Who doesn't feel like this sometimes?
If you're an athlete, and especially a female athlete, you are at a higher risk. Your body has higher iron needs than a man and you have to meet those needs on a smaller calorie intake. It can be virtually impossible for endurance athletes like marathoners and Iron Man triathletes.
First, let's take a look at the symptoms:
-Fatigue: This is your first sign. Take it seriously. If an extra rest day or more carbs aren't fixing it then it is likely anemia.
-Irritability: Another common sign that too many women put down to hormones or stress. If you're crying at baby commercials or ready to leave your husband over unwashed dishes, it could be anemia.
-Weakness: When your legs feel like jelly after a long run or a 'brick' workout, it's normal. When you feel like curling your 5 pound dumbbells for a full set is impossible ask your doctor to do some simple blood tests.
Other symptoms include low blood pressure, shortness of breath, sore tongue, brittle nails, unusual food cravings, decreased appetite, and headache. One other indicator I always get is being COLD. I'm not talking about getting a chill when heading into an air conditioned office. I'm talking being wrapped in a sweater and wishing for a blanket when others are wearing shorts and a tank top cold.
So what are the causes and treatment you wonder? Well, the cause is usually two-fold. Not enough iron in your diet and blood loss. For women the answer to blood loss can usually be found in that wonderful time of the month we all love. However, it can be caused by other pathways of blood loss as well. Your doctor should be able to help find the cause if you're unsure. The typical athlete's diet is also a cause, high in carbohydrates and low in meat, poultry or fish. A woman of childbearing age typically needs about 18mg of iron per day, an athlete needs slightly more. Men need about 8mg per day.
The treatment for typical causes of anemia includes working more iron into your diet, adding vitamin C to your iron-rich meals (increases iron absorption), avoiding calcium with iron-rich foods (blocks iron absorption, and taking a multivitamin containing iron or an iron supplement. Your doctor can decide on the best course of action for your case but prevention is the best medicine so be proactive and find out your iron levels at your next check up. In rare cases, too much iron can cause liver problems so it's definitely in your best interest to have a medical professional follow your levels.
As for me, I'll be more mindful of taking my multivitamin daily from now on. And of course, I just might get myself a juicy burger or steak for dinner! Yum!