Have you been feeling extra tired lately? Are your nails, lips, and gums paler than usual? While you may just be reacting normally to the later half of a global pandemic, you could also have an iron deficiency.
Iron is a mineral your body uses to make hemoglobin, a protein found in red blood cells that helps transport oxygen. Your body also uses it to create myoglobin, another protein that carries oxygen to your muscles.
When your body doesn’t get enough iron, it struggles to perform some of its basic functions.
Today we’re going to look at how much iron you need, as well as what an iron deficiency looks like. We’re also going to touch on whether an iron supplement is something that can benefit you.
Read on to learn more.
How much iron is enough?
The amount of iron you need depends on your gender, age, and health.
Because children are growing, their bodies need a lot of iron. Taking their age into account, here’s how much iron children should get (1):
- Infants 7-12 months old: 11 milligrams a day
- Toddlers 1-3 years old: 7 milligrams a day
- Kids ages 4-8: 10 milligrams
- Kids age 9-13: 8 milligrams
- Teenage boys: 11 milligrams
- Teenage girls: 15 milligrams
After teenage boys become adults, they should aim for 9 milligrams of iron a day. Women need around 15 milligrams a day, but if they’re pregnant, they need 27 milligrams.
As mentioned, when your body doesn’t have enough iron to make hemoglobin, it can lead to problems. Your muscles and tissues don’t get enough oxygen, and because of that, don’t work properly. This condition is called anemia (2).
Some of the most common symptoms of an iron deficiency include:
- Dry skin or hair
- Brittle fingernails
If you experience one or more of these symptoms, make an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible.
Many people with an iron deficiency can modify their diets to treat the problem. The key is to add iron-rich foods into your diet. Luckily, there are a lot of them.
Some iron-rich foods include:
- Red meat
Making a point to add some of these foods to your diet can help treat a moderate iron deficiency.
How supplements can help
More than 10 million people in the United States have an iron deficiency, with 5 million of those people having iron deficiency anemia (3).
Although some people can resolve iron deficiencies through dietary changes, not everyone can. This is especially true for certain groups of people, like pregnant women and infants.
Iron supplements can help you get the required amount of iron your body needs. That allows them to treat iron deficiency anemia much faster than dietary changes.
Of course, it’s important to understand the risks that go along with taking any supplement. Speak with your medical provider beforehand to ensure that taking an iron supplement is the right course of action for you.
One way or another, your body needs iron
Iron plays an important role in your overall health and wellbeing, so make sure that you get enough of it. If you suspect that you have an iron deficiency, speak with your doctor to see whether an iron supplement can help.
If you found this article helpful, remember to check out the rest of our site for more tips on how to live your healthiest life.