Unveiling the Mystery: What are the 3 Stages of Iron Deficiency?


The body is an intricately balanced system that needs the right amount of vitamins and minerals to function properly. 

One such key component is iron. 

However, sometimes this balance can be disrupted, leading to an iron deficiency. 

But what causes iron deficiency? What are the signs of someone with low iron, and what are the three stages of iron deficiency symptoms? 

In this guide, we explain everything you need to know about the three stages of iron deficiency. 

What is Iron?

Iron plays a pivotal role in producing haemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells that is responsible for carrying oxygen to our body's tissues. 

A lower level of iron means less oxygen reaches your cells, causing fatigue and weakness—the hallmark symptoms of iron deficiency.


What Causes Iron Deficiency? 

But what causes iron deficiency? 

Iron deficiency can occur due to a diet low in iron, poor absorption, or increased demand during pregnancy. 

It may also result from excessive bleeding or certain health conditions that affect iron absorption or increase the body's need for iron.

What Are the 3 Stages of Iron Deficiency? 

Understanding the three stages of iron deficiency is crucial to addressing the problem effectively.

1. Iron Depletion

In the first stage, iron stores in your body (ferritin levels) start depleting without affecting haemoglobin levels. 

During this stage, you may not experience any noticeable symptoms, but it's the first warning that something is amiss.

2. Iron-Deficient Erythropoiesis

In the second stage, the lack of iron begins to affect red blood cell production. 

During this stage, you may begin to experience mild symptoms of iron deficiency, like fatigue and weakness.

3. Iron Deficiency Anaemia

This is the final stage, characterised by a significant drop in haemoglobin levels. 

If you have iron deficiency-induced anaemia, your symptoms will become more pronounced. You may experience extreme fatigue, shortness of breath, pale skin, and cognitive issues.

Recognising Iron Deficiency Symptoms

Now that we know the stages of iron deficiency, it's crucial to recognise the symptoms. 

Iron deficiency symptoms can be subtle and vary from person to person. 

However, common signs include fatigue, pale skin, weakness, dizziness, and an irregular heartbeat.


Foods and Medication for Iron Deficiency

If you’re prone to iron deficiency and regularly experience dizziness and weakness, you’ve likely asked yourself, "How can I raise my iron levels quickly?"

Fortunately, there are certain foods and medications that can help increase your iron levels and, in turn, reduce the symptoms of iron deficiency. 

Foods like lean meats, fortified cereals, and dark green leafy vegetables may help increase your iron levels. Some supplements, namely Vitamin C, may increase the absorption of iron in the body. They can be taken alongside iron-rich foods or iron supplements to enhance the body’s uptake of iron. 

Your healthcare provider may also recommend iron deficiency medication to help replenish your iron stores quickly.



What Happens If Your Iron Levels Are Too Low?

Chronic iron deficiency can lead to iron deficiency anaemia, a condition that can cause serious health issues if left untreated, including heart problems and complications during pregnancy.

If you’re experiencing any symptoms of iron deficiency, it’s crucial to check in with your healthcare provider. They will be able to check your iron levels and help you increase your iron stores.

What Are the 3 Stages of Iron Deficiency? | Depletion, Erythropoiesis & Anaemia 

Being aware of the three stages of iron deficiency and recognising the symptoms early can go a long way in preventing iron deficiency anaemia. 

If you suspect you may be iron deficient, consult your healthcare provider for a diagnosis and treatment plan. Remember, your health is worth the investment.

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Danny Urbinder

Danny Urbinder is a qualified naturopath and lecturer. He has been passionate about complementary and integrative medicine for over 25 years.

As a qualified naturopath who graduated from the Southern School of Natural Medicine, Danny lectured in Nutritional Biochemistry at the Australian College of Natural Medicine for many years. He also worked in functional pathology at Australian Reference Laboratories as Technical Services and State Manager.

For 15 years, since 2005, Danny worked at BioCeuticals as Director of Education and Director of Clinical Services. In 2012 he created and headed up FX Medicine, an online education platform bringing together education, research news and stories, to provide a high-quality reference source for those seeking evidence-based information on complementary and integrative medicine.