This article will look at iron deficiency anemia and how to test for it using at home iron tests.
Inadequate levels of iron is a global health problem with an estimated 2 billion people worldwide being affected by iron deficiency anaemia.
The body needs the mineral iron to make a protein called haemoglobin, which enables your red blood cells to transport oxygen around the body. Without that oxygen, your body can’t work properly, which can lead to iron deficiency anaemia.
If you’re suffering from low iron or anaemia, you may experience the following symptoms:
Iron deficiency anaemia can be caused by heavy menstruation in women, internal bleeding, inflammatory bowel disease, pregnancy, stomach ulcers, piles, non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs (like Ibuprofen) or swelling of the large intestine.
Many vegans worry that plant-based diets cause iron deficiencies. It has been shown that veganism can result in a lack of certain nutrients but there are many sources of iron available for non-animal diets. It is important, however, to regularly eat dark green vegetables, pulses and fortified cereals, and to periodically check iron and B12 levels.
Fortunately, it’s easy to test for iron deficiency. You can either ask your GP or you can test your iron levels at home with an anaemia test kit.
The process is straightforward and painless. The home iron test takes a sample of blood from a finger prick to measure your ferritin (this is a protein that stores iron in your cells) using a sterile lancet and capillary tube. You then simply put the drop of blood on the indicator, add the diluent and wait for 10 minutes.
The at home iron test kit comes with full instructions, so you’ll know exactly what to do.
After 10 minutes, the results will clearly show if it is negative (i.e. your ferritin level is normal, and you have no potential iron deficiency) or it will show a positive result, which signifies low ferritin concentration in the blood, which could mean your iron levels are too low.
If the test shows a negative result, you must contact your GP for advice, they may recommend dietary changes. Alternatively, they may prescribe iron tablets (which are stronger than supplements) following investigation from a full blood count (FBC) test. In addition to visiting your GP you can purchase iron tablets here.
Take a look at these approved iron blood tests for home use or read more about anaemia in this information sheet.
Interested in knowing more about the vegan or plant-based diet? You’ll enjoy this article: What are the benefits of veganism?