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Understanding iron deficiency anemia
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Understanding Iron Deficiency Anemia

Causes of Iron Deficiency Anemia

A Diet Low in Iron

Iron is contained in many foods, however, your body is only able to absorb about 1 mg of iron for every 10 to 20 mg of iron you consume. If your diet doesn’t include enough of the iron-rich foods or you are unable to absorb the amount of iron you need, you may be at risk for iron deficiency anemia. Iron deficiency anemia due to a poor diet is rare in the United States. For a list of some iron-rich foods, click here.

An Inability to Absorb Iron

The iron contained in food is absorbed through your small intestine. Certain intestinal disorders, such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, celiac disease, and gastric bypass surgery can limit your body’s ability to absorb iron.

An Increased Need for Iron

The amount of iron you need can vary. Children and adolescents, for example, need more iron when they are going through growth spurts. Iron needs also change during pregnancy and after delivery. In order to satisfy the needs of a growing fetus and compensate for any blood loss during delivery, a pregnant woman typically needs about twice as much iron as she did prior to pregnancy.

Loss of Blood

When you lose blood, you lose iron. If you have heavy menstrual periods, for example, you are losing a lot of iron, and you may be at risk for anemia. Heavy periods, also called heavy menstrual bleeding or menorrhagia, are, in fact, the most common cause of iron deficiency anemia in women. Other types of slow chronic bleeding, such as from an ulcer, tumor, or uterine fibroids, or gastrointestinal bleeding from regular use of aspirin or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), can also cause iron deficiency. Acute blood loss as a result of blood donation, major surgery, or an episode of unstoppable bleeding due to the use of anticoagulant therapy (coumadin/heparin) can also cause anemia. Hemodialysis treatments can also cause anemia due to the repetitive amounts of blood loss left within the dialysis tubing.