If exhaustion has become part of your life, you could be missing an important mineral. Iron is crucial to the red blood cells that move oxygen around our bodies, and the lack of iron is often manifested through fatigue. Combine this with a pale appearance and shortness of breath, and these could be signs of iron deficiency.
Before jumping to the conclusion that your tiredness is caused by iron deficiency, you need to know the whole story first. Instead of iron deficiency, your problem could be ulcerative colitis, a chronic disease in which the ulcerated and inflamed lining of the large intestine causes pain and diarrhea. Ulcerative colitis can lead to iron deficiency, as was the case of Dr. Peeyush Bhargava, a Resident in Diagnostic Radiology in Louisiana State University.
After he was confirmed to have ulcerative colitis, Bhargava was put on oral iron tablets that inadvertently worsened his constipation. Once he stopped taking the tablets, his conditioned deteriorated and resulted in him being hospitalized. The treatment he was given in the hospital helped with his ulcerative colitis symptoms but did little for his iron deficiency, states EverydayHealth.com. After meeting with an oncologist, Bhargava tried vitamin B-12 injections and intravenous iron infusions.
“It almost instantaneously helped my energy levels. And it also helped my colitis symptoms,” Bharghava said. He then goes on to state that treating his ulcerative colitis first was the key to solving his iron deficiency. The treatment, along with lifestyle changes, has helped Bharghava remain free of ulcerative colitis and iron deficiency.
A December 2016 study published in Inflammatory Bowel Disease explained that over a third of anemic ulcerative colitis patients don’t receive the recommended testing and treatment for this problem. Other times, patients could be experiencing a combination of iron deficiency with anemia of chronic disease or chronic inflammation. This form of anemia could result from chronic inflammation brought about by colitis and disrupts the body’s ability to use iron absorbed from food and iron that’s been stored in the body.
“You have to address the underlying reason for iron deficiency,” stated Dr. David T. Rubin, Professor of Medicine and Co-Director of the Digestive Disease Center at University of Chicago Medicine. “If it’s because you have active colitis and bleeding, then you need to fix the colitis.”
Once you’ve got all the information you need then you can act. According to the DailyMail.co.uk, the most common signs of iron deficiency are lack of energy, heart palpitations, and a pale or yellowish complexion. Other less common symptoms include headaches, itchiness, an altered sense of taste, hair loss, and difficulty in swallowing.
This condition is oftentimes caused by poor diet, intestinal diseases, and heavy menstrual cycles; sometimes a parasitic infection can also lead to iron deficiency. A blood test that includes a complete blood count will let you know if you’ve got the condition.
If you’re confirmed to have an iron deficiency, then treatment can begin. The July 2013 issue of Journal of Crohn’s and Colitis recommends the use of oral iron supplements or intravenous iron infusions to replenish the body’s iron stores. A blood transfusion might be advised, but only in rare cases. Following any of these procedures, the next step is to maintain a healthy amount of iron in your body through an iron-rich diet. Meats, poultry and fish are the most common iron-rich foods. Vegetarian options include cooked leafy green vegetables, fortified dry cereals, beans and tomatoes. However, too much iron can be just as bad, so be sure too take in just the right amount to avoid iron poisoning.