Some refer to blood as the river of life. And it’s a good description.
Your blood is constantly pumping through your arteries providing your body with the nutrients and oxygen you need to survive. And it’s flowing through your veins, filtering out the wastes that would otherwise build up and kill you.
Most of us don’t give much thought to what our blood requires to do those life-saving jobs effectively. But experts agree, one of the best things you can do for your blood is to feed it the iron it needs
Your body uses two thirds of its iron stores to produce hemoglobin. This protein in red blood cells carries oxygen throughout the body, and returns carbon dioxide to the lungs.
Without enough hemoglobin, your cells don’t get enough oxygen. They’re literally starving, so they can’t function, grow, or survive.
6 signals you’re not getting enough iron
So, how do you know if you’re not getting enough iron?
It’s not always obvious. So keep your eyes peeled for any of these weird warning signs that you need to raise your iron levels.
1. Chronic fatigue:
These days we live in such a fast paced world that feeling tired all the time can start to seem normal. That’s why chronic fatigue can be easy to miss or dismiss.
But we’re talking about far more than just feeling a bit tried here. With chronic fatigue no matter how much you sleep, or how much you relax during the day, you still feel exhausted. And it’s a classic symptom of low iron levels.
Oxygen feeds your cells so they can produce the energy you need to thrive. But low iron levels starve your cells of the oxygen they need, and you end up feeling exhausted and weak as a result.
2. Spoon-shaped or brittle nails:
If you’re worried your iron levels are too low, look at your fingers. Experts say indented nails that resemble a shallow spoon… or ones that break easily… can be a signal you’re not getting enough iron
Nails indentations can also come from an injury or exposure to certain chemicals. So if you spot the spoon make an appointment to see the doctor for a final diagnosis.
3. Swollen and smooth tongue:
A swollen tongue is by far one of the weirdest warning signs you’re not getting enough iron. When your muscles don’t get enough oxygen, they can become swollen and even sore. And since the tongue is essentially a muscle, it can react to low oxygen levels by swelling too.
As your tongue swells, the bumps begin to stretch out, leaving a smooth texture behind.
4. Restless legs:
Folks with restless legs syndrome (RLS) sometimes say it feels as if they have bugs under their skin, or like electrical impulses are going off in their muscles. Many say they feel a compulsion to get up and walk around.
Researchers are still trying to figure out why some folks with iron deficiency get RLS. But according to Johns Hopkins University 15 percent of people with RLS aren’t getting enough iron.
5. Frequent illnesses:
Immune cells, such as lymphocytes, require iron to multiply and mature. Which means low iron levels weaken your immune system. And that leaves you more vulnerable to every bug you meet. The result? More colds, infections and illnesses.
6. Strange cravings:
If you suddenly find yourself wanting to munch on things that aren’t food items such as paper, dirt, chalk or clay there’s a good chance your iron levels have dropped too low.
Researchers still aren’t sure yet why the urge to eat non-food items—officially known as pica—occurs in some folks with low iron. But if you find yourself compelled to chew and swallow things that aren’t food, resist and give the doctor a call ASAP.
If any of these weird warning signs sound familiar, set up an appointment to talk to your doctor. A simple blood test can confirm if you’re healthy or not getting enough iron.
If you’re levels ARE low you can raise them by eating more iron rich foods such as…
- red meat, pork and poultry
- greens (such as spinach and kale)
- dried fruit (such as apricots)
Or your doctor may advise you to take an iron supplement instead.