Iron plays an important role in the human body, more so in the RBCs (red blood cells) where its function is to help in carrying oxygen in the body to places where the oxygen is needed. Therefore, a low bloodstream iron count means that the oxygen and RBC count are also low which results to different unwanted symptoms (called low iron symptoms). This condition is known as anemia and identifying its symptoms early is crucial so that appropriate measures can be taken to control it. The human body needs iron to make myoglobin (found in muscles) and hemoglobin (found in RBCs).A high iron count in the body can result in iron poisoning and while low iron count causes anemia. Both of these scenarios are dangerous.
Low Iron Symptoms
Changed senses especially of touch
A person suffering from extreme cases of low iron may suffer from damage of nerves due to low oxygen levels. This, in turn, will result in tingling, more so in extremities.
Burning tongue sensation
Low iron levels in the body may also cause a burning sensation on the tongue. It is a known side effect that affects people with vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Other than the tongue having a burning sensation, you may also experience the same sensation on the throat (in rare cases, this is a sign of cancer) and corners of the mouth.
Changed stool color
Passing stool that has a pale look is a clear indication that you are suffering from iron deficiency and not low B12. Iron gives stool its dark color.
Pica is the condition whereby a person has intense and unusual craving, more so, for inedible things like grout, dirt, metal etc. This is the body's way of saying that some crucial vitamin or mineral is missing from your diet. If the particular craving is for metal, then chances are your body has low iron. Likewise, broccoli or spinach cravings are a sign of lack of iron.
Pale skin complexion
Having few red blood cells will result in pale skin complexion since the skin surface has less blood. You can also examine some areas in the body which are normally red, like under the eye or your nail beds. If they are paler than normal, your body needs iron. Low iron count also causes low blood pressure, and that is why the skin may feel cold upon touching.
For red blood cells and oxygen to circulate, the heart must pump blood around the body. Low iron results in low oxygen in the body. As a result, the heart works extra hard to ensure that the little oxygenated blood the body has is circulated. This results in chest pain AKA Angina.
Dizziness and faintness are caused when the brain gets insufficient oxygen causing lightheadedness. It also happens when you're in shock, and the available oxygen and blood go to other brain areas, or when a person stands up hurriedly. This is also why a person goes pale when unconscious (has fainted). With anemia, the same happens throughout the body.
Having low oxygen levels in your body means that the oxygenated blood gets circulated more quickly forcing you to take in a lot of oxygen when breathing. This can cause gasping and breathlessness.
The body uses oxygen for energy. Since it's reactive, it helps in breaking fat and glucose to release the energy needed by the body. This is the reason why when a person does cardiovascular exercises s/he draws deeper breaths and pants. With low iron, getting oxygen around the body is not easy, and so you end up feeling less energetic and are unable to do much.
Low Iron Treatments
Take vitamin supplements
Get a recommendation from a medical professional on vitamins supplements you could use to treat anemia caused by iron-deficiency. You can go for a multi-vitamin which contains a 325mg daily dose of either ferrous gluconate or ferrous sulfate as they are forms of iron that are most absorbable. Additionally, go for vitamin supplements that contain Vitamin C, folic acid and Vitamin B-12 because they enable your body to absorb iron efficiently.
Increase intake of iron-rich foods
Ensure that your diet is inclusive of foods that have high-iron. Such foods include spinach, squash seeds, beans, dried fruits like apricots & raisins, peas, poultry, seafood, pork, liver, pumpkin, prune juice, pastas, breads etc.
Absorb foods rich in Vitamin C
Vitamin C enhances iron absorption in the body. Therefore, you should take foods rich in vitamin C and drink citrus juice e.g. orange juice. You can also find Vitamin C in kiwi, grape fruit, broccoli, melons, leafy greens, oranges, mangoes, tomatoes, strawberries and peppers.
Foods and medications to avoid
Avoid any foods that can block iron absorption in the gastrointestinal tract. Such foods include rhubarb, chewing gum, red wine, tea, wheat bran, coffee, chocolate, some dairy products and whole grain cereal as they have phytic acid, which can interfere with the absorption of iron from other pills and foods.
There are some medicines that can make it more difficult for your body to absorb iron. They may include antacids (medication used to relieve indigestion), proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) (they will affect acid production in your stomach).
Schedule follow-up visits to your doctor
Visit your doctor to determine whether the iron-deficiency symptoms have been successfully controlled. Some blood tests will be done to monitor your anemia via four detailed parameters including red blood cell count, distribution & size and hemoglobin concentration. Afterwards, your doctor is going to tell you whether the anemia has been controlled.