Do you suffer from constant paleness or hair loss? Then iron deficiency could be the cause. Iron is involved in many vital processes in the body, but especially in blood formation. If the body has too little iron, body cells are no longer supplied with enough oxygen and malfunctions occur. Iron deficiency is the most common deficiency disease worldwide. Women and children in the growth phase are particularly affected. If the body is undersupplied with iron for a longer period of time, those affected are threatened with iron deficiency anaemia. For this reason, you should always keep an eye on your iron levels.
In our iron deficiency self-test 2021 we want to give you some basic information about iron deficiency and iron deficiency self-testing. We want to explain the importance of iron in our body, how iron deficiency actually occurs, which risk groups there are and how you can prevent iron deficiency and answer your questions about iron deficiency self-testing.
- 1 Weekly newsletter with the best personal finance tips
- 2 Summary
- 3 The Best Iron Deficiency: Our Picks
- 4 Guide: Questions you should ask yourself before buying an iron deficiency kit
- 5 Measure the iron content in your blood yourself: What you should look out for when self-testing for iron
- 6 Conclusion
- The ferratin content is a meaningful value that will only be reduced due to iron deficiency.
- Iron deficiency is the most common deficiency disease in the world. It is estimated that 1.5 billion people suffer from iron deficiency: women and growing children are particularly often affected
- Doctors and pharmacies can provide you with reliable information on iron deficiency, self-tests and other treatment options.
The Best Iron Deficiency: Our Picks
Guide: Questions you should ask yourself before buying an iron deficiency kit
What is the role of iron in the body and what happens when we have an iron deficiency?
If the amount of total body iron decreases, we speak of an iron deficiency or iron deficiency anaemia. Due to iron deficiency, the haemoglobin concentration is below the age- or gender-specific normal values. The WHO defines the standard values as 12g/dl for women and 13g/dl for men(1)
People with an iron deficiency can suffer from headaches, dizziness, irritability, concentration problems and fatigue, which usually develop over a long period of time. Other symptoms, such as loss of appetite, digestive problems and constipation can also be indicative of an iron deficiency. Nevertheless, the symptoms mentioned cannot be specifically attributed to an iron deficiency, as the symptoms are similar to those of other diseases.(2)
Specific symptoms of persistent iron deficiency include paleness, cracks in the corners of the mouth, brittle nails or grooves in the nails, and hair loss.
In people who suffer from long-term iron deficiency, less and less haemoglobin is produced, which leads to a deficiency of the red blood pigment. As a result, the red blood cells become smaller and smaller and thus contain much less iron. In such a case, doctors speak of iron deficiency anaemia.(3)
How does iron deficiency develop in the body?
People depend on their diet for iron. This can lead to a reduced iron intake, depending on dietary habits. Vegetarians in particular must make sure they get the necessary amount of iron from foods other than meat, the most important source of iron.(3)
During pregnancy, in the growth phase, with serious illnesses or after operations, the body needs a greater supply of iron. Likewise, competitive athletes have a higher need for iron. If the diet is not adapted to the need, it can lead to an iron deficiency under such circumstances.(3)
Insufficient iron intake
More rarely, there may be a disorder in the absorption of iron, so that enough iron is absorbed through food, but it cannot be properly processed by the intestine. Causes for this can be surgical removal of the stomach or parts of the intestine, intestinal diseases or a gluten intolerance.(3)
How high should the body's iron content be?
The amount of iron present in the body is regulated exclusively by intake. A balanced Central European diet is sufficient to cover the daily requirement and compensate for iron loss. For women in the menstrual period, the balance is not always guaranteed. Of a daily ration containing about 10 - 20 mg of iron, 5 - 10% is absorbed; most of the dietary iron remains unused and is excreted in the stool.(5)
What are the risk groups?
- Women, especially during pregnancy and breastfeeding
- Children & adolescents
- Older people
- chronically ill people
- Vegetarians and vegans
- Endurance athletes
- Permanent blood donors
Therefore, these people should have their iron levels checked regularly by a doctor.
Women have a higher iron requirement
Compared to men, women have a 50% higher iron requirement and are more at risk due to the loss of blood during menstruation. Especially young women with heavy menstrual periods therefore show symptoms relatively often, as their iron stores empty more quickly.
The need is even higher in women who are pregnant. The uterus with the placenta and the unborn child have to be supplied with oxygen, so the iron requirement increases threefold. Especially in the second and third trimesters of pregnancy, the iron requirement is twice as high as normal, at 30 mg.
Women of childbearing age should make sure that the iron reserves are filled early, because a sufficient iron depot not only influences the well-being of the expectant mother, but also the physical and mental development of the child.(7)
Iron deficiency in children and adolescents
Newborns receive part of their mother's iron supply at birth. In addition, babies are supplied with iron through their mother's milk, although milk does not contain a large amount of iron.
After the sixth month of life, iron should be fed in the form of a supplementary diet, because even small children can suffer from an iron deficiency. Good sources of iron are green vegetables, small portions of meat and red fruit juices.
Iron deficiency anaemia that remains undetected for a long time poses the risk of impaired intelligence development and brain maturation for younger children.
As children grow taller, muscle mass and blood volume increase, which in turn increases the need for iron. Growth spurts in children and the onset of menstruation in young girls are typical triggers of iron deficiency.(7)
Older people do not meet their iron requirements
Older people often cannot meet their iron requirements. The reason for this is that the food intake is reduced.
Another reason can be reduced iron absorption due to a disorder in the gastrointestinal tract or side effects of medication. Remedy in old age can be pureed meals.
Sick people suffer from iron deficiency
A lot of iron is lost when there is severe blood loss due to an accident, injury or gastrointestinal ulcer. In addition, taking painkillers or cortisone-containing medicines can mean that not enough iron can be absorbed by the body in the first place.
Vegetarians and vegans need iron supplementation
Vegetable iron, such as that found in bread, vegetables and pulses, can only be absorbed poorly by the body. Animal iron, such as red meat, on the other hand, can be absorbed better.
Therefore, vegetarians and vegans should make sure to combine the plant-based source of iron with vitamin C. This increases the absorption of iron. This increases the absorption of iron.(8)
Endurance athletes and blood donors
During intensive training, iron levels in endurance athletes are about 10% below normal. If the value is only minimally below this, it lowers performance and the athlete becomes tired and listless.
In permanent blood donors, the iron is also withdrawn with the blood. People who donate blood regularly should therefore prevent iron deficiency by eating an iron-rich diet or taking iron supplements.
How can I prevent iron deficiency?
Excessive consumption of coffee or black tea inhibits the utilisation of iron. In addition, so-called phytins also impair iron absorption. Phytins are found in raw cereals.(9)
Vitamin C and lactic acids, on the other hand, promote iron utilisation. Generally, plenty of vegetables and fruit help the body to absorb iron better.(9)
In addition, regular check-ups with a doctor are recommended in order to detect a possible iron deficiency at an early stage. Tiredness, paleness, hair loss, brittle fingernails and weakness are signs of an iron deficiency or other illness. Such symptoms can be clarified with a visit to the doctor.(9)
If there are already signs of an iron deficiency, iron tablets and iron supplements can help. It is important that only the prescribed amount of iron is taken, because too much iron can also be harmful. (10)
Measure the iron content in your blood yourself: What you should look out for when self-testing for iron
You can easily measure the iron content of your blood with a self-test. To do this, the amount of red blood cells and the red pigment haemoglobin is determined and the concentration of ferritin is checked. You can get such tests at the pharmacy or in online shops.
For a better overview, we will give you some advantages and disadvantages of the iron self-test:
For whom is an iron deficiency self-test useful?
In principle, an iron deficiency self-test is recommended for everyone, simply for the reason of determining whether you suffer from an iron deficiency or not. Otherwise, such self-tests are especially recommended for the above-mentioned people who belong to the risk group.(6)
A self-test can protect you from worse secondary diseases by taking action against your iron deficiency in time with your doctor. Early diagnosis in children is especially important to be able to counteract iron deficiency and to ensure intelligent development and brain maturation.
How can I measure my iron levels?
To measure your blood iron level, buy an iron deficiency self-test and follow the steps in the instructions that come with it. The test is used to determine the amount of red blood cells, the red blood pigment haemoglobin and the concentration of ferritin in the blood. In the case of an iron deficiency, there is too little red blood pigment, a reduced number of red blood cells as well as a low ferritin content.
After your blood sample is taken, the iron deficiency self-test is sent free of charge to a specialist laboratory, which carries out a qualitative immunochromatogaphic test that works according to the lateral flow immunoassay principle.(11)
After a few days, you can view your test results in a secure online customer area. You will also be provided with useful information and tips on the right treatment.
How meaningful are the results of an iron blood test?
Measuring the serum iron level alone, which indicates the concentration of iron in the blood serum, is not very meaningful because this value is subject to normal fluctuations due to daily food intake. For example, foods such as spinach, rice, cereals and coffee can interfere with iron absorption.(11, 12)
The determination of the Hb value (haemoglobin normal value) also gives little information about the filling state of the iron stores. This means that the storage iron may already be exhausted, but the Hb value is still within the normal range.
For a meaningful determination of the iron content, the self-tests therefore refer to the ferritin concentration in the blood, which shows a high correlation to the total storage iron of the body. Ferritin is the most important protein for storing iron and is basically found in the cytoplasm of every cell. Iron deficiency is the only cause for a low ferretin value. For this reason, the iron deficiency test can be used very specifically.
Where else can I have my blood iron level measured?
In addition to the self-test, you can of course have your iron level measured by a doctor, in a pharmacy or in a clinic. For more information, you can ask your family doctor or pharmacy if they do iron tests.
If you are unsure, you can ask your family doctor or pharmacy for help.
In any case, your GP can take your blood and send it to a laboratory to test your iron levels.
What can I do if the test result is negative?
If the test shows that you have an iron deficiency, you should take your test result to a doctor to discuss further treatment options.
The deficiency can have various causes, which can be clarified with a personal visit to the doctor to ensure adequate treatment.
Iron is a vital trace element for the body. Most iron is absorbed through food, which is why a balanced diet is important for iron levels. Meat provides the largest amount of iron that your body can process. In addition, your body's ability to absorb iron can be improved by vitamin C. In contrast, some foods, illnesses or other circumstances can negatively affect your iron absorption.
If you experience any of the symptoms mentioned in this article over a period of weeks, we recommend that you have your blood iron levels tested and seek advice from a doctor or pharmacist.
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