021 551 8678


Iron deficiency anemia is a common type of anemia — a condition in which blood lacks adequate healthy red blood cells. Red blood cells carry oxygen to the body’s tissues.

Iron deficiency is a common issue amongst people from all age groups. It can lead to anemia.

In this comprehensive guide, we provide an analysis on the symptoms, causes, and possible ways to prevent and treat the condition. 


What is Iron Deficiency Anemia


For some people, life can be a daily struggle. For a person with a blood disorder, a chronic illness, or a serious injury, staying healthy can be a never-ending battle.

There is a new weapon in the fight against the physical, mental, and emotional stresses that impact our daily lives – iron deficiency anemia.

Iron is an important nutrient needed to prevent anemia. Anemia occurs when there is a lack of healthy red blood cells.

Your body gets iron from food, so anemia can occur if you do not have enough iron in your diet. Iron deficiency anemia is the most common form of anemia worldwide.

The World Health Organization estimates that 30% of the world’s population is anaemic, and half of that is due to iron deficiency.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the important facts to consider and guide you when dealing with iron deficiency. 

What are the Symptoms of Anemia


Every year, 150 million people worldwide are affected by anemia, and more than half of them don’t even know they have it.

That’s because anemia comes without any symptoms. Most of the time the only way to detect an iron deficiency is through blood work.

However, some symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Frequent Urination
  • Pale or yellow skin
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Weight gain
  • Exhaustion
  • Shortness of breath
  • Hair loss
  • Flaky Skin
  • Dizziness
  • Tingling or pins and needles sensation in the hands or feet
  • Mental Confusion

More severe symptoms include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Low Heart Rate
  • Palpitations
  • Irregular Heartbeat
  • Heart Failure  



How to Diagnose Anemia

Anemia can be diagnosed by your doctor based on the following parameters:

Blood Glucose Test
The medical experts believe that you can diagnosis anemia based on the blood glucose levels.
If your blood glucose level is above normal, it can be diagnosed as a cause of anemia. Anemia is a common cause of diabetes.

Electrolytes Test
Electrolytes test helps in diagnosing the condition of anemia by measuring the concentration of various electrolytes in the blood.

Ferritin Test
It’s a simple blood test that will reveal the amount of ferritin in the blood. The more iron, the greater the amount of ferritin, which indicates anemia.

Haemoglobin Test
Lower than normal haemoglobin levels indicate anemia.
The normal haemoglobin range is generally defined as 13.2 to 16.6 grams (g) of haemoglobin per decilitre (dL) of blood for men and 11.6 to 15. g/dL for women.

Additional Diagnostic Tests:

Doctors often check for bleeding from a hiatal hernia, an ulcer or the stomach with the aid of endoscopy. In this procedure, a thin, lighted tube equipped with a video camera is passed down your throat to your stomach.

This allows your doctor to view the tube that runs from your mouth to your stomach (oesophagus) and your stomach to look for sources of bleeding.

To rule out lower intestinal sources of bleeding, your doctor may recommend a procedure called a colonoscopy.

A thin, flexible tube equipped with a video camera is inserted into the rectum and guided to your colon.

You’re usually sedated during this test. A colonoscopy allows your doctor to view inside some or all of your colon and rectum to look for internal bleeding.

Women may also have a pelvic ultrasound to look for the cause of excess menstrual bleeding, such as uterine fibroids.

These tests may be ordered by your doctor after a trial period of treatment with iron supplements.



How to Prevent Anemia and What Iron Rich Diet to Follow


The best way to prevent anemia is to eat a healthy well-balanced diet.
The best food sources of iron are as follows: 

  • Meat – especially red meat
  • Poultry
  • Fish
  • Shellfish
  • Tofu
  • Beans

But not all people can eat these foods as they may be vegetarians or have other food allergies.

For those who can’t, the following are good sources of iron:

  • Cereals
  • Meat alternatives
  • Bread
  • Eggs
  • Nuts

Alternative Prevention Measures

  • Smoking
  • Weight Gain
  • Low consumption of iron-rich foods
  • Physical inactivity
  • Poor nutrition
  • Low levels of intake of calcium and vitamin D 



How to Treat Anemia Naturally at Home


You just can’t work hard enough, or lose enough weight, and your iron deficiency is probably caused by something you eat and drink every day – and even more so, in women than men.

But there is a simple way you can help yourself, and it doesn’t involve expensive supplements, “superfoods,” herbs or injections.

You can get your body to be able to absorb all that precious iron you’re getting from meat, eggs and sturdy greens by cutting back on substances that inhibit the absorption of this mineral from your food.

Many people are unaware of how a few lifestyle changes can make the entire difference. Preventing the condition is a lot easier and requires only minor lifestyle adjustments.

Here we detail what you need to do:

Weighing yourself regularly
Do not ignore this simple yet effective method. If you do not have enough iron in your diet, check your weight regularly to know your actual body weight. A deficiency in iron can lead to anemia, so be it.

Eat foods rich in iron
Vitamin C rich fruits, beans, leafy greens, lentils, meat, chicken, etc are iron-rich foods. The amount of iron in these foods is sufficient to prevent anemia.

Move more often
Always try and include a few vigorous exercises like swimming, jogging or running in your weekly routine.

Take iron supplements
The most commonly used treatment for anemia is the oral iron supplements. They are available over the counter.

Iron supplements, also known as iron salts and iron pills, are a number of iron formulations used to treat and prevent iron deficiency including iron deficiency anemia.

For prevention they are only recommended in those with poor absorption, heavy menstrual periods, pregnancy, hemodialysis, or a diet low in iron.



The Difference Between Iron Deficiency Anemia and Normal Low Iron Levels


The main difference between iron deficiency anemia and having normal low iron levels is that anemia causes you to become tired, weak, and pale.

When the macrophages — which are involved in immune function — can’t make enough haemoglobin to help them fight infections the way they normally do, you begin suffering from lack of nutrients.

You can also experience depression, trouble concentrating or thinking clearly, irritability, vision problems (or changes), restless leg syndrome (RLS), tingling hands or feet (paraesthesia), temperament changes including excessive moodiness, impatience, or sadness.

Of course, it’s possible for all of these things to appear on their own for multiple reasons having nothing to do with anemia.

Nutritional deficiencies are rarely diagnosed based on symptoms alone so if any of these apply to you, you might want to get your iron tested by your doctor.





Get in Touch with GI Experts


With the abundance of essential nutrients and vitamins, your body would most likely be able to fight any form of anemia.

To learn more about the complexity of your gut and the opportunity for you to contribute to the scientific pursuit of gastrointestinal knowledge, contact Dr. Deetlefs or peruse our website.

We are gastroenterologist experts using patient-focused GI treatment and procedures in Cape Town.


The information on this website is to provide general guidance. In no way does any of the information provided reflect definitive medical advice and self-diagnoses should not be made based on information obtained online. It is important to consult a Gastroenterologist or medical doctor regarding ANY and ALL symptoms or signs including, but not limited to: abdominal pain, haemorrhoids or anal / rectal bleeding as it may a sign of a serious illness or condition. A thorough consultation and examination should ALWAYS be performed for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. Be sure to call a physician or call our office today and schedule a consultation.

GIDoc Cape Town

Patient-focused GI treatments and procedures in Cape Town.

Monday-Friday 8AM-4PM.

Connect with Us

© Dr. Eduan Deetlefs, Registered Gastroenterologist, GI Doc Cape Town

Our website information is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a doctor about your specific condition. Only a trained physician can determine an accurate diagnosis and proper treatment.