Iron Deficiency: Stop Googling Your Symptoms!

01-10-2019 | 
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Question: how do you know that the level of a certain type of mineral or vitamin is too low in your body? Let's say you worry about iron deficiency. When it comes to this, every magazine, website, newspaper lists the symptoms of iron deficiency, and every person googles the symptoms first and foremost.

Our beloved Internet gives us the following search results of iron deficiency:

  • fatigue
  • pale skin
  • headaches!
  • dry skin
  • spoon-shaped nails
  • cold hands and feet

Yes, I know why people are searching for symptoms in the wake of a potential deficiency or disease, but should I tell you how many diseases and deficiencies can have the exact same symptoms (not to talk about these may occur even when you're 100% healthy)?

It took me a while, but I calculated it successfully:

one million one hundred twenty thousand five hundred thirty-eight.

Plus-minus one.

So let's forget about googling symptoms to identify deficiencies ASAP. While this article is about iron deficiency, we will NOT speak about what is it exactly, and we will save precious time by not talking about what are the causes, in which gender and age are it more common. These are all unnecessary to talk about.

That said, it is still worth to listen to the signals of your body, to know how you feel. But do not diagnose yourself from information gathered from the Internet. Googling things, learning new things and orientate yourself if a good thing, but it won't necessarily get you closer to your goal.

What should you do instead?

It is simple because this is the only right way to find out if you have deficiency or not.

You have to do a blood test.

Every person should do this yearly. I get it: googling the symptoms and trying to find the correlations is much more convenient from your comfy chair at home than going to a hospital, wait in line and having yourself needled – but it's impractical too.

Don't be afraid!

I also understand that people fear of diseases. But you have to beat down this fear because an undiscovered disease always makes more harm than a known one. It is a delayed-action bomb, does not lead to good things. There is a solution for most diseases.

It's not worth to worry about what deficiencies, diseases you have. Whatever your worry may be, go to your doctor because the thing you are worried about will always return. A doctor can calm you 100%, Google can't. This comes from personal experience.

This is what worry looks like.

Ok, you how do you know if there's actually a surplus in your body?

Less is sometimes more.

Maybe the problem is the opposite: there is too much from something in your body, like bacteria, or maybe you just consume too much meat. The solution is the same, a lab test, more precisely a urine sample.

So what should you do when you have evidence for iron deficiency?

When you have evidence (a medical record) and not presumption, (symptoms gathered from the Internet), we can finally talk about treatment. As I said, there was nothing to worry about because you can treat this.

First of all, eatig more fruits and vegetables is not a good way for prevention. You have to eat more meat (especially liver). There is more iron in certain foods (white beans for example) than meat, but you must know that iron is absorbed much better from animal-based foods. They are called heme iron1.

And as we all know, you are not what you eat but what your body absorbs from what you eat.

Someone that is following a vegetarian diet, must consume enough oilseeds (pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds), leguminous vegetables (beans, lentils), eggs (the yolks too!) and beetroot, and has to cook with wholegrain flour.

It is also worth considering taking iron supplements daily (in addition) to the changes in your diet. There is a lot of iron in cocoa pwder too, but do not choose the one that is full of sugars. You should know that Vitamin C accelerates the bioavailability of iron2, while calcium reduces its absorption.

You can still take calcium if you need it, but take it separately from each other: one capsule in the morning, the other in the evening.

In some severe cases, one must take medications.

"How much is the fish"?

How much iron do you consume/need a day? This is pretty hard to calculate because even bread contains some iron. But if you like to calculate, here's a little help for you:

Between 14 to 18 years of age: at least 11 mg for men, 15 mg for women, 17 mg for pregnant woman, 10 mg for breastfeeding moms. These quantities change between 19 and 50 years, and above 51 years like this:

  • 8 mg 18 mg 27 mg 9 mg
  • 8 mg 8 mg

Of course, you don't have to overdo things when it comes to your diet. Remember: sometimes less is more!


1: Murray-Kolbe LE, Beard J. Iron. In: Coates PM, Betz JM, Blackman MR, et al., eds. Encyclopedia of Dietary Supplements. 2nd ed. London and New York: Informa Healthcare; 2010:432-8.

2: Bacon BR, Adams PC, Kowdley KV, Powell LW, Tavill AS. Diagnosis and management of hemochromatosis: 2011 practice guideline by the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases. Hepatology 2011;54:328-43

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