman’s Recommended Dietary Intake (RDI) for iron is 18mg per day, and a man’s is 8mg per day. This number takes into account that your body will not absorb 100% of the iron it ingests.

If your diet includes foods rich in non-heme iron, or if your iron supplement is non-heme, this can contribute to a lack of iron absorption. The reason for this is your body needs to convert non-heme iron from its ferric state to the ferrous state before absorption. You also need a healthy gut microbiome to do this. This means that if you have an autoimmune disease, or have just taken a long course of antibiotics, you may not be able to get enough iron from your diet alone, and you may need to take an iron supplement.

Iron Deficiency

Iron deficiency is one of the most common nutritional deficiencies and it affects everybody differently. Women tend to struggle with iron level more than men, this is mostly because of the loss of blood during menstruation. In women who have heavy periods, getting enough iron can be tough — especially for young women who are starting their menstrual cycles for the first time.

If your iron levels are low, it can cause a wide range of symptoms, including digestive problems. Talk to your doctor about any digestive issues or nausea you may be experiencing. Ask to get your iron levels tested and if your iron levels are low, discuss supplementation options.

Heme Iron Supplements

Iron supplements are widely available for purchase. The iron supplements currently available on the market can be separated into two different forms; heme and non-heme iron. Heme iron is an animal byproduct, meaning it is found in meat, poultry and seafood. Non-heme iron is found in plant based foods like seeds, nuts and greens.

With non-heme iron supplements, digestive problems such as cramping and constipation. Non-heme iron needs to be converted from the ferric state to the ferrous state, and excess iron can cause digestive issues. Heme iron on the other hand, absorbs easily with low side effects.

If your iron levels are tested to be low, speak to your doctor about heme iron supplements such as OptiFer Alpha.



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