Iron is crucial in the blood and particularly in the red blood cells where it is used to help carry oxygen around the body to where it is needed. This in other words means that if you have a low iron count in your bloodstream, you will most likely also have a low red blood cell count and a low oxygen count and that will result in many unwanted symptoms. This condition is called anemia and being able to identify the symptoms of anemia is highly important so that you can spot the problem when it occurs and thus help to address it. Here we will look at the symptoms of low iron, and the things you can then do to increase it again.

Note: Low iron is not the only cause of anemia. Likewise anemia can be caused by a low amount of B12 or folic acid – which are also used to create red blood cells.

Low Iron Symptoms (Anemia)


Oxygen is used in the body for energy. As it is reactive it is used to help break the bonds in glucose and release the energy that we need, and likewise it is used to break down fat. This is why during cardiovascular exercise we pant and draw deeper breaths as we are using that to break down glucose and glycogen stores in order to use them for energy and fuel our activities. When you have low iron this then means that you can’t as easily get the oxygen around your body and that in turn will result in your feeling like you have less energy and are less able to get up and go.

Shortness of Breath

As a result of having less oxygen in your blood you will be forced to circulate it more quickly and take in more oxygen when you breath. This will cause breathlessness and gasping.


Faintness and dizziness are a result of your getting less oxygen to your brain which causes you to go light headed. This also occurs when you get very shocked and your available blood and oxygen rushes to other areas of the brain, or when you stand up too quickly. This is why when you faint your face often goes pale. When you have anemia the same thing is happening throughout your body. You may also suffer from headaches as a result.


In order to circulate oxygen and red blood cells you use your heart to pump the blood around your body. This then means that your heart is forced to work harder when there is less oxygen in your blood and that results in angina AKA chest pain.

Pale Skin Color

As there are fewer red blood cells in your body this results in your skin taking on a paler tone as there is less blood at the surface of your skin. If you look unwell most of the time then this might suggest anemia. There are some areas around the body too that normally look particularly red – for instance the nail beds or just below the eye. Examine this area to see if it looks paler than usual. The skin may also feel cold to touch, also a result of the lower blood pressure.


Pica is a condition in which you get unusual and intense cravings – often for things that are not edible such as dirt, grout, metal etc. This is often your body’s way of telling you that you lack something crucial in your diet. If you find yourself craving metal in particular then of course this could be a sign of low iron. Likewise a craving for spinach or broccoli might also point to low iron.

Altered Stool Color

A good indication that you have a low iron count as opposed to low B12 for instance is pale looking stool. Iron makes the stool appear darker, and if you take supplements then the opposite will happen and it may look positively black.

Burning Sensation in the Tongue

This is another common side effect of mineral and vitamin deficiencies and along with burning on your tongue you may also find that you get burning in your throat (in some rare cases an indicator of cancer) and burning in the corners of your mouth. The exact cause of this is not certain.

Altered Sense of Touch

You may also find that in extreme cases you suffer from nerve damage as a result of the lack of oxygen. This can result in tingling and particularly in the extremities.

Risk Factors

Certain risk factors make anemia more likely and these can help make diagnosing anemia and spotting it easier. For instance women are roughly seven times more likely to experience anemia than men, and particularly if they have particularly heavy periods. This is because a lot of blood is lost during the periods and this blood will include a lot of iron and red blood cells.

Likewise other risk factors also point to anemia as being more likely. For instance if you have lost a lot of blood for other reasons then this will mean you are more likely to suffer with anemia. Diarrhea might cause anemia if you lose blood in the stool. Finally your diet might also leave you more prone to iron deficiencies and particularly if substances high in iron are missing. For instance if you don’t eat many green leafy vegetables and salads then this puts you at higher risk of an iron deficiency, and the same is true of vegetarians as red meats are an important source of iron (as well as vitamin B12).


If you suffer from the symptoms of anemia and are also in one of the main at-risk groups then a doctor might recommend a blood test and through this they will be able to ascertain the amount of iron in your blood and potentially identify cases of anemia or other deficiencies.


If you are suffering from anemia then there are a few things that can be done to solve the problem. Your doctor will like put you on supplementation with pure iron tablets which will help to make up for the lack of iron in your blood (these should not be taken by healthy individuals as it will put you over your maximum intake). Alternatively for milder cases it is possible to supplement with commercial iron tablets or multi-vitamin and mineral tablets. Finally, alterations to your diet will also help, and it’s important to add red meats, spinach and other green vegetables and leafs.


  1. This helps clear up my iron deficiency problem, very good article!

  2. The article is great, and it helped me a lot, as I have now low blood, I am 52 years old and was recently diagnosed with low iron, my iron level is 9 which is not good, I am taking now folic acid tablets but I am dizzy almost all the day, as you have mentioned it light headed. I am afraid of the anemia as we have lost a friend this year due to cancer in blood, should I look for more symptoms.

    Thanks for updating me.


    1. Jumana your doctor needs to find the cause of your low rbc and iron. If you just take iron or other supplements it only treats symptoms. You need to know the cause so that can be addressed. I am 55 and have low red blood cells, I too am dizzy most of the time which makes me off balance. Both of those make me feel like I am going to vomit. My doctor is evaluating to find the cause.

  3. I think this article is very good and has helped me!

  4. The information was very helpful. It confirmed for me my own theory that I am very likely to be anemic. I will now arrange a blood test with my GP. Thank you.

  5. Today I found out my iron count is 5. This article was very useful for helping me to spot signs anaemia in future. I have most of the above signs, and mistakenly thought I was just run down, stressed or had a heart condition. Lol

  6. Excellent info thanks

  7. This was very helpful but a little vague on how the effects of taking iron supplements would have on the body when the body is low in iron.

  8. Thank you… it really helped ease my anxious mind and concerns about some of the symptoms experienced like chest pain and tingling. I am taking iron supplements at this time and being seen by a Dr.

  9. Although a good overall working explanation of the function of vitamins and minerals, I would like to have learned more about deficiencies in the elderly. I am 70, want to be 80!

  10. This article really breaks down the subject matter… thank you!

  11. This article was informative but not dated.

    Should have a date, important.


  12. Great article explains why I feel so well when taking glucose as I have low iron.

  13. I've had this problem I got since October of 2014 after colposcopy and the doctors can't seem to find the problem. This sounds like it just maybe what my problem is. I'm having all this side effects that this says you have when your iron is low. I don't eat green leafy vegetables because I don't care too much for them and I haven't eaten a salad in I couldn't tell you when. Then doctors had sent me to a nutritionist and she told me not eat any red meats so all I've been eating is chicken. I'm sick of it too.

    1. Larry if you didn’t have this problem prior to the colonoscopy it makes me wonder if perhaps the procedure caused ongoing bleeding somewhere in your colon or intestines. If I were you I would request that the possibility be investigated but I certainly would NOT allow the same person that did the colonoscopy to investigate, get someone different.

  14. One of my family members 2 weeks ago had an iron reading of 12. Because of her ignorance of the situation, the unset of the heart palpitation cause her to become nervous and overly concerned. At first she said she thought she could deal with it on her own, but she realized that she could not fall asleep for about a week. Since then she had chess pain, pain in her hands, headache and she describes it at water running down her head. Her biggest concern however is not been able to fall asleep until hours into the morning. I must tell you that she goes to school in the nights and before her summer vacation practiced to stay up late and slept during the day. When she wanted to sleep in the vacation, sleep just won't come. She has also become very spiritual and seems to be aware of what improvement she wants to see next. She is celebrating her heart palpitation has gone, trembling has gone, chess pain has gone. What's now is headache and water like feeling in her head and the lack of sleep for about two weeks now. Just a little sleep!

  15. Thanks for this arrival. I sleep and I'm so tired all the time. I have too many of these things. This is a very good article… I assume it makes you sleep a lot too.

    Thx, Ruth

  16. Good info.

  17. This helped a lot. My mom has chronic anemia and I was unsure of the symptoms and the treatment of low iron.

  18. Very informative. Thanks for the information.

  19. I've struggled with anemia most of my adult life. Lately I've been so tired I fall asleep sitting up almost every time I get a chance to sit down. I feel like falling asleep while driving to the grocery store. I had my blood checked. It's at a 2. I'm having a blood transfusion. This is my second one since my daughter was born 3 years ago.

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