Are you tired all the time, and wondering how to tell if you’re anaemic - or if something else is to blame?
Low energy can have many different causes, but sometimes it will be a result of nutrient deficiency. To make energy efficiently, you need your red blood cells to deliver good amounts of oxygen to the trillions of cells in your body. If you are lacking the iron, B12 or folate you need for red blood cells, you may end up with anaemia, and therefore feel tired. Iron deficiency is the most common cause of anaemia.
How to tell if you’re anaemic
Tiredness is a primary feature of anaemia, as well as feeling physically weak and not being able to think straight. Anaemia can also make you look paler than normal, and sometimes feel cold, especially your hands and feet. You may also experience shortness of breath, dizziness or headaches.
These symptoms are associated with several different conditions, so it’s important to get a proper diagnosis from your doctor. The best way to tell if you’re anaemic is to get a blood test that looks at a variety of nutrients and other factors. From there, your doctor can tell you whether you need to be looking at increasing iron in your diet, or even taking supplements.
Iron deficiency anaemia
Iron forms a key part of your red blood cells. In fact, it’s the bit that oxygen attaches to when you breathe. The red blood cells carry oxygen to your cells where energy is extracted from food. If you have plenty of oxygen, you can get lots of energy – but if you are low in oxygen, you’ll be low in energy too.
Many pregnant women experience anaemia due to increased demands for iron. Iron deficiency can also be caused by blood loss – for example, if you experience heavy periods, or after surgery. It’s also possible to be iron deficient either because your diet is low in iron, or because you aren’t absorbing enough iron from the food you eat.
Diet for iron deficiency anaemia
The easiest food sources of iron are red meat, liver and black pudding, and there is also a good amount in the dark meat of turkey and chicken. Vegans and vegetarians can also get plenty of iron from their diet, but may need to eat much more as plant sources of iron are less easily absorbed. The best plant-based sources of iron are apricots, pulses, spinach, chard and cocoa powder.
Supplements for iron deficiency anaemia
If you’re diagnosed with iron deficiency anaemia, you may be prescribed iron tablets in the form of ferrous sulphate or ferrous fumarate. Both are known to irritate digestion however, causing constipation in some and loose stools in others. In such cases it may be worth trying iron bisglycinate supplements, as some people seem to find them much gentler on the digestive system. Taking vitamin C at the same time may help you absorb more iron.