During perimenopause (the transitional phase leading up to menopause which is a point in time when you haven't had a period for 12-months), those wild hormonal changes can impact your body in a variety of hell ways.

Those hormonal changes, especially fluctuations in estrogen and progesterone levels, can lead to an increased risk of iron deficiency.


Let's get into it!

Why Iron Deficiency Could be Especially a Thing In Perimenopause

  1. Heavy or irregular periods: Perimenopause often brings changes to the menstrual cycle, including heavier or more irregular periods. Prolonged or heavy bleeding can lead to iron loss from the body, potentially causing iron deficiency over time.

  2. Decreased iron absorption: Estrogen plays a role in promoting the absorption of iron in the intestines. As estrogen levels decline during perimenopause, the body may become less efficient at absorbing iron from the diet. This can lead to reduced iron levels in the body, increasing the risk of iron deficiency.

  3. Reduced iron storage: Estrogen also influences the storage of iron in the body. It helps regulate the production of a protein called ferritin, which stores iron in tissues for later use. Declining estrogen levels can lower ferritin levels, reducing the body's iron reserves. If the dietary intake of iron is insufficient to compensate for this, it can contribute to iron deficiency.

  4. Hormonal imbalances and thyroid function: Perimenopause can also result in hormonal imbalances, including changes in thyroid hormone levels. Thyroid hormones are essential for regulating metabolism and iron utilisation. If thyroid function is disrupted during perimenopause, it can affect the body's ability to properly use and absorb iron, potentially leading to iron deficiency.

Please remember that while yes, perimenopause can increase the risk of iron deficiency, there can be other factors like your diet, other health conditions, and meds you might be using that can also influence your iron levels. If you think iron deficiency could be a thing for you, we always recommend consulting a healthcare professional for proper evaluation and guidance from there.

How does Iron deficiency affect your Perimenopausal symptoms?

There is a whole host of delightful ways that iron deficiency can affect your perimenopausal symptoms because of the essential role of iron in your bodily functions.

Here's how iron deficiency can impact perimenopausal symptoms:

  • Fatigue and low energy: Iron is crucial for the production of haemoglobin (a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen throughout the body). When iron levels are low, the body's ability to transport oxygen is compromised, leading to fatigue, low energy, and a general feeling of weakness. These symptoms can exacerbate the fatigue commonly experienced during perimenopause.

  • Mood swings and irritability: Iron deficiency has also been linked with changes in mood like irritability, anxiety, and depression. Perimenopause can bring about hormonal fluctuations that may affect mood, and iron deficiency can make mood even worse. 

  • Cognitive function and brain fog: Iron is necessary for optimal brain function. When iron levels are low, cognitive abilities can be affected, leading to difficulties with concentration, memory, and overall cognitive performance. As women going through peri, we're already challenged with brain fog and memory issues - iron deficiency can make this even worse.

  • Hair loss and brittle nails: Iron deficiency can result in worsened hair loss or thinning, as well as brittle nails. 

  • Restless legs syndrome (RLS): Iron deficiency has been linked to an increased risk of developing restless legs syndrome (where we have an uncontrollable urge to fidget our legs), often accompanied by uncomfortable sensations. RLS can disrupt sleep, and since sleep disturbances are already common during perimenopause, iron deficiency can worsen this symptom. Boo!

  • How to Combat Iron Deficiency in Perimenopause

    All is not lost!  There are a few things you can try to increase your iron levels:

    1. Iron-rich diet: Incorporate foods that are naturally high in iron into your diet. Good dietary sources of iron include lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, lentils, tofu, spinach, kale, broccoli and nuts. Consuming these foods regularly can help replenish iron stores over time.

    2. Vitamin C for enhanced absorption: Pair iron-rich foods with sources of vitamin C, such as citrus fruits, strawberries, bell peppers, and tomatoes. Vitamin C enhances iron absorption, so consuming it alongside iron-rich foods can improve iron uptake by the body.

    3. Avoid iron inhibitors: Certain substances can hinder iron absorption. For instance, tannins found in tea and coffee, as well as calcium and some types of fibre, can reduce iron absorption. It's advisable to avoid consuming these inhibitors with iron-rich meals or consider consuming them separately.

    4. Iron supplementation or infusion: In cases of severe iron deficiency or when dietary changes are insufficient, healthcare professionals may recommend iron supplements or iron infusion. Supplements are available over-the-counter or as prescribed medications. It's essential to follow your healthcare provider's guidance regarding dosage and duration of supplementation.

    5. Manage underlying causes: Address any underlying factors contributing to iron deficiency, such as heavy menstrual bleeding, digestive disorders, or other medical conditions. Treating the underlying cause can help prevent further iron loss and improve iron absorption.

    6. Regular monitoring: If you've been diagnosed with iron deficiency, it's important to have regular check-ups with your healthcare professional to monitor your iron levels and assess the effectiveness of your strategies. They can adjust treatment or provide additional recommendations if necessary.

    So, Think You Could be Iron Deficient? What Now?

    If you think you could be iron deficient, definitely book in to see a healthcare professional and they'll determine the most appropriate approach for you. 


    May 25, 2023 — Angela Greely

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