Low Iron Levels in Women and Female Athletes

Any menstruating woman can have a tendency toward low iron, but female athletes tend to be more susceptible to iron deficiency anemia. While blood loss (heavy menstruation) is the most common cause of iron deficiency in women, poor absorption, impaired digestion, medications and impact exercise can also be to blame. 

If you've had cold hands or feet, fatigue, trouble getting out of bed in the morning and/or shortness of breath on exercise, you may suffer from iron deficiency and/or anemia. Iron deficiency is simply low iron levels in the body, while anemia occurs when the red blood cells are impacted by the low iron levels within the body. You can have your blood cells and iron levels tested by requesting a ferritin and complete blood count from your family doctor or Naturopathic doctor. 

As a Naturopathic doctor, my main goal is to figure out WHY you have iron deficiency. If your iron deficiency is due to heavy bleeding, we need to work on your hormone balance so that you're not losing so much blood every month. If your iron deficiency is due to poor absorption of iron, impaired digestion and/or medication use such as antacids or drugs for heartburn, then we need to heal your gut and improve your breakdown of iron-containing foods.

When we look at healing digestion, we need to figure out why it's impaired in the first place. Have you been using advil or ibuprofen for a long time to manage pain? Have you had an infection recently that required antibiotics? There are many circumstances that can cause damage to your gut. 

Impact exercise, heavy menstrual bleeding and impaired digestion can impact blood iron levels. 

Impact exercise, heavy menstrual bleeding and impaired digestion can impact blood iron levels.