Iron Deficiency Anemia

Iron deficiency anemia is probably the most common form of anemia in the world. Iron is an essential component of the hemoglobin molecule. Without adequate amounts of iron, bone marrow is unable to produce needed hemoglobin. Consequently, the number of red blood cells fall and the few cells that do make it into circulation are smaller than normal (microcytic) and lack hemoglobin; the remaining cells become pale in color.

There are two basic types of iron deficiency: absolute and relative. Absolute iron deficiency occurs when there is no iron available for the production of hemoglobin. This is true of iron deficiency anemia. Iron deficiency may also be relative, meaning that iron is present in marrow but cannot be made available for hemoglobin production. This type of anemia is referred to as anemia of chronic disease.

Even if an individual is non-anemic, they can still suffer from iron deficiency. Common symptoms of iron deficiency in people without anemia are fatigue, mood changes, and declining cognitive function. There are blood tests available to identify iron deficiency with or without anemia. When an iron deficiency is diagnosed and the cause is found by a healthcare professional, the deficiency may be treated.

Whether or not iron deficiency is associated with anemia, the deficiency can have a variety of non-nutritional causes including menstrual bleeding, bleeding ulcers, intestinal bleeding, hemorrhoids, or bleeding caused by certain drugs. Iron deficiency may also be caused by lack of dietary iron. However, excessive menstrual bleeding appears to be the most common cause of iron deficiency. Deficiency of vitamin B12, folic acid, vitamin B6, or copper may be responsible for other forms of anemia.

Nutritional supplements that may be helpful for those with iron deficiency anemia

Iron supplementation is probably the best way to reverse iron-deficiency with anemia. However, before starting iron supplementation, it is important to determine the exact cause so that the right treatment can be administered.

The common daily dose of iron used in connection with iron deficiency anemia in adults is 100 mg per day, although some adults take a higher dosage. Iron deficient individuals should usually continue with iron supplementation for six months to one year.

Sources of iron such as liver extracts are common forms of iron supplementation. Bovine liver extracts are one of the most common liver extracts as they are easily digested and absorbed by the body. Liver extracts may have as much as 3-4 mg of heme iron per gram.