How Iron Can Help Fight Fatigue and Hair Loss
We all get tired sometimes. Maybe we’ve had a particularly busy week at work or we’ve just started a new high-intensity workout program. These things are naturally going to lead to fatigue. But if you’ve been feeling fatigued for several weeks, there might be a deeper problem. Fatigue is a common symptom in hundreds of different medical conditions, so it can be difficult to determine the underlying cause of your tiredness. Could a vegan iron supplement be the solution?
This is because one of these health conditions is iron deficiency anaemia. There has been a lot of research around this particular health condition. A lot of studies can show that a liquid iron supplement may be beneficial to those with anaemia.
But before you head out to your local health store to buy some iron supplements, there are some important things you need to know.
Can Low Iron Cause Fatigue?
If you go to the doctor and tell them that you have been feeling fatigued for several weeks or months, one of the first things that they will do is request a blood sample.
The aim of checking your blood work is to determine your iron levels. Since a large percentage of the iron in your body is a haemoglobin inside your red blood cells, taking a blood sample can be a great indicator of iron deficiency.
You lose iron in your sweat, urine, faeces, vaginal fluid, and tears every day. Adult women who are regularly menstruating will lose more iron during their period.
The body only needs around 1 to 1.5 milligrams of iron each day to replace lost stores. Menstruating women will require more than this. You can easily achieve the recommended daily iron intake by eating a varied diet that is abundant in iron-rich foods.
Is a Vegetarian Diet Low in Iron?
However, if you follow a restrictive diet, such as the vegetarian or vegan diet, you might struggle to obtain adequate amounts of iron through your diet. This is because many iron-rich foods are meats or dairy products. This is why many vegans take iron supplements to prevent low iron levels.
Before you take any liquid iron, your doctor will perform tests to determine the true cause of your symptoms.
If you aren’t consuming enough iron in your diet, you may not notice any symptoms initially. Your body pulls iron from the stores of iron in your organs and tissues. As time goes on and your body’s iron stores get more and more depleted, you will begin to notice the early signs of anaemia.
One of the first symptoms of low iron is fatigue.
Why Does Iron Deficiency Cause Fatigue?
The primary function of iron is to transport oxygen inside the red blood cells from the lungs to the muscles and tissues. When you are lacking iron in your diet, your body begins to produce red blood cells that contain less haemoglobin (less iron).
Red blood cells with a low iron content have a reduced capacity for carrying oxygen. This means that less oxygen can be transported from your lungs to your muscles and organs, and this is why you can feel weak and fatigued.
Respiration is the mechanism by which your cells create energy in the form of ATP. When your muscles receive less oxygen, the cells are less able to respire. As a result, you will start to experience the common symptoms of anaemia, including chronic fatigue.
The longer you are deficient in iron, the worse your symptoms may become. Alongside fatigue, you may experience:
- Brittle nails
- Cold hands and feet due to poor circulation
- Difficulty concentrating and focusing
- Hair loss
- Heart palpitations or irregular heartbeats
- Low appetite
- Memory loss
- Pale skin
- Weakness in the muscles
If you are experiencing extreme fatigue and a combination of any of the above symptoms, you may need to take a closer look at your diet to determine whether you are consuming enough iron each day.
Low Iron Anaemia and Hair Loss
There has been a lot of research around low iron and hair loss. There are lots of different medical conditions that cause hair thinning and hair loss but it can also be caused by nutrient deficiencies.
In particular, low levels of iron have been closely linked to hair loss. In the form of haemoglobin, iron carries oxygen and nutrients to the hair follicles in your scalp, which stimulates them to grow. Lower iron can reduce this growth or stop it altogether.
If you are deficient in iron, you may notice bald patches on your scalp or large clumps of hair in the shower. You should immediately consult your doctor as soon as you notice these symptoms.
Your doctor will be able to check your iron and ferritin levels to determine whether or not your hair loss is caused by iron deficiency. Once an iron deficiency is confirmed, your doctor may refer you along to a specialised dietician, who will work with you to increase your dietary iron intake.
Iron-rich foods include:
- Dairy products, such as eggs and milk
- Fortified whole grains
- Legumes, such as chickpeas, lentils, and beans
- Leafy green vegetables
- Nuts and seeds
- Red meats
Incorporating more of these foods into your diet may slow down hair thinning and prevent further hair loss. However, this is much easier said than done, even with the help of a qualified dietitian.
Your dietician or doctor may also recommend an iron supplement to boost your iron intake. This is commonly in the form of a liquid iron supplement, such as Floradix liquid iron. However, if you’d prefer an alternative to liquid supplements, you can also get vegan iron gummies. Read our latest review to find out which are the best vegan iron supplements in the UK today.
When your doctor prescribes iron supplements for you, they will continue to monitor the levels of iron in your blood every few weeks.
It’s important that the healthcare professional keeps a close eye on your iron levels to determine whether you’re taking the ideal iron dosage for anaemia. Taking too little iron may be ineffective in boosting your iron levels and taking too much can cause iron toxicity.
Iron toxicity can be serious. When excess iron accumulates in the organs and tissues, it can lead to abdominal cramping, digestive issues, nausea, and vomiting.
If you experience any of these symptoms while taking iron supplements, you must inform your healthcare professional immediately. They will likely reduce your dosage of iron to reduce your symptoms.