Tired of Being Tired? Iron Might Help Some Women

2 November 2016  |  Editor

Tired of Being Tired? Iron Might Help Some Women

Iron deficiency can leave you with little energy even of you are not anaemic. In a study in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, symptoms of fatigue significantly improved in premenopausal women who had low iron stores but were not anaemic after supplementing with iron.


  • Iron is an essential mineral as it’s an integral part of haemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying portion of red blood cells, and the oxygen-storing molecule, myoglobin, found in muscles. 
  • Iron also helps the body make ATP (adenosine triphosphate), the energy source for most metabolic functions.
  • Low iron levels can result in anaemia: a decrease in the number of red blood cells and low haemoglobin and hematocrit levels. With fewer red blood cells circulating and less haemoglobin available, less oxygen is available for the brain and other organs and tissues.

People with iron-deficiency anaemia often complain of:

  • fatigue,
  • shortness of breath,
  • impaired concentration, and
  • poor immune function.

Feeling sleepy too often?

Fatigue is one of the first symptoms of iron-deficiency anaemia, but people who have low iron levels without overt anaemia may also become excessively tired.

The study assessed the effects of iron supplementation in nonanaemic 18-to-53-year-old women with borderline-low iron stores who complained of fatigue. The women were assigned to take 80 mg of elemental iron or placebo for 12 weeks.

  • Fatigue declined by almost 50% in women who took the iron supplement, compared with a 29% decline in the placebo group.
  • Iron supplementation significantly increased iron stores as well as haemoglobin and hematocrit levels compared with placebo.

The researchers think that iron deficiency may be an under-recognised cause of fatigue in women of child-bearing age and iron deficiency may reduce the unnecessary use of health care resources, including inappropriate pharmacologic treatments.”

How iron works for your body

Low iron levels can stem from two main sources:

  • blood loss 
  • not getting enough in the diet. 

The most common cause of iron-deficiency anaemia in premenopausal women is excessive menstrual blood loss. Iron deficiency can also be a sign of other more serious conditions. A doctor can help pinpoint the source of the problem—and while eating an iron-rich diet (see tips that follow) is good for most people, it’s important not to supplement iron unless you know you are deficient as a small number of people may not be able to effectively eliminate iron, resulting in a toxic build up of the mineral.

Eat some vitamin C. 

Eating iron-containing foods with those that are rich in vitamin C, like peppers, strawberries, oranges, papaya, broccoli, and kiwi, enhances iron absorption.

Cook in cast iron. 

Cooking acidic foods like tomatoes in cast iron can increase the iron content of your meal.

Go paleo. 

Animal foods—including beef, poultry, venison, fish, oysters, and buffalo—contain the most absorbable form of iron, called haem iron.

It's always a good idea to treat the conditions with the foods you eat and if in any doubt about supplementation, consult your doctor first. But if iron supplements are indicated, go here to see our selection of top brands' iron supplements.

If the cause of your deficiency is heavy menstrual bleeding, you might want to take a look at supplements designed precisely to help this problem, pre-menstrual and menopause issues here.