Iron deficiency anaemia is a common condition among women that could leave you feeling pale and low in energy. Find out how you can avoid it.
There are days when you just feel drained, aren’t there? When you can barely stand up straight, and the thought of tackling housework or the kids at the end of a workday just saps whatever energy’s left. When the only physical activity you want to do is slump into your seat and you only have strength to lift the television remote control.
You may have iron deficiency anaemia and not know it. Some of the symptoms are easily ascribed to other causes, and you may have had them for years without ever knowing why.
Energy Boosting Breakfasts
Lack of Energy
The first clue to iron deficiency is a constant feeling of exhaustion. If you’re always fatigued, you may be anaemic.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the beauty fix you’re hoping for! Paleness from anaemia leaves you looking ill, instead.
Fast or Irregular Heartbeat
You sometimes catch your heart rate soaring and wonder why. It might even skip a beat now and then.
Easily out of Breath / Weakness
Everyone overtakes you on the stairs, and by the time you’re halfway up the first flight, you’re already panting. That load of groceries feels heavier than it looks, too.
Do you get giddy when you stand up after sitting or lying down? That’s anaemia at work again.
Brittle or Grooved Nails
You’re thinking it’s time for a manicure — again. You probably need iron, not a beautician.
Cold Hands and Feet
You’ve resorted to socks and gloves in bed because your extremities are always cold. Your friends get a shock when you touch them to say hello.
Worried that you might be iron deficient? You’ll need a blood test for a proper diagnosis. Talk to your doctor!
*Don’t self-medicate with iron supplements unless advised by your doctor. Too much iron presents another set of problems.
Iron is a key nutrient that helps the haemoglobin in your red blood cells carry oxygen throughout your body to your organs, and gives blood its red colour. Anemia is a condition where your body does not have sufficient healthy red blood cells. A common type of anemia is iron-deficiency anemia when your body does not have enough iron.
Iron deficiencies occur for many reasons, which could account for its prevalence—in 2011, up to 40 percent of women of reproductive age in Southeast Asia had this condition.
Here are some causes, or risk factors:
Chronic or excessive blood loss, including heavy menstrual bleeding, ulcers or haemorrhoids, and other disease conditions.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) may cause bleeding in the stomach which then interferes with iron absorption. Aspirin and Ibuprofen are commonly prescribed NSAIDS.
Inadequate intake of iron in your diet, especially if you’re on a vegan or vegetarian diet.
Is It Healthier to Go Vegetarian?
This dietary mineral is essential when it comes to having enough energy for daily life, but according to the World Health Organization, iron deficiency “remains one of the most severe and important nutritional deficiencies in the world today”.
Choose more haem iron (from animal sources) over non-haem iron (from plant sources), as our bodies absorb the haem form better. Remember to eat them in the recommended quantities (Use
My Healthy Plate to build a balanced meal).
Boost your body’s iron stores with these:
Liver (pregnant ladies should limit its intake and make sure that it is well-cooked)
Seafood such as fish, clams, sardines, prawns and oysters
Whole-grain noodles, brown rice, cargo rice
Iron-fortified breakfast cereals and breads
Dark green leafy vegetables, like
Dried fruit like prunes, raisins, wolfberries (gou qi zi)
Nuts, seeds, dried beans and peas
To increase non-haem iron absorption, pair the non-haem sources of iron with high-vitamin C fruits such as guavas, papayas, oranges, and kiwis.
Have your caffeinated drinks such as coffee and tea two hours before or after meals, as caffeine can interfere with iron absorption.
Makan Matters: What's a Healthy Diet?
Vegans can consume non-haem sources of iron such as green leafy vegetables and fruits rich in Vitamin C to maximise their iron absorption. They can also get alternative sources of iron from beans (eg, bean products such as soy beans, tempeh, lentils, tofu, chickpeas), wholegrains, nuts and seeds.
Even then, it may not be enough especially for women, whose recommended RDA for iron is 19mg. Vegans should talk to their doctors about iron supplements if they suspect they may be lacking the nutrient.
Eat well, and regain some energy as well as a healthy glow. It’s not hard, and you’ll certainly feel the difference.
Read these next:
This article was last reviewed on
22 Nov 2023
Feeding your baby: Breastfeeding
Services and Support for Parents
Eat Well, Mum
Coping With the Unexpected: Pregnancy Complications
Being Fit When Pregnant
Talk of the class (Antenatal class)
View More Programmes
Start your healthy journey with us and be rewarded.
A Pressure Injury resource for both patients and caregivers alike. Learn more about pressure injuries, prevention measures and how to better manage them.
Live a fuller and sweeter life with your loved ones by taking small steps towards healthier living. From healthier eating to mental wellbeing tips as well as health screening subsidies and free physical activity events near you – we’ve got you covered to help you kick start and continue your healthy journey!
Browse Live Healthy
In partnership with