How does it feel to have anemia

What is iron deficiency anemia and how does it come about?

With iron deficiency anemia, the iron content in the body is reduced. Iron is important for hemoglobin to be formed. Hemoglobin is an iron-containing protein complex in red blood cells that carries oxygen through the bloodstream to cells and organs. If there is too little iron, the hemoglobin concentration in the blood can drop. As a result, the oxygen transport to the body cells is impaired and there can be an undersupply. Iron deficiency anemia is the most common form of anemia, accounting for eighty percent. In Europe, between five and ten percent of all people are affected.

Symptoms: tired and exhausted

Typical symptoms of anemia include:

  • paleness
  • fatigue
  • dizziness
  • general feeling of weakness
  • Fatigue and decline in performance
  • Palpitations
  • Shortness of breath, especially when exercising

Further complications can be:

  • cracked corners of the mouth
  • cracked, rough skin
  • brittle nails or nails that curve inward
  • Hair loss
  • unusual cravings, for example an appetite for lime or earth

These symptoms can be due to a wide variety of diseases. A visit to your family doctor will give you more clarity.

Same symptoms, different causes

The typical symptoms of anemia are tiredness, paleness, dizziness, exhaustion, palpitations and shortness of breath. The respective cause of the anemia, for example iron deficiency or vitamin B12 deficiency, can trigger other typical complications. While an iron deficiency often affects the skin and hair, other symptoms of a vitamin B12 deficiency tend to affect the nervous system.

Multiple causes

One of the most common reasons for iron deficiency anemia is chronic blood loss from:

  • Bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract
  • Bleeding from urinary tract or genital organs
  • Loss of blood after surgery or blood donation
  • chronic bleeding from the gums or from the nose

Often iron deficiency can also arise if you take in too little iron. Children, vegetarians, people with eating disorders or alcoholics are particularly affected. The body needs more iron during pregnancy, in the growth phase or in the event of severe illnesses. If the diet is not adjusted to meet these needs, iron deficiency can occur under such circumstances. Sometimes the body cannot absorb the iron that enters the body through food. Reasons for this can be:

  • a chronic inflammatory disease such as rheumatoid arthritis or inflammatory bowel disease
  • decreased absorption capacity of the intestine, for example in celiac disease
  • partial removal of the stomach (partial stomach resection)
  • long-term use of medication for excessive gastric acid production
  • heavy consumption of black tea or coffee

Diagnosis: red blood cells in view

If you suspect iron deficiency anemia, your doctor will ask you about your lifestyle and eating habits. For a reliable diagnosis, he will take blood from you to analyze your blood count. On the one hand, it checks whether there is an iron deficiency and, on the other hand, how high the hemoglobin concentration is in the blood.

Therapy: treat the underlying disease

Your doctor will first treat the cause of the iron deficiency anemia. If your anemia is based on malnutrition, nutritional advice can help you. If a change in diet alone is not enough, he can prescribe iron-containing preparations in the form of iron tablets or tablets. In the case of chronic inflammatory gastrointestinal diseases or a poor absorption of iron, preparations can also be administered via the veins. Have regular blood counts checked by your doctor so that he can check the success of the therapy. Also, discuss with your doctor whether you can take supportive nutritional supplements.


Experts do not recommend using over-the-counter iron supplements without consulting a doctor.

Prevent iron deficiency

A balanced and varied diet helps you meet your body's nutritional needs. With these tips you can prevent iron deficiency and thus anemia:

  • Meat and foods containing vitamin C such as tomatoes or parsley promote the absorption of the iron supplied with the food.
  • Fish, nuts and green vegetables contain a lot of iron.
  • If you eat a plant-based diet only, iron-rich foods such as soybeans, beetroot and legumes are important. For example, add some lemon juice to your food so that vegetable iron can be better absorbed.
  • Dairy products, black tea and coffee, cola and also calcium and magnesium supplements hinder the absorption of iron. Consume these at a distance, i.e. not directly with meals containing iron.

TK nutritional coaching supports you in eating a wholesome and healthy diet.


If you have heavy menstrual bleeding, experts recommend regular check-ups with your doctor to prevent iron deficiency anemia.