What are the causes of Iron Deficiency?

The common causes of iron deficiency are:

  • Reduced iron intake: Iron Deficiency is one of the most common nutritional deficiencies in worldwide. Dietary iron primarily comes from red meat. This is why vegetarians and vegans are at higher risk of iron deficiency.
  • Blood loss: The cause of blood loss may be obvious in the case of heavy menstrual bleeding. However, often the blood loss can’t be seen and bleeding from the gastrointestinal tract is one of the commonest causes of iron deficiency. Conditions such as peptic ulcers, or bowel polyps and/or cancers can lead to iron deficiency and anaemia. This is why iron deficiency is often investigated with procedures such as gastroscopy and colonoscopy.
  • Reduced iron absorption: Certain condition such as coeliac disease may be associated with reduced iron absorption. The best investigation to diagnose coeliac disease is a gastroscopy with small intestinal biopsies.

What are the factors which affect Iron absorption?

Vitamin C (found in citrus fruits, kiwi fruit, strawberries, tomatoes) may increase the absorption of iron. Certain foods may reduce the absorption of iron, including tannins (found in tea and coffee), phytates (found in wholegrains such as bran), phosphates (found in eggs), soy protein and calcium rich foods.

Where are the symptoms of Iron Deficiency?

Iron deficiency can cause many symptoms, including lethargy/tiredness, shortness of breath, and reduced concentration.

How is Iron Deficiency treated?

The management of Iron Deficiency involves two steps: diagnosis of the underlying cause, and correction of deficiency. The correction of Iron Deficiency may include: increase dietary iron consumption, dietary modification to maximise absorption, oral or intravenous iron supplements or blood transfusion.