What It Really Means When Your Body Can't Absorb Iron

Iron is an essential mineral that helps transport oxygen throughout the body. Your body needs iron to make hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that helps carry oxygen in your bloodstream to all of your cells, organs, and tissues (via Healthline). Without iron in your system, however, your body can't get enough oxygen in your bloodstream, which can result in weakness, fatigue, and shortness of breath. This is known as iron deficiency anemia — a common condition that can be caused by a variety of factors, including pregnancy, blood loss, endometriosis, a lack of iron in your diet, and an inability to absorb iron.

Your body gets iron from food (via Mayo Clinic). That's why it's important to regularly consume iron-rich foods like meat, seafood, and dark leafy greens. Not getting enough iron from your diet can result in an iron deficiency. However, certain disorders and illnesses can interfere with or prevent the absorption of iron in your small intestine, regardless of how many iron-rich foods you eat. For instance, chronic conditions like celiac disease can limit the amount of iron your body is able to absorb.

How to treat iron deficiency anemia

Iron deficiency anemia can cause a wide range of concerning and unpleasant symptoms, including weakness, fatigue, pale skin, shortness of breath, brittle nails, cold hands and feet, unusual cravings for metal or dirt, headaches, dizziness, frequent infections, and heart palpitations (via Verywell Health). If you start experiencing any combination of these side effects, you should contact your doctor and schedule an appointment. They will likely conduct a physical examination, order blood tests, and review your full medical history in order to give you a complete and accurate diagnosis.

If you are diagnosed with iron deficiency anemia, you can treat your condition and symptoms by taking iron supplements. These typically come in pill form, but they can also be administered intravenously. If that doesn't work, however, you may need surgical intervention, depending on the cause of your iron deficiency anemia. If you are experiencing any internal bleeding or blood loss, you may require surgery.