Iron plays a crucial role in producing the protein hemoglobin which is responsible for transporting oxygen via our bloodstream throughout our body. It also contributes toward brain development and the functioning of various cells and hormones, per Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
You become low on iron because of three different reasons, according to board-certified dermatologist Dr. Andrea Suarez (via Dr Dray).
The first is that you might be experiencing a greater need for the mineral. For example, your body might be going through a growth spurt such as in adolescence or you might have higher iron needs because you’re pregnant and nourishing an unborn child.
Another common reason is that you could be losing iron. Your body will show symptoms of iron loss after childbirth, during menstruation, if you’ve donated blood, or if you’re losing blood in your stools because of some kind of gastrointestinal (GI) irritation, shared Suarez.
Finally, you might become iron deficient if you’re not getting enough of the stuff in your diet or you’re not absorbing what you’re consuming well (also known as “malabsorption”). Malabsorption can happen due to a number of reasons, some of which include chronic GI issues like Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and celiac disease, explained the doctor, adding that surgeries like gastric bypass surgery can mean your body can’t absorb iron, too. “Aspirin [and] non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAIDs) medications can irritate the gastric lining and lead to poor absorption of iron,” added Suarez.
Fixing low iron isn’t as simple as just eating more oatmeal, however. There is a right way to consume oatmeal as a breakfast food so that you can reap the most benefits.