When it comes to keeping up with a busy schedule and demands from work, family, and friends, the last thing you want to worry about is your body operating at less than optimal levels. Unfortunately, a growing number of people are finding themselves lacking the energy and quality of life needed to enjoy their day-to-day responsibilities.
To make matters worse, improvements in diet and increased exercise can seem to produce underwhelming results. Without proper clarity or understanding about the underlying causes of why we feel the way we do can lead to feelings of confusion, overwhelm, and discouragement.
As it turns out, if you’ve been trying your best to make healthy lifestyle changes and are still struggling to see improvement, it may be due to an iron deficiency, also referred to as a href=”https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/anemia/iron-deficiency-anemia”>iron deficiency anemia/a>. Let’s look at the importance of proper nutrition and how iron, in particular, is key to reaching our optimal health goals. We will examine symptoms of an iron deficiency, ways to test for it, and what treatments are available.
The problem with nutrient deficiencies
When we experience negative symptoms such as headaches, low energy, and muscle weakness, it’s often the body’s way of indicating that there are deficiencies that need to be addressed. Gaps in essential nutrients often cause many of the negative symptoms we experience.
This is because many of the essential vitamins and minerals we need are not produced by the body. They need to be consumed. For example, vitamin c is responsible for boosting our immune system, protecting our cells against free radicals, and helping absorb and store iron. However, vitamin c is not produced by the body. If we are deficient in just one or two nutrients, it could cause a chain reaction of negative symptoms in our body.
The increasing problem is that many modern diets lack the nutrient density to meet our body’s demands and oral supplements are normally too inconsistent to offer any significant benefit.
For our bodies to carry out essential functions such as growth, regeneration, and recovery, we need to make sure our bodies have what they need to do so.
Iron is one of the most important nutrients to our health, yet more than 3 million Americans struggle with varying degrees of iron deficiency anemia. It could indicate an iron deficiency if you still struggle with ongoing health challenges despite positive changes.
What is low iron?
It’s important to first understand the important role red blood cells play in our bodies. These cells are integral to functions such as oxygen distribution, immune response, and healing. Our bodies require a minimum threshold of red blood cells to keep us operating properly. Problems arise when our body cannot produce enough red blood cells to keep up with demand.
Low iron anemia can be one of the causes of low red blood cell count and reduce its effectiveness in carrying oxygen throughout the body. Low iron prevents the production of a substance in red blood cells that enables them to carry oxygen (hemoglobin).
A host of different factors can cause a lack of iron. It is often due to gaps in the diet. Even if we are consuming enough iron, there may be underlying factors preventing our bodies from being able to absorb iron. This can result in many negative symptoms, which we will discuss next.
Symptoms of low iron
Because iron deficiency anemia can develop gradually, it may be difficult to identify early on. There may be little to no indication that you initially suffer from low iron. However, low iron will eventually reach a tipping point causing the symptoms to snowball and appear like they are coming out of nowhere.
Those suffering from low iron may experience symptoms including:
- Extreme fatigue due to a lack of oxygen being distributed to the body
- Muscle weakness as a result of oxygen deprivation
- Pale skin as a result of low hemoglobin levels
- Cardiovascular-related issues such as shortness of breath and chest pain
- Cold extremities such as hands and feet
- Inflammation and tongue sensitivity
- Unexplainable cravings for non-nutrient dense things like ice or starch
- Brittle nails
- Loss of appetite
- Dizziness and headaches
The dangers of leaving low iron untreated
The longer and more severe we leave an iron deficiency, the more severe these symptoms can become. Although some may think these symptoms are just an inconvenience, they can become extremely debilitating and even result in long-term health issues.
When left untreated, low iron can cause serious issues like fatigue, restless leg syndrome, heart problems, complications during pregnancy, and even developmental challenges in children.
Low iron anemia can also negatively synergize with other chronic illnesses amplifying the havoc it can cause in the body.
For this reason, early detection is essential to prevent long-term negative effects from taking hold and leading to worsening health.
How to test for an iron deficiency
Thanks to advancements in medical technology, it is now easier than ever to get tested for low iron. The most effective and accurate way to test for iron deficiency is by taking an anemia blood panel. This blood panel tests for various forms of anemia that may be present in your body, including ones connected to an iron deficiency. The good thing about a blood test is that it can help provide clarity on the underlying causes of low iron and the resulting anemia.
The results are a powerful first step in helping your medical provider devise the best approach to treatment. Let’s look at how you can receive a blood panel to determine if you are struggling with low iron.
Receiving blood panels like the anemia blood test can be administered at most medical clinics. The process involves scheduling an appointment and filling out intake paperwork before your visit or when you arrive. Once you are checked in, a nurse will take you into the treatment room and perform your blood draw.
While it is one way to receive a low iron blood panel, it is hardly the most convenient or efficient. Unfortunately, many busy people put their testing on hold because their schedule and demands on their time simply won’t allow them to commute to a medical office and wait for a blood draw.
At-home DIY testing
For convenience, many people are opting for at-home blood test kits. Shipped to your door, DIY kits include detailed instructions on how to draw your blood samples. After you perform the blood draw, you simply need to package it appropriately and ship it to the lab for processing.
While this approach offers privacy and flexibility, the results can be mixed. Many patients find it difficult to take their samples. No amount of detailed instructions can replace the quality of care provided by a medical professional with years of training. Besides the technical aspect of self-administration, many may find it too painful or be too squeamish. To make matters worse, messing up one of these kits means the added expense of having to purchase an additional test and repeat the whole process over again.
Personalized, in-home professional testing
Taking the best of the previous options, professional in-home testing is the most efficient, accurate, and comfortable option. Rather than commuting to a doctor’s office and sitting in a waiting room, a medical professional can be at your door within just a few hours of scheduling. Instead of having to figure out how to draw your sample, a registered nurse is on hand with all the required equipment and tools to quickly and efficiently draw your samples. Instead of waiting for your samples to make it through the mail and be processed at a distant lab, your medical professional takes the labs with them to be processed quickly.
Once your results come in, you can schedule an in-home consultation with one of our team or have a virtual appointment. The good news is that you can now get the clarity you need without having to leave your home or deviate from your busy schedule.
It’s clear why so many are opting for concierge, in-home blood tests. This solution is providing many that would otherwise be unable to make their health a priority access to testing.
As an added convenience, using an in-home concierge service like ours means you can also receive treatment in the comfort of your own home. While oral supplementation may be adequate for milder cases, severe instances or ones caused by underlying conditions may require more concentrated care. A doctor may recommend iron IV treatments, injections, or medications, depending on your case. The beauty of concierge medicine is that all this can be done without ever leaving your home.
We’d love to discuss your testing and treatment options regarding addressing your low iron. Please feel free to contact our office and set up a consultation.