Serenity Gastroenterology

Things You Might Not Know About Iron Deficiency Anaemia

Serenity Gastroenterology

Iron Deficiency Anaemia

You’ve likely heard of anaemia or iron deficiency before.  

Anaemia’s a very common blood condition, affecting more than 1.5 billion people globally. Iron deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency worldwide and the leading cause of anaemia. 

If you have iron deficiency anaemia, your body doesn’t have enough iron. Without sufficient iron, you’re not producing enough red blood cells to deliver oxygen to your tissues. You may be familiar with the common symptoms of anaemia like fatigue, dizziness, weakness, and brain fog, but several lesser-known symptoms are easy to miss or confuse with something else. 

At Serenity Gastroenterology we understand that the symptoms can be worrying. We’re here to help you find answers through comprehensive assessment and management of your condition. We’ll do everything in our power to allay your fears, ensuring you feel supported and empowered at every stage of your health journey. 

Lesser-known symptoms of low iron. 

Symptoms can vary significantly from person to person and for some, low iron symptoms may not be so obvious, in fact, some are just downright unexpected. 

Take pica for example. Pica is the urge to eat non-food items or items that lack nutritional value. The condition may indicate a mineral deficiency and is more common in children and pregnant women. Most often, in the case of iron deficiency anaemia, people experiencing pica might crave ice, dirt, or chalk. Doctors don’t fully understand why this happens, but some believe it’s the body’s way of finding other sources of nutrients to compensate for deficiencies.  

Another symptom many don’t associate with iron deficiency is hair loss. This is because your body stores some iron as ferritin, a little of which is stored in hair follicles. If your body is low in iron it might take ferritin from your hair follicles, which may contribute to hair loss.  

Are your fingernails changing? Maybe your nails are brittle or have become a strange, scooped shape. That too could be a symptom of low iron. Anaemia can cause your nails to chip, crack and break more easily and in more advanced stages of iron deficiency scooped shaped, concave nails (called koilonychia) can occur. This however is rare, only occurring in around 5% of patients with iron deficiency anaemia. 

Many other subtle, lesser-known symptoms could also indicate that you have low iron. These include: 

  •  Pale Skin. 
  • Cold hands and feet. 
  • Shortness of breath. 
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat. 
  • Frequent headaches. 
  • Red or cracked tongue. 

Lesser-known causes of iron deficiency 

The more common causes of iron deficiency anaemia include inadequate dietary intake and blood loss. But there are a few other contributors to iron deficiency that may surprise you. 

Did you know that just because you’re eating iron-rich foods, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your body is absorbing it?
Did you know that eating certain types of foods together with iron can inhibit your iron absorption? This is why it’s recommended to avoid drinking tea and coffee or eating any calcium-rich foods at the same time as iron-rich foods. 

Interestingly, as eating the wrong foods can decrease your absorption, you can increase your absorption of iron by eating it together with the right foods. Foods rich in vitamin C can be eaten alongside your iron-rich foods to aid your iron absorption. These may include oranges, strawberries, or kiwi fruit. 

Finally, certain digestive disorders and intolerances as well as pregnancy may cause you to struggle to get as much iron as your body needs, increasing your chance of having low iron. 

To diagnose iron deficiency anemia you may require blood tests, a bidirectional endoscopy or a capsule endoscopy.

*All information is general and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Serenity Gastroenterology can consult with you regarding your individual health needs. 


Ardeshirian, K., & Howarth, D. (2017). Esperance pica study. Australian Family Physician, 46(4). 

Gastroenterological Society of Australia. (2022). Iron Deficiency

Healthdirect. (2021). Iron Deficiency.

Mayo Clinic. (2022). Iron Deficiency Anaemia.  

Rathod, D., Sonthalia, S. (2022). Spoon Nails. StatPearls.

The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research. (2022). Anaemia