Iron Deficiency Symptoms

Causes of Iron deficiency

If you are suffering from symptoms of low iron or have been told you have a deficiency in this mineral and want more details, you’ve come to the right place. On this page we discuss the causes of iron deficiency and perhaps more importantly, the symptoms to look out for. We also cover the condition known as iron deficiency anemia which can develops from a lack of iron in the body.

Furthermore, we also talk about what you can do to treat the underlying condition that causes low iron symptoms.

What causes iron deficiency?

The main focus of this page is what the symptoms are, but just as important is their root cause. If you recognise several of the symptoms listed further down the page and can relate to one or more of the causes of iron deficiency below, you would be well advised to make an appointment with your doctor or other medical practitioner as soon as possible.

As you will see the causes of low iron symptoms do vary and some are more severe than others. In this case, perhaps more so than many others, self diagnosis is not recommended, so we cannot stress enough how important it is for you to seek medical advice if you suspect anything.

RDI Iron

  • 8 mg Males
  • 18 mg Female 19-50 years
  • 27 mg Pregnant women
  • 10mg Breastfeeding women
  • 8 mg Female 50+
  • 11 mg Boys 14-18 years
  • 15 mg Girls 14-18 years
  • 8 mg Children 9-13 years
  • 10 mg Children 4-8 years
  • 7 mg Toddler 1-3 years
  • 11 mg Infants 7-12 months
  • 0.27 mg Infants 0-6 months

The body’s inability to absorb iron

Some people are unable to absorb sufficient iron, even if iron rich foods have been consumed. Anyone suffering from celiac disease, in which the intestine’s ability to absorb nutrients from digested food is compromised, can lead to an iron deficiency. Interactions with other nutrients can also have an effect. For example, vitamin C enhances non-heme iron (from plant foods) absorption if taken at the same meal, so if you have insufficient vitamin C, you may struggle to absorb enough iron. Taking antacids beyond the recommended dose or having acid reflux can reduce the amount of iron absorbed in the stomach. If the body is unable to absorb enough of this mineral, an iron deficiency may develop.


Loss of blood

If you experience some sort of trauma and lose a lot of blood as a result then this can result in an iron deficiency. However, other groups are at risk of this kind of deficiency, including women who experience heavy periods and people who suffer from peptic ulcers or hiatus hernia, due to slow, chronic blood loss within the body. This form of blood loss can lead to iron deficiency anemia.

Insufficient iron intake through diet

Perhaps the most common cause of iron deficiency symptoms is the fact that people do not get enough iron in their diet. This can be due to simply not getting enough iron rich foods in your diet, or a more complex reason. Because non-heme iron (from plants) is absorbed less easily than heme iron (from meat), vegetarians and vegans may find it harder to get enough of this mineral if they do not plan their diets with care. Crash dieting can also lead to deficiencies, not just in iron but a number of other nutrients.


Surprisingly, you can develop iron deficiency symptoms if you exercise a lot because the body’s need for iron increases. This is more likely if you are an athlete or somebody that is training hard, as iron is used up and appreciable amounts of iron are lost from the body through sweat. This issue is more likely to affect female athletes.

Iron deficiency symptoms

What are symptoms of low iron?

In this section we are going to cover iron deficiency symptoms. While this is a fairly long list, it is unlikely you will experience all these symptoms even if you are low in iron. However if you recognise more than a few of these symptoms then there is a chance that you have an iron deficiency. In this case it is imperative to speak to your doctor or a medical professional. Here are the iron deficiency symptoms that you should be looking our for:

  • Feeling weak and run down
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Lethargy (lack of energy)
  • Becoming short of breath easily
  • Headaches
  • Feeling irritable for no reason
  • Feeling light headed and dizzy
  • Heart palpitations
  • Tongue swelling and pain
  • Increased heart rate
  • Brittle and damaged nails
  • Unusually pale complexion
  • Reduced appetite
  • Feeling unusually cold in your hands and feet
  • Having a strange restless sensation in your legs

Please be aware that self-diagnosis is usually a bad idea – not least because you can imagine yourself suffering from all kinds of rare conditions! – but also because many of the above low iron symptoms also relate to many other illnesses and it is going to be critical to your long term health that you know exactly what, if anything, is wrong with you and how you can best take care of yourself in the long term.


What can be done to treat low iron symptoms?

If you have had confirmation that you have an iron deficiency, which can be done by means of a simple blood test, there are two main things that you can do yourself in order to combat the issue.

  • Eat iron rich foods

    The best way to make sure that you are getting enough iron into your body on a regular basis is through your diet. There a huge range of foods that can help you with this, no matter what your dietary preferences. If you need more information then please check out our iron rich foods list page for more information. In most cases, natural sources of iron are more effective than when it is taken in from other sources.

  • Take regular iron supplements

    In addition to consuming high iron foods there is always the option of taking a regular iron supplement. This can ensure that you are getting the relevant amount of this important nutrient on a regular basis, and thus can avoid developing iron deficiency symptoms. Iron supplements can come on their own or as part of a multi-supplement which means it contains other essential vitamins and minerals as well.

  • Medical treatment

    If there is some sort of underlying cause of your symptoms of iron deficiency then this will need to be looked into by your doctor. In this case, some other course of treatment may be necessary. If you have developed iron deficiency anaemia, a condition in which a lack of iron in the body leads to a reduction in the number of red blood cells, you will most likely need to take supplements. In this case, be aware that, due to the fact that the body constantly makes new red blood cells, it may take up to two months because your condition improves significantly.

Low iron symptoms can leave you feeling under the weather for a variety of reasons,  so it is always best to get them seen to and the problem solved sooner rather than later.

There is way more to our site than just information on iron deficiency symptoms. We have pages on all of the essential vitamins and minerals that we all need in our everyday diets. It may interest you to check out our page that has a comprehensive iron rich foods list  so you can learn more about the best sources of this vital mineral.