Iron Deficiency in Men

Do you often feel exhausted without working too hard or wear a pale look? Do you feel shortness of breath quite often? Iron deficiency could be one of the reasons. Iron is critical for the production of hemoglobin, which helps red blood cells deliver oxygen to different parts of the body. Anemia develops when the body lacks sufficient amount of iron to build healthy red blood cells that carry oxygen around the body. Iron deficiency in men can cause anemia and affect the functioning of vital organs.

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Anemia is widely prevalent world over, affecting kids, men, and women. Anemia affects 1.62 billion people in the world, with 12.7% men suffering from iron deficiency anemia. It is the deficiency of healthy red blood cells or the lack of adequate iron in the body that results in anemia.

Causes of Iron Deficiency in Men

A blood disorder, anemia is a condition that impairs the ability of the blood to carry oxygen to different organs. The prime reason is a problem with red blood cells in the body – either there is a lack of red blood cells, or the cells are not able to carry oxygen. Often the condition is due to the lack of iron in the body. Iron plays a key role in the formation of these red blood cells.

According to the USDA, adult men and women above 50 years should get 8 milligrams of iron from their daily diets while women aged between 19 and 50 years should get 18 mg per day.

Male iron deficiency could be due to an array of reasons.

Internal Bleeding

Bleeding ulcers may cause internal bleeding in men, which could further lead to iron deficiency. One of the major risk factors includes regular aspirin use, which may result in the bleeding of peptic ulcers. Men with ulcerative colitis often suffer from blood loss in the form of bloody stools. This means they lose red blood cells in the stools.

Additionally, inflammation hinders the proper absorption of iron in the body. On top of it, people with ulcerative colitis cannot tolerate foods rich in iron, such as poultry and red meat, causing gas cramps and diarrhea.

Hemorrhoids (piles)

Another cause of iron deficiency in males is from bleeding hemorrhoids. This could result in prolonged loss of blood. A fecal occult blood test is done to detect a bleeding gut.

Lack of Dietary Iron

If your diet lacks an adequate amount of iron, you may suffer from iron deficiency and anemia. Heme iron from animal sources, including poultry, red meat, and fish, is more easily absorbed than non-heme iron found in plant sources.

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Vegetarian and vegans should increase the intake of vitamin C to improve iron absorption. Besides, you should avoid the consumption of tea or coffee during or immediately after meals. It helps maximize the absorption of iron from food.

Tea and Coffee Intake

Tannins in tea can bind to iron in the intestine, resulting in the malabsorption of non-heme iron. According to a study performed on the effects of beverages on iron absorption, tea and coffee result in impaired iron absorption. The study recommends drinking orange juice helps in maximizing the absorption of iron.

Some gastrointestinal conditions, such as celiac disease, may cause malabsorption of iron. Iron deficiency in men may also be caused if a part of the small intestine or stomach is removed through surgery. According to a study published in the Inflammatory Bowel Diseases journal in December 2016, 836 ulcerative colitis patients were studied over an eight-year period, and 70 percent of them went on to develop anemia.

According to the National Academy of Hypothyroidism, the lack of iron in your body may adversely affect the thyroid function. Since iron is crucial for your body’s metabolism, iron deficiency could mean severe problems with metabolism.

Symptoms of Iron Deficiency in Men

If left untreated for a long period of time, iron deficiency and anemia can result in a headache, shortness of breath, fatigue, dizziness, chest pain, pale skin, and lower body temperature. Brittle nails, frequent infections, cracks in the corners of the mouth, and spleen enlargement are some other symptoms of iron deficiency anemia.

Pale Skin

The red color of your blood comes from hemoglobin. The deficiency or low levels of hemoglobin can suck the color from your skin, resulting in a pale skin tone. If the inside of your eyelids, lips, and gums look less red than usual, this may be due to iron deficiency.

Shortness of Breath

Low oxygen levels will make you feel breathless or left gasping for breath. If you are feeling breathless while doing normal everyday activities, such as climbing stairs, iron deficiency could be at the root of your problem.

An overworked heart may be prone to irregular heartbeats and enlargement. So if you have heart problems, your iron deficiency could be one reason. Low levels of iron in men may worsen existing heart problems. If you go without treatment, anemia in men can result in angina and other heart problems, because your heart will need to work harder to pump blood and make up for the lack of oxygen. This will eventually result in rapid heartbeats, leading to angina.

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Restless Leg Syndrome

Statistics released by the John Hopkins Medicine reveal that about 15 percent of people suffering from the restless leg syndrome suffer from low levels of iron.

Frequent Headaches

If your head hurts a lot, this could be due to low levels of iron. Deficiency of iron in men may cause your body to prioritize transferring oxygen to your brain. But since the level of iron is low, the supply of oxygen to your brain may not be enough. As a result, your brain’s arteries may swell, leading to frequent spells of headaches, warns the National Headache Foundation.

Male Iron Deficiency Treatment

Treatment depends on the severity of iron deficiency in men. Iron or vitamin B12 supplements are often recommended for people suffering from low levels of iron in their body. But more supplementation with iron isn’t necessarily better. An overload of iron risks causing damage to internal organs and may raise the risk of diabetes, cancer, and heart disease.

When you treat your iron deficiency, you may notice a dramatic improvement in energy levels.

Ravneet Kaur
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Ravneet Kaur

A health aficionado herself, Ravneet has been researching and writing on emerging health and wellness issues for over a decade. With a focus on healthy living, she has been an ardent lover of nature, who believes in holistic ways of healing. Her areas of expertise include women’s health, diet and weight management, healthy living, alternative healing, and mindful parenting. She is working with non-profits to spread awareness about healthy eating habits, fitness goals, and lifestyle disorders. Ravneet also blogs at
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