What is Low Iron?

Chapter 1 – What is Low Iron?

By Dr. Jake Rabinowitz

Is low iron the cause of All Your Problems?

Do you wonder if you’re “low iron?” Have you heard this from a doctor, loved one, or friend? You’re not alone. This post will explain this condition and help you understand the importance of fixing your iron in your personal health and wellness journey. 

What is low iron?

Diagnosing Low Iron

Low iron is a condition where a body does not have enough iron. Because iron is involved in many biological processes, including maintaining blood, transporting oxygen, and more, low iron impairs regular life.

As a diagnosis, low iron typically means blood serum levels below 60 ug/dl or ferritin levels below 12 ng/ml. There are also many other tests, which we discuss in Chapter 3 – Am I Low Iron? Testing.

Is anemia the same as low iron?

Anemia is a condition that develops due to low iron (and/or other factors). Anemia means hemoglobin levels below 12 g/dl. It means that a body does not have healthy red blood cells for transferring oxygen. It is related to low iron because the body uses iron to make new blood cells.

What causes low iron?

Low iron can be due to losing too much iron, getting too little iron, or not properly using iron in the body. 

  • Losing too much iron is common in people who menstruate and new/future mothers. This occurs due to frequent blood loss and due to sharing iron with the growing baby. 
  • Getting too little iron means having a dietary deficiency. This is common in vegetarians, since meat is the best dietary iron source. 
  • Not properly using iron means having an iron metabolism issue. This can occur in response to chronic inflammation or gastrointestinal stress.  

What are the symptoms low iron?

Low iron can cause many debilitating effects, including: fatigue, depression, weakness, shortness of breath, dizziness, seeing stars, restless legs, pale skin, brittle nails, thinning or loss of hair, poor appetite, feeling cold (especially cold extremities), easy bruising, and odd cravings (classically, chewing ice). We review the what and the why behind all of these symptoms in Am I Low Iron? Symptoms.

If you are experiencing these symptoms, listen to your body and experiment with different ways to increase iron, as discussed in How Can I Increase my Iron? Track your symptoms and stick with the solution that makes you feel better. Luckily, this is a problem that can be resolved. 

Keep reading

Now that you know about low iron, you can continue to Am I Low Iron? Symptoms to learn more about the symptoms and why they occur. 


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  • Dr. Jake Rabinowitz

    Dr. Jake Rabinowitz is a chemical engineer, PhD, and founder of Smart Eats, where he develops nutrition products with an industry-leading food scientist and a renowned gastrointestinal doctor / nutritionist. You can learn more about Jake's work career on his LinkedIn Profile and his highly-cited research contributions on his Google Scholar Profile.

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