Iron deficiency in men: symptoms and treatments
Common symptoms of iron deficiency
Iron deficiency is one of the most prevalent nutritional deficiencies in the world, with more than two billion people affected worldwide2. Here in Australia, about 38% of women aged 19 to 50 suffer from some form of iron deficiency3, and surprisingly, because the symptoms can just make you feel like you’re exhausted from your busy life, they often go unnoticed for long periods of time.
Symptoms of iron deficiency often vary and can be obscure and subtle, so recognizing them is often the biggest barrier to getting a diagnosis. Some of the more common indicators that you are potentially iron deficient include:
- Weakness or dizziness
- Fatigue, exhaustion and lack of energy
- Shortness of breath
- Brittle nails
- Difficulty doing high intensity exercise
- Pale skin or cracked skin around the mouth
- Restless legs syndrome
If reading these symptoms makes you think “this looks like me!” It is time to make an appointment to see your GP to discuss your symptoms. If they suspect that an iron deficiency is involved, they will ask you for a blood test to identify your iron levels.
Once you know if iron deficiency is the cause of your fatigue, there are three ways to increase your iron intake: diet, supplementation, and mealtime (yes, really).
Evaluate Your Diet
Often times, eating a diet rich in iron is the key to restoring your healthy and strong body. However, it’s important to remember that not all foods that contain iron are created equal.
There are two types of iron: heme iron – found in meat foods, such as red meat, chicken, and fish, and non-heme iron – found in plant foods.
Heme iron is absorbed four to five times more efficiently than non-heme iron, but the absorption of non-heme iron is three times higher when consumed with foods containing vitamin C. Thus, to get the best Part of your non-heme iron sources, being vegetarian foods – pair them with foods like citrus fruits, berries, peppers, broccoli, and leafy greens, all loaded with vitamin C for that extra absorption.
You don’t like to cook? Look for prepackaged meals that are nutritionally balanced to make sure you are eating delicious meals that don’t skip on essential vitamins and minerals. For example, Get in shape contains 4 to 12 vegetables (heme and non-heme iron) to make sure you get everything you need for optimal body function.
Plan your iron-rich meals
It might sound strange, but hear us out. If your iron stores are low, you may want to choose a strategic time to eat your iron-rich meals. This will help with optimal absorption and help your body get the most out of the iron.
A good way to start is to eat your iron-rich meals outside of your plan to exercise. For example, if you’re more active at night, go for an iron-rich breakfast like oats topped with berries, hemp seeds, and cocoa beans. If you’re a morning person and prefer to get out of the house early, choose a dinner high in iron, high in root vegetables, grilled steak, or lentils.
Exercise stimulates the release of a hormone that signals your body to reduce iron absorption. So by choosing to eat your iron-rich meals about three hours after your workout and filling your plate with vitamin C-rich foods, you can be sure your body is absorbing all of these iron benefits!
While sticking to a strict diet full of leafy greens, nuts, steak, and legumes might sound super exciting (not), we also don’t want you to turn down your favorite pasta or chocolate cake.
A great option for supplementing a balanced diet is to incorporate an iron supplement into your daily routine. Depending on the cause of your iron deficiency, a supplement may be recommended by your healthcare professional.
Just like the iron-rich meals you choose to eat that require the potent duo of vitamin C for optimal absorption, so will your supplements. Since we know that iron and vitamin C work so well together, it’s a good idea to look for a supplement that provides both. Something like Ferrogen Iron + Vitamin C contains both ferrous sulfate, a compound used to treat iron deficiency, and vitamin C.
Your body needs nutrients, minerals and vitamins to stay strong, savvy and sexy; If you’re feeling lethargic, constantly tired, and in a bad mood, it’s best to see your doctor to discuss your options.
Kate Save is a Certified Practicing Dietitian, Exercise Physiologist and Diabetes Educator
And CEO and co-founder of Be Fit Food, a scientifically backed nutrition and support program that empowers Australians to find healthy, sustainable weight loss solutions by eating real, nutrient-dense foods.
References in the text:
- NHMRC. Nutritional Reference Values: Iron. https://www.nrv.gov.au/nutrients/iron (accessed March 2019)
- WHO: https://www.who.int/whr/2002/chapter4/en/index3.html)
- Australian Health Survey: Usual Nutrient Intakes, 2011-12, http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/[email protected]/Lookup/by%20 Subject / 4364.0.55.008 ~ 2011-12 ~ Main% 20Features ~ Fer ~ 402 (accessed March 2019); Ahmed, F et al – Iron Status among Australian Adult Results from a Population Based Study in Queensland, Australia, Asia Pac J Clin Nutr 2008; 17 (1): 4