The Three Stages Of Iron Deficiency

Iron deficiency is the most common global nutrient deficiency, and while it occurs less frequently here at home it still represents a real challenge for certain at risk groups within our population.

Although I always champion a food first approach and have helped many people improve their iron status via dietary changes, there is simply no denying the fact that supplementation is often fundamental in resolving iron deficiency – especially when it presents as iron deficiency anemia or IDA.

In today’s article, brought to you in collaboration with FeraMAX®,  I will teach you about the various stages of iron deficiency and help you to better understand which groups of people are at the highest risk of encountering it.

FeraMAX® , for those who may be unfamiliar, is the number one doctor and pharmacist recommended supplement for iron deficiency anemia here in Canada.

It’s a once daily dose of 150 mg vegan friendly iron and although it does not require a prescription, it is kept behind the shelf at the pharmacies across Canada and available online.

If you’d like to learn more about FeraMAX® , please do proceed to this helpful FAQ.

Part 1 – The Various Stages Of Iron Deficiency

I think it’s important to start by defining and differentiating some key terms.

Iron deficiency in general describes not having enough stored iron in your body.

Anemia refers to a low hemoglobin ( the protein in your blood that contains most of your body’s iron and carries oxygen) level.

Iron Deficiency Anemia refers specifically to anemia (low hemoglobin) caused directly as a result of low iron body stores.

Now this is where things get a bit more complicated.

Iron deficiency technically progresses over three stages.

Stage 1 – Storage Depletion – Lower than expected blood ferritin levels.  Ferritin is the storage form of iron, and low ferritin levels are the first sign that the body’s iron stores are compromised.

Stage 2 – Mild Deficiency- During the second stage of iron deficiency, transport iron ( known as transferrin) decreases. This is often accompanied by a reduction in size of red blood cells even though hemoglobin levels remain normal.

Stage 3 – Iron Deficiency Anemia –   Hemoglobin begin to drop in the final stage which, depending on other blood work, may formally be defined as IDA. At this stage your red blood cells are fewer in number, smaller and contain less hemoglobin.

Part 2 –  At Risk Groups

Given that iron deficiency anemia  is not as widespread in developed countries, it helps to understand which demographics are most likely to suffer from it.

At-risk groups include:

  • Toddlers and infants
  • Certain adolescents or adults, particularly endurance athletes, vegans/vegetarians and/or blood donors
  • Pre-menopausal women, including vegan/vegetarians
  • Older adults, 65+
  • Those with unbalanced dietary patterns

IDA is generally caused by poor intake of dietary iron which may be further complicated by the type of iron consumed, what it is consumed with and external factors that may lead to iron loss such as growth, menstruation and pregnancy.

Part 3 – Signs And Symptoms

Iron’s primary role in the body is assist red blood cells in the transport of oxygen via hemoglobin.

When this function is compromised, multiple bodily systems are affected – this includes your immune system.

  • Fatigue, exhaustion
  • Physical weakness
  • Lack of concentration
  • Feeling cold and achy
  • Pale skin
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Swollen, sore tongue
  • Abnormal heart rate

If you are unsure about your symptoms I’d strongly recommend checking out the symptom assessment tool offered by FeraMAX®

Part 4 – The Role Of FeraMax

Adjusting your dietary pattern with the help of a dietitian is a fundamental long-term strategy to improve your iron status and defend against deficiency, however oral iron supplementation is considered a first line therapy for iron deficiency anemia in the short and medium term.

As far as the Canadian context is concerned, FeraMAX® is the number one most frequently prescribed supplement by Canadian doctors and pharmacists when it comes to the treatment of iron deficiency anemia and one of its major advantages is that it can be taken with or without food.

Whether or not it is the perfect choice for you is a decision to be made with your healthcare term – especially as it relates to properly implementing it in your daily routine.

There are a number of factors to consider, including how your digestive tract responds to iron supplements ( they may be better tolerated if taken with food, but absorption may also be decreased – speak with your healthcare team!).

I sincerely hope you’ve found today’s post helpful.

If you require further dietary guidance and would like to work together, don’t hesitate to reach out.

Until next time,
Andy De Santis RD MPH

Want To Fight Back Against Iron Deficiency? I Can Help – Let’s Chat About Working Together.